When The Accidentals contacted some Michigan artists about contributing songs to an album that would raise funds to support iconic Grand Rapids singer-songwriter Ralston Bowles, whose wife, Cindy, is battling cancer, the response was almost immediate.
“Two days later, we had more than 30 songs,” said Savannah Buist, multi-instrumentalist for the Traverse City alt-folk band.
“Some of the bands we asked to participate asked other bands that they were friends with and we ended up with a double-album. There are artists from Kalamazoo, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Traverse City, all the way up to Iron Mountain on this compilation album. It is a testament to the music scene in Michigan and to the impact Ralston has had on so many in our community.”
The final “Michigan Music” compilation features 33 songs on two CDs, including a classic from Bowles himself: “One More Holiday,” which first appeared on 2004’s highly acclaimed “Carwreck Conversations.”
The roster of Michigan artists includes several Traverse City and northern Michigan stars: The Accidentals, May Erlewine, Elizabeth Landry, Miriam Pico, Charlie Millard, Oh Brother Big Sister, Seth Bernard and Blake Elliott.
Other popular Michigan-bred acts on the double-album include Thornetta Davis, Lindsay Lou, Appleseed Collective, Rachael Davis, Nicholas James Thomasma, Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers, Hannah Rose Graves, The Crane Wives, Michigander, Political Lizard and more.
“When we asked Joe Hertler for a song, he said, “Take whatever song you want. Use it for good. That’s what it’s for, right?” That pretty much sums up the entire Michigan music scene,” Buist said.
All proceeds from CD sales will go “in perpetuity” to support the Bowles family with medical bills and living expenses. Bowles is a survivor of colon cancer himself, and his wife, Cindy, is currently under hospice care at home. The album ($20) and individual songs are available online at cdbaby.com.
Like many artists, The Accidentals have been impacted by the work of Bowles, a fixture in the folk and Americana scenes who’s long promoted and nurtured touring bands and Michigan singer-songwriters.
“When we first started as a band, Ralston would come out and support us by walking around the crowd with a handful of our CDs and selling them to people,” Buist said of Bowles’ longheld practice at Grand Rapids-area concerts.
She added that Bowles also introduced the band to Grand Rapids hip hop artist Rick Chyme, which led to frequent and fruitful “folk rap” collaborations.
“He (Bowles) is an incredible artist in his own right and we are lucky to have had the opportunity to get to know him,” she said. “Hopefully, when the support shows up monthly, he will be reminded how much we all care about him.”
The album is financed and sponsored by Crooked Tree Creative, Todd and Jenn Olsen, Play It Forward, Jim Leep, Local Spins and attorney David Ledbetter.
The Accidentals – who play more than 200 concerts a year – will continue their hectic schedule in coming months, with the release on Nov. 29 of the single, “Marrow,” the title song for a new feature movie, “Almost Home.” (The song also appears on the “Michigan Music” compilation.)
On Christmas Day, the band releases a cover version of The Beatles’ “Across the Universe” with Lily & Madeleine, following that with an appearance in January at the Folk Alliance International conference in New Orleans.
In March, they mount a West Coast tour and return to South by Southwest in Austin as they prepare to release a new studio album in September after debuting a series of singles. A tour of the United States and the United Kingdom will follow.