David Ralston
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David Ralston

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"Stars and Stripes"

Bluesman on Okinawa puts out fifth CD

By David Allen, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Thursday, December 27, 2007

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, its 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 its 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. - Stars and Stripes


"Japan Update"

I've Been Waiting A new dimension for multi-dimensional David Ralston
By: Bill Charles
Date Posted: 2008-01-04
Say "Merry Christmas" to David Ralston, and watch his smile beam from ear to ear.

The popular blues musician is celebrating, and rightfully so. His latest CD, I've Been Waiting, is superb from the opening title track to the final wails of Da Blues. On top of that, collaboration with friend and fellow musician Rinken Teruya has produced Friends, which is to debut on iTunes.

I've Been Waiting is one of those special albums that makes you want to really listen, and not play in the background. Should I Stay or Should I Go? exemplifies Ralston's guitar talents while at the same time demonstrating his ability to seamlessly slide from blues to more contemporary pop sounds, then over to blues roots rock.

Ralston's excitement soared last week as the Should I Stay or Should I Go? track aired on Blues Deluxe, a syndicated radio show playing on 103 stations in the United States and a few countries. Blues Deluxe averages more than two million listeners to its programs, a boon for the Massachusetts and Indiana boy who's made Okinawa home. He joined Buddy Guy, the Grateful Dead, John Popper/Eric Clapton, Dan Tranor and Jack Hadley, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, Phantom Blues Band and Rev. Jimmie Bratcher on the program that aired the week of December 23rd ~ 29th.

For the lanky Ralston, there's never a dull moment. An Okinawa vacation nearly 15 years ago found him falling in love with the island, and with his guitar. He began playing the local clubs circuit, then decided I liked the area and thought what a great place to raise a family. It's a decision he's never regretted, as he's been instrumental in making the down home rhythm and blues sounds popular in Japan.

Today, Ralston begins an All Japan Tour that takes him to Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, Nagoya, Hiroshima,and Hakedate, but heÕs still a home boy, playing to his fans on Okinawa. A January 5th show at MODS in Okinawa City is sold out, but he's there again February 2nd. He performs at Cafe 4th on the 21st of January, and at Club Rider in Naha City on the 22nd.

Ralston's latest sounds vary a bit from earlier albums The Lucidity of Insanity, Blue Sky and Nail It Down, a more intense, yet relaxed tenor. Keyboards on Ain't Asking Forever are slick and crisp, while the vocal work holds rapt attention. Still, it's Ralston's fingers on his 1934 National steel guitar that pushes him into that super class of guitarists. In fairness, he ranks right alongside the likes of Eric Clapton and Duane Allman. Ralston has some 30 guitars, and he uses them to weave together the entrancing words of home, love and rough times that audiences quickly identify with.

If I've Been Waiting was a book, you wouldn't be able to put it down. Fortunately, David offers an hour of heartfelt pleasure with his latest offering. Don't miss Red Wine & Moonshine, with both the slide guitar moves sending shivers up the arm, and the gravelly voice is so powerful, you'd almost believe Ralston is the original rhythm and blues king. A song later, Don't Cry, he picks up the tempo and vocal stylings around, versatility at every turn.

Mentored by the legendary Delaney Bramlett, Ralston has earned respect across the industry, playing with the best musicians around. "I let them know that I trust in their ability to play with me and not for me", Ralston explains. They are the experts and I think they enjoy playing with me because I ask for their artistic input. And that's another thing about the David Ralston sound that permeates every tune. He's a down to earth, quiet guy who makes you feel like you've been friends forever.

Rinken Teruya, a popular Okinawan musician and recording studio owner bonded with Ralston several years ago, bringing Ralston into the Ajima Records studios to record Blue Sky. "Rinken helped me get the best Japanese musicians to play on the album, David says. He is awesome." That friendship has led to Ralston's traveling the Japanese circuit with Yoshio Nomura, and now, the All Japan Tour. - Japan Update


Discography

Nail it Down 2000
Blue Sky 2001
Lucidity of Insanity 2003
I've Been Waiting 2007
Friends 2009
A Woman That Loves Me 2010
I Don't Care 2012

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Bio

"David Ralston is what is known as a triple threat musician. That is, 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. The combination is a stimulating brew that is sure to stir your soul! We had a ball recording his latest CD "I've been waiting" And I'm confident that you will dig hearing it as much as we did making it! " - Duke Robillard

In 1996 David Ralston bought a Chandler Stratocaster from Lark Street Music in NY. The description read "celebrity owned by Duke Robillard". At the time he was not familiar with the renowned Blues/Jazz guitarist and producer. Soon after receiving the guitar, however, he ordered a copy of Robillard's "Duke’s Blues" cd. "That cd was everything I was looking for, Jump, Texas (blues) and swampy Blues all held together with a soulful voice. A voice that really meant what he was singing. I was a Duke Robillard fan for life! Last September I emailed Duke. Completely embarrassed about sounding like a fan. I explained that I had done some things with Delaney (Bramlett) and asked if he (Duke) would ever consider producing me. One month later he emailed me and wanted to hear my stuff. He emailed again and said he liked the music and would love to produce a record for me. How excited do you think I was?"

Ralston didn't really get serious about the Blues until he moved to Japan. "Okinawa is a strange place... you have people here from all over the world. I learned about music in Okinawa. I played drums at a local jam session club and merchant sailors from all over the world would come in and play. I would ask questions about guitar and took a little from each of them. Blues was always my thing though since it was the most REAL sounding to me. The rhythm comes from being a drummer at heart. When performing I need to feel a certain amount of percussion in my playing. That is the drummer in me," Ralston explains. In 2000 David Ralston opened for Magic Slim and Otish Rush in the Japan Blues Festival. He played a solo acoustic set for around 8,000 enthusiastic fans. "They dug it and Otis Rush asked me to join him with Magic Slim for a jam at the end. I didn’t have a guitar so Michael Dotson lent me his! That was one of the coolest things ever… being on stage with Otis and his Mesa Boogie rig on 10 breaking it down," Ralston said. 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 named, "Beating the Blues".

Prior to working with Duke Robillard Ralston sought out the production services of one Delaney Bramlett, the legendary rock musician/producer who has been credited for both teaching Eric Clapton how to sing and introducing George Harrison to the slide guitar, as well as working with Duane Allman. David was eventually introduced to Bramlett through a friend of a friend and was somehow able to drag him out of a self imposed retirement. "I always had a kind of sixth sense about these things," Bramlett said. "When I heard a tape of David I just heard something that tickled my heart. There was a raw talent there. I invited him to come out and try working with me and it worked out really well. We did something here that I'm real proud of. David has a talent for settling in and learning fast. After some time in the studio I'd spend some time with him, helping him find his voice, telling him not only what to do, but why he should do it." Bramlett also said of Ralston that "David was a joy to work with. We all took him to our hearts. It wasn't long before we thought of him as family. David Ralston's a phenomenal guitar player... he doesn't realize how good he is." David Ralston drew power and inspiration from the rock ‘n roll gods when he recorded with George Harrison’s rosewood telecaster, Eric Clapton’s Fender Champ amplifier (used on Clapton’s first album) and the same 1962 Fender Strat that Duane Allman used on Delaney’s album because what came out of those instruments was exciting new sounds and it was all very much signature David Ralston.

"David is going to be a force to be reckoned with if he keeps it up. He's a special person, the world's going to hear a lot from him." - Delaney Bramlett

Credits Include: Delaney Bramlett (Producer) Duke Robillard (Producer) Robert Cray Otis Rush Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi) Magic Slim The Rinken Band Masahiro Kuwana Yoshinobu Kojima (Char, Hamada Shogo) George Murasaki Hideo Yamaki Igarashi Kohta (Judy and Mary) Yoshio Nomura (Ayumi Hamazaki) Diamantes Sister Hazel