Ralph White

Trash Fish

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Trash Fish, the solo debut record from former Bad Livers' banjoist Ralph White, is at once charming, personal, magical, and wonderful. The base of the music is found in the old-timey mountain songs that also formed the root of White's work with the Livers. The spooky melodies (both traditional and original) are treated by White and crafted gorgeously on his eight-track. Like the Bad Livers, White takes an unorthodox approach to traditional American music and, in the bargain, has created something more beautifully in touch with the spirit of the music than most staunch traditionalists could ever dream of. Buried in the opening number, "Unwound," and emerging little by little over the disc's dozen tracks, White finds an utterly new and beautiful combination of traditional instruments: the five-string banjo mixed with the mbira and kalimba, African thumb pianos. The gritty gutbucket pluck of the banjo melds gorgeously with the warm, gentle twinkle of the metal percussion. It is with these tools that White turns in one of the most original performances of "Corrinna" (among other tunes) that has been heard in quite some time. His voice is casually confident, singing in the ageless drawl that permeates mountain music. Fiddles and accordions permeate several tracks as well, though -- to some degree -- they seem perfunctory. In the end, all that is needed to convey the majesty of the music is the banjo, the mbira, and White's voice. A wonderful album.

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