Ralph Nix & the Guilt Birds Drop New Album
With punishing prowess, a grizzly melody wails in pain as we enter the blues-laden tone of “Window Shopping” in Good Ingredients, the new album from Ralph Nix & the Guilt Birds out this coming January 28th. In a whirlpool of moody melodies dripping with reflection, we soon find ourselves in the introduction to “Retold,” which comes floating out of the night like a ghost of the south’s storied past. We are easily made to engage with the rhythm of the song and find ourselves synchronizing our hips to the sway of the crisp backdrop, which is as loud in the master mix as anything on the front end could be.
“Mercy Me” brings a little bit of emotive flare into the first half of Good Ingredients that will take us straight into the plainspoken “Whiskey Drink’n Women,” one of the more immersive songs in this portion of the record. The vocal is layered over the strings and allowed to mesh with their harmonies, and at one point, it becomes quite difficult to tell where one melody is starting and another is ending, but it isn’t because of a cloudy mix or an inattentive equalization. It’s exclusively because of how simpatico Nix and the instrumentation become in this song; something that will happen again in the sweet harmony of “Marie,” a track that is as stone cold as they come in terms of its surprisingly churning undertow.
As “Marie” spreads out and stretches its tonal presence into “Cohay,” the tempo of the lyrical wit exchanged between our singer and the strings begins to pick back up again, and the players start to texturize all of the verses in an experimentalism that is the very antithesis of the recycled sounds of their halfhearted brethren in the Nashville scene. “Stella” has a romantic warmth in its harmonies that is reason enough to pick up a copy of Good Ingredients this January, but it doesn’t make the self-explanatory “Call Me Baby” any less of a triumph in untampered tonality than it truly is. Along with “Falls,” “Call Me Baby” is a song that I must have listened to at least three times in a row upon first taking a look at this LP. It can be interpreted so many different ways, but when considered through the lens of this album’s overall personality, it’s perhaps the most lovably leering commentary in the tracklist.
“The Wish” serves as our epilogue in Good Ingredients, and every time I spin this track, I can’t help but recall some of the greater players to have experimented with the limits of country music, soul, and blues-rock in the past generations. Where Nix has a lot of ambition to flirt with different themes that his contemporaries just aren’t brave enough to try out themselves, too many of the stalwarts in the alternative country community aren’t producing with the moxie we find so readily present in this album. As I see it, this is quite a standard-setter for its creator, and likely a record we’re going to be talking about again and again throughout all of 2023.