Some folks will recognize Ralph White’s name from his tenure as the fiddler in the Bad Livers. While Trash Fish, his solo debut, takes its cue from a similar old-time spirit as that Austin based group of iconoclasts, it is unlike any other artist’s first record you are likely to hear this year.
First, White plays every instrument on the disc’s twelve songs himself. This in itself is not unique, but the instrumentation is. White melds banjo with kalimba and mbira (African thumb pianos), then adds accordion, fiddle and assorted percussion. The results are a type of world music that is ethereal and intoxicating.
Drawing from the well of American folk music and mixing it with a variety of African sounds, White has invented a type of music that sounds traditional while also being refreshingly new. He transforms tunes such as “I Am A Stranger Here” and “Corrina” in ways that at are uncommon, yet moving and attractive. Original compositions such as the title track and “What’s The Good In The Diggin’?” draw a line from “old weird America” to the sounds of the rest of the world. Few, if any, have attempted such a fusion, but no one else has made it this listenable.