Occasionally on here, we have to memorialize people gone too soon. Less frequently, those people happen to have been people we have known. Today is a day for both of those things.
Last month, the world lost one of its true throwbacks and one of its most exquisite and individual artists.
He came from Northeast Ohio in the mid-1970s, and he brought instruments in which to blow. By the time he left us, he was thought to have one of the most impressive collections of unusual horns and flutes and whatnot on Earth.
I first was introduced to him on the streets of San Francisco one afternoon in around 1996, and our paths crossed, through many mutual friends, a bunch of times since. I last saw him right before he moved to Portland a couple of years ago, playing with The Cottontails.
It's well-documented how he got around, recording and touring with innumerable heavyweights like Tom Waits, Elvis Costello and The B-52's. And his exploits with his nephew Patrick, the mastermind of one of today's most beloved rock bands, whom he inspired to pursue music as a career decades previous.
It's less well-documented, but equally as significant, how much music he produced on his own and with a whole slew of groups of which he was an integral part.
Starting out with Cleveland legends Tin Huey, he never seemed to stop in the four decades since. When he passed away in mid December after a tragic fall down the stairs at home, he had just posted new music only the day before.
When I heard he was gone, I just stared into space for days. This is a prime case of too young, too soon and the void his going leaves in the world of sound can't be sugarcoated or minimized.
Above all, he was human and hilariously funny and among the most supremely and naturally gifted people I've known or that I'll ever know.
All of these thoughts and more are just a fragmentary impression of what Ralph Carney means to me on this, what would have been his 62nd birthday.
To commemorate this man who meant so much to so many, I have assembled what must be the first career overview ever attempted on him, focusing primarily on his myriad and diverse body of collaborative work.
1 solo and 23 collaborations of Ralph Carney
01 Ralph Carney - Lament for Charleston
02 Allen Ginsberg - Cleveland, The Flats
03 B-52's - Lava
04 Black Keys - Same Old Thing
05 Carney/Hild/Kramer - These Foolish Things
06 Chuck Prophet - Automatic Blues
07 Danny Cohen - Ranting In the Street
08 David Thomas & The Pedestrians - Happy to See You
09 Elvis Costello - It Tears Me Up
10 Frank Black - Makanujo
11 Galaxie 500 - Blue Thunder
12 Hal Willner - Hal Sings 'The Fatal Glass of Beer' While Ralph Honks
13 Jim White - Combing My Hair In a Brand New Style
14 Jonathan Richman - Behold the Lilies of the Field
15 Marc Ribot - The Wind Cries Mary
16 Oranj Symphonette - Dreamsville
17 Patrick Carney - Bojack's Theme
18 Sallie Ford - Rapid Eyes
19 St. Vincent - Digital Witness
20 Stan Ridgway - Desert of Dreams
21 The Waitresses - I Know What Boys Like
22 Tin Huey - Squirm You Worm
23 Tom Waits - Way Down In the Hole
24 William S. Burroughs - The Last Words of Dutch Schultz (This Is Insane)
Total time: 1:31:31
disc break can go after Track 12
compilation assembled and remastered by EN, December 2017-January 2018
530 MB FLAC/January 2018 archive link
There isn't much else to say... the music was always first with Ralph and it's best to let what he left behind -- as wide-ranging and impressive a body of work as any musician of our lifetimes you could name -- speak for itself.
I'm not gonna lie. I miss this guy terribly and still feel shattered by his early departure and its circumstances.
But we have the music, and the man sure made plenty... all of it exploratory, energetic and exemplary. I invite you to score my little mixtape tribute -- which itself only scratches the mere surface of his accomplishments on this plane -- and dip a toe into some of what makes Ralph Carney, born this day in 1956, a musical figure for the ages and beyond.--J.
1.23.1956 - 12.16.2017