Long heralded as a master of putting listeners in the moment, singer/songwriter Ralston Bowles waited more than two decades before pressing any of his creations to plastic.
When the Michigan native finally did release an album, it continued to be his resistance to the mainstream that set him apart, even from the many talented musicians who surround him.
His albums stand as thoughtful gifts to receptive concert goers who desire to hold something that can bring them back to those sentinel moments when they felt maybe certain parts of their minds and hearts somehow shared the stage with this growing legend.
Ralston’s father was a player of the fiddle, guitar and banjo before leaving Appalachia to find work in the Indiana steel mills. As a boy, Ralston learned that the instruments that dotted his home were for more than aesthetic appreciation; they were the means for the intricate yet pleasurable task of making music. At 16, his first professional act came after being asked to make up some “story songs” for the neighborhood social time. After school, Ralston played Midwest clubs and coffeehouses, making up songs about the places he visited and people he met. He continued to make music while starting a family and engaging in the technical side of the radio business. To only a spare amount of surprise, the songs Ralston sang began to catch the attention of other traveling musicians, such as Caroline Aiken, Peter Mulvey, Rachael Davis and Drew Nelson, all of whom continue to perform Ralston’s originals.
His distinct brand of folk music is a contemporary gem that shares the social insights brought by ’60s and ’70s predecessors, but allows for an infusion of worldly influence and carries an undeniable personal and independent tone.
As a testament, Ralston’s writing has garnered prizes from American Songwriter Magazine, Nashville Songwriters Association International, Country Music Television, Unisong, International Song Competition and Kerrville New Folk.
On his debut “Carwreck Conversations” and the follow-up “Rally at the Texas Hotel”, Ralston worked with producer Marvin Etzioni to create the finely crafted collections that songwriter Peter Mulvey described as “connected to another time, burnished like an heirloom”.
Backed by great praise and a favorable following in West Michigan, Ralston also has captured attention and cultivated deep relationships within arts communities from Nashville to New York, Cologne to Cambridge.
In his travels, Ralston has been asked to open and sometimes play with musical luminaries of the grandest sort, including Shawn Colvin, T-Bone Burnett, Arlo Guthrie, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson.
Through all this, a notion that Ralston once shared with a music reviewer serves as the very same sentiment that keeps his creativity, his career and his life in line.
“If the song is good,” Ralston said. “There’s not much you can do to kill it.”