The Ralph Jones Band
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The Ralph Jones Band

Band Alternative Folk


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The best kept secret in music


The dilapidated backwoods shack that graces Drowning in Kentucky's cover conjures the thought of a blues-sludge jam in which back porch twang replaces Jon Spencer's hipster swagger. Still, looks can be deceiving. Seemingly oblivious to preconceptions, the three members of The Ralph Jones Band (none of whom are named Ralph Jones) have churned out a damn fine album of rural psychedelic folk-pop.
The Band's sound is unique and compelling. White boy country blues are flavored with hints of a melancholy Neutral Milk Hotel. Warbled vocals and erratic musical accents harken back to the mind-altering psychedelia of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, while bits of Big Star's grandiose textured pop are tucked into delightful bluesy shuffles. Traces of Phish's campy folk surface in uninhibited mid-song tempo changes that further accentuate the group's trippy edge.

That said, folk-pop overtones dominate the record. The Appalachian folk and erratic orchestration reveal elements of the many incarnations of Palace Music, with a distinct pop flair that makes for a more accessible ride but maintains a revival-preacher's creepy charisma. Acoustic and instrumental balladry on "I Am A Hunter And A Scientist" suggests a more energetic and slightly more upbeat Songs: Ohia, but the Palace comparison is more consistently accurate.

Serving as a self-descriptive musical mantra, "Drowning In KY" (the state, not the personal lubricant) describes The Ralph Jones Band's inherent charm and captivating simplicity: "Rolling tumbling clouds / You try to break for higher ground / ... It caught you in the valley / Where the waters can swiftly rise / It's hard to break for higher ground / Slippity-slide." Yes, it sounds like jam-band fodder, but rings far more true.

If the description sounds tempting, here's the downside: Drowning In Kentucky is almost criminally short. It doesn't even cross the thirty-minute barrier, so the band has relatively little time in which to work its way into your psyche. Once they do it, though, they're in there to stay.

It's true, you never get the blues freakout jam the cover art seems to promise, but you're better off. Drowning In Kentucky delivers a brand-new sound in comfortable style; the Kentucky trio's debut yields wholly unexpected riches.

-- Ryan Smith


Drowning in Kentucky- July 2003


Feeling a bit camera shy


Listen for yourself, but really listen and absorb what is given. It's worth your while.
The Ralph Jones Band is a trio consisting of Nathan Newbury, Jason Hibbitts, and Joe Burns. Based in Kentucky, this group formed in 2002.
The group's first album, Drowning in Kentucky on State Bird Records, takes the listener deep into the foothills of the eastern part of the state. Melody, rhythm, and tones are the vehicle for the willing listeners. Each song, instrument and part was created from the purest form, of subject matter that has happened or is waiting to.
Totally meant, specifically placed sounds and speech. The Ralph Jones Band tailors to many listener's values, yet maintains a style that has never been crafted.