Former Punk's New Clothes Fit Nicely
Brett Eugene Ralph made his initial splash in Louisville back in the 1980s as lead singer of the punk outfit Malignant Growth (still one of the great punk band names of all-time, by the way) before taking time off to get a college degree and reinvent himself artistically.
Ralph became a poet and is now a writing instructor with a book of poetry on the market. His new musical persona, however, is decidedly folk-country, and the new britches fit Ralph nicely. According to the band's press notes, the goal when forming Kentucky Chrome Revue was to blend Rolling Thunder Revue-era Bob Dylan with 1970s outlaw country effectively enough to be considered "the MC5 of country music." Nice.
With all that noted, it's no surprise to pop a CD in one's player and hear songs like "Grandpa Was a Hobo" and "Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell."
Interestingly, the beautiful arrangements herein are matched by the musicianship presenting them and the sparkling, sweet production. It's quite an aural pleasure. But it's best enjoyed when listening carefully to Ralph's lyrical poetry. While he isn't the smoothest singer in town, he delivers his stories with warmth and intent.
Songs like "I Cry Easy" sound like radio hits in the making thanks in part to the hook, carefully arranged vocals and guitar work. But the soft chorus is interspersed with some startling lyrical imagery and clever and subtle humor. It's a complete package.
It doesn't hurt matters that the project is a star-studded affair with contributions by Will Oldham, Catherine Irwin, Peter Searcy and Jolie Holland, among many others. A definite win for the punk-turned-poet. Expect more to come.