Okinawa bluesman David Ralston and his latest CD, “The Lucidity of Insanity.”

Okinawa bluesman David Ralston and his latest CD, “The Lucidity of Insanity.” (David Allen / S&S)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Okinawa bluesman David Ralston’s fourth CD, “The Lucidity of Insanity,” offers something decidedly different.

Instead of continuing his adventures with an “in your face” blues style learned at the side of rock ’n’ roll legend Delaney Bramlett — a guitarist who has mentored the likes of Eric Clapton, Duane Allman and George Harrison — Ralston is creating something new that erupts from several tracks on his new release.

Call it “Okinawa Blues.” The first cut opens with some traditional taiko drumming and new band member Kanaka Horiuchi belting out a traditional Ryukyus Islands chant, followed by Ralston’s open-tuned guitar and Okinawa sanshins, the twangy three-stringed banjos of the islands.

Then he breaks in with some gritty blues guitar licks and sings in the vocal growl Delaney taught him.

“When I close my eyes sometimes I hear a woman singing so nice,” Ralston sings. “Brings me back to a place I ain’t been for such a long time …”

Except that he has: The place is Okinawa and Ralston’s been here since 1992 and has no plans to leave except for an occasional stateside tour with his band, which is made up of Okinawa musicians.

Ralston, who drinks nothing stronger than Coca-Cola, graduated from Indiana State University, where he met his wife, Kozue. In 1992 he traveled to Okinawa to meet her family and wound up staying. She is an interpreter for Marine Headquarters on Okinawa and he became a drug and alcohol counselor for Marine Corps Community Services. They have two children, Nari, 12, and Sean, 9.

“I began getting involved with traditional Okinawa music when I was recording ‘Blue Sky’ at Ajima Studios several years ago,” Ralston said during a recent break from his day job as a drug and alcohol counselor.

Ajima Studios is run by Rinken Teruya, head of leading Okinawan music group, “Rinken Band,” the premier Okinawan group that blended the island’s traditional music with modern Japanese pop to form “Uchina,” or Okinawan pop.

Ralston has taken the same traditional songs and licks from the sanshin and turned them into the blues.

“It’s been a steady progression,” he said. “It really started to gel when we found Kanaka last summer. She’s a singer from Hokkaido who came to Okinawa three years ago to study with Mitsuko Oshiro, a famous local singer.

“A friend of mine took me on down to a club in Naha to hear her sing and it just blew my mind,” Ralston said. “She has a real brassy, bluesy voice and I just felt like I had to work with her.”

But it wasn’t easy. Horiuchi said she had to get her teacher’s permission and Ralston found himself in Oshiro’s club auditioning for her.

“I tell you, after all these years, playing with Delaney, on stage before thousands of people at major Japan rock festivals, I’ve never been as nervous as sitting down with my guitar and playing for Oshiro’s respect,” Ralston said.

“But I played my heart out and it worked out all right.”

Ralston said that during his last U.S. tour in October, at traditional blues clubs in Chicago and in Indiana at Indianapolis, Terre Haute and his hometown of Kokomo, the crowds were a little unsure at first when a lanky Hoosier came on stage with a band of Japanese musicians.

“We’d open with a few basic blues tunes and then Kanako’d come out in her kimono and start chanting and the taiko drums would start up and the crowd’d just go wild,” he said. “It was incredible.”

Also on the CD is George Murasaki on the Hammond organ. Murasaki is an Okinawan who became famous in Japan in the late ’60s for a band that earned its chops playing loud rock music in gritty Okinawa City bars frequented by U.S. servicemembers.

“There’s a lot of different influences on this new CD,” Ralston said. “There’s traditional R&B, old-style slide guitar, the Okinawa instruments and chanting. It’s cool to take these two traditional forms of music and create something new.”

You can catch the David Ralston Band at their CD release party this Saturday at the 7th Heaven Club on Route 330 in Okinawa City. The show starts at 8 p.m. The album, to be released later this month by an independent label in the U.S., is available now at

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