It was 4 in the morning when it happened. Another trucker swerved into Mike Ratliff's 18-wheeler, sending him off the highway. Ratliff found himself pulling the man out of the vehicle in flames saving his life. Within moments, the truck exploded. This event would not only change the course of his route - it would change the course of his life.
Now emerging as a solo artist, Mike is your everyday everyman who proves there's something special about that. In the Ohio coalfields, Mike Ratliff was raised with grit in his teeth, and a heart of compassion. He grew up listening to his uncle's band, and once had a short-lived band of his own. But for the 20 years he worked as a trucker, he also worked on his craft. On highway berms and in all-night diners, he wrote songs about the things he observed and the people he encountered.
During this period, Mike formed the Non Members, a performing duo that played everywhere from nursing homes to notable regional songwriter showcases, including Charleston's community radio's "Musician's Edition" and the Woody Hawley Series, hosted by NPR's Mountain Stage bandleader Ron Sowell. In this time, he cut his musical teeth as a writer and performer.
His songs are standouts of lyrical storytelling - and, his stories themselves are extraordinary. His acoustic guitar work provides an earthy backdrop that reminds us there's power in simplicity. He narrates these stories of the day-to-day with an evocative vocal delivery that is both passionate and well-restrained.
The accident on that fateful day, though tragic, had a redeeming effect: it emboldened Mike Ratliff to live his artistic vision on his own terms.
He is currently working on his first album, Halfway Up The Highway. -Arthur Deras