David Ralston is a Kokomo Indiana native who saw the light
in Indiana in the late 80s. That light was the Allman Brothers' "Live at the
Fillmore" album. Ralston, a drummer since age 6, started glancing furtively
at the guitar in the corner. Within a year, Ralston was running a 3/4"
socket up and down the strings and honing the sounds that Duane Allman had
made, with a few innovations of his own.
By 1993, Ralston was in Austin, Texas, and happened upon
Soul Hat, and Ian Moore in Antone's. That which had caused so many young
guitarists at these shows to dream about the future sent Ralston sliding
into the past, searching for the blues masters who gave birth to what he was
hearing at the time. Of course, Eric Clapton
came to mind. But he went deeper
into time, with Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Son House, and
According to him, he never came back.
Ralston burst onto the American Music Scene in September of 1998 with his
initial production, "Indiana Slim," produced and recorded in Terre Haute,
Indiana by Dave Kyle, a studio and live touring veteran with credits ranging
from Vince Gill, and Chet Atkins to Danny Gatton and many others. Backed on
his debut album by Steve Rusin, a world-class blues harmonica player,
Ralston combines a sophisticated and sizzling slide guitar technique,
usually lashed out on his 1934 National Steel guitar or his 1959 Fender
Stratocaster, with an industry-alerting voice wrapped around finely crafted
His crowd-inciting performances combine the best of traditional blues, with
nuances suggesting Son House and Muddy Waters, with a robust contemporary
quality completely unique to Ralston. Ralston's songs speak of his deeper
fascination and genuine love for the people he has encountered from Austin,
Texas to Terra Haute, Indiana and from Tokyo to Okinawa.
Ralston had sought Bramlett out, excited at the possibility of working with
the man who had so heavily influenced the greatest rock guitarists of their
generation. The result was a four-day recording session at Delaney's "Rock
and Roll Lane" home in Southern California that produced a recording
destined to be a classic.
On the recording, Ralston used George Harrison's rosewood telecaster and
Eric Clapton's Fender Champ amplifier (used on Clapton's first album).
Ralston also had the great honor of ripping into slide solos using the same
1962 Strat that Duane had used on the Bramlett album.
By the time Bramlett (producer/arranger) had finished mixing the album,
"Nail It Down," Ralston was off to the Far East, not only playing the blues,
but also living them; his signature etched into the very grooves of the
blues masters. Armed with some of the finest session players in the world,
Ralston was studying his work carefully, reinventing and serving his mess of
blues to every U.S. Marine and sailor in the Japanese territories who would
listen. And they all listened; the Commanding General of all Marine Corps
Forces in Japan sent Ralston to play for every Marine and sailor in the
Pacific fleet for a program aptly called, "Beating the Blues."
The Americans weren't the only ones who listened. Ralston had an
enthusiastic, rapidly growing audience of Japanese who didn't understand all
the words, but got the message in the music with the aid of live radio and
television broadcasts and seemingly endless packed nights at the live music
houses and clubs from Naha to Tokyo.
Just as Bramlett taught Clapton to put the music in his heart and his heart
in his songs, Ralston honed his vocal talents to a razor-edged bite at the
hands of the master that had built the fire in the music of rock music's
greatest. Ralston came away obsessed with the reality of reinventing
back-to-the-roots Americana music. ~Les Coles