Ragtime Ralph Volume 4

After emerging from obscurity with last year's Lost Blues 1929-1934 and Black Dog Blues, Vancouver, BC guitarist Ralph C. Johnston now offers what is so far the most satisfying piece of the Ragtime Ralph mystery he's been cultivating. Volume 4 is the album he recorded for John Fahey's Takoma label in the late '70s, which ultimately wasn't released due to a disagreement between the two. Now remastered from the 78-RPM acetates on which it was originally pressed, Volume 4 is more proof that Johnston was (and still is) amongst the true acoustic guitar virtuosos that Canada has produced. Although the ever-humble Johnston says in his new liner notes that he feels his technique then was too reminiscent of Leo Kottke, every track, from the Bert Jansch-esque "Badlands Blake" to a wild bottleneck rearrangement of "White Christmas," is thoroughly engaging. Of course, it's unfair to even make the suggestion but Johnston's discipline on all of these recordings is something even Bruce Cockburn could probably learn from. Every fan of acoustic guitar owes it to themselves to hear Ragtime Ralph. (Independent)