Ralph White
The Hanged Man [CS; Sloow Tapes]

Sloow Tapes has for years (and continues to be) one of the most consistent labels doing it, and as such, each release deserves to be highlighted — I’ll go with Ralph White’s The Hanged Man here, if for no other reason than I have to narrow it to one choice and this one is the most recent to land in my mailbox. Several of the songs on this tape are covers — country standards, mostly, though you wouldn’t recognize it save for White’s voice, which has a Southern quality without being a rural caricature. Where White’s skilled banjo-picking would act as Southern signifier, the music is supplemented by equally virtuosic thumb piano playing, which energetically add the sparkles that drive the song in the way an arpeggiated synth line would drive the latest “best new track.” The diverse range of instruments and sounds make the style more difficult to codify and file away under such vague terms as “country” or “world,” and therefore easier to interact with as they are, so that when the tracks do end up in full-fledged fiddle shredding, it calls equally to mind John Cale and Bob Wills. The pairing of Sloow with Mr. White is as illogical as it is totally natural (a compliment to both parties), and it’s certainly an interesting twist to listen to it in the context of the rest of the label’s catalog (too extensive to list here, but no stranger to Japanese psych, astral folk, or the coordinates at which those genres meet modern mystic poetry, among others). The label description claims the album will bring you “out there,” but for me, it had the effect of taking me “in there,” to a place of freedom, playfulness, and dialogue with the listener.


Cerberus seeks to document the spate of home recorders and backyard labels pressing limited-run LPs, 7-inches, cassettes, and objet d’art with unique packaging and unknown sound. We love everything about the overlooked or unappreciated. If you feel you fit such a category, email us here.

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