Bluesman on Okinawa puts out fifth CD
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — On the long drive last month from Fort Wayne, Ind., to Pocono Summit, Pa., my car rocked with music from just one CD — Okinawa-based bluesman David Ralston’s new release, “I’ve Been Waiting.”
It’s that good.
Ralston, a drug and alcohol counselor for Marine Corps Community Services by day, recorded his fifth CD last March in the Rhode Island studio of blues legend Duke Robillard.
Never heard of the Duke? Well, you’re probably just not schooled in the world of the blues. Robillard has recorded and toured with the likes of Bob Dylan, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Dr. John, Maria Muldaur, Tom Waits and many other stars in the blues and rock firmament.
“Duke Robillard was and is a big hero of mine,” Ralston said recently. “So, I e-mailed him out of the blue and asked him to produce my next CD. He heard some of my stuff and — BAM! — there I was.”
If there’s one thing Ralston is not, it’s shy. Earlier in his career, he contacted rock ’n’ roll legend Delaney Bramlett, who has mentored Eric Clapton, Duane Allman and George Harrison. Bramlett invited Ralston to his California ranch, where he learned a new way to play guitar and developed his trademark vocal growl. He emerged with an in-your-face blues style that quickly became popular in clubs on Okinawa and mainland Japan.
“Recording with the Duke was almost identical to the Delaney situation,” Ralston said. “Duke really believed in me and what I wanted to do. He used his band for the recording, and they are also the best there is.”
Robillard, in turn, said Ralston is “a triple threat musician.”
“He’s an emotionally charged vocalist, a mean-as-hell slide guitarist and an excellent songwriter whose blues-tinged tunes cross the border between blues-roots, rock and straight ahead contemporary alternative pop,” he said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes. “The combination is a stimulating brew that is sure to stir your soul.”
Ralston peppered the CD with a good mix of original songs and some carefully selected cover tunes, two of which — “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by the Clash and Tom Waits’ “Big in Japan” — do much justice to the originals.
Some of Ralston’s fans might be disappointed that “I’ve Been Waiting” does not include any of the unique Okinawa-influenced blues — open guitar licks backed by taiko drumming, traditional Okinawan chants and twangy sounds of the banjo-like sanshins that he featured on his last album, “The Lucidity of Insanity.”
But not to worry. Ralston is already busy on a new CD that he said will include a mix of the island’s traditional music with Japanese pop.
“The Okinawan stuff will continue,” Ralston said. “But I didn’t do any of that with Duke, since it’s not his specialty. Instead, I had a chance to make a real blues record.”
Blues fans evidently agree.
According to Living Blues Magazine, Ralston’s new CD was among the top 25 new blues releases aired by radio stations in November and “Should I Stay or Should I Go” is scheduled to be a featured cut during Christmas week (Dec. 23-29) on “Blues Deluxe,” a show aired on 103 stateside radio stations and on the Internet at www.rootsmusicreport.com
For more information about David Ralston, including the dates of local gigs, go to www.davidralston.com.