"When we hear Ratliff sing we know that Appalachia lives in his throat. The mist-striped ridges and winding creek beds run up and down his arms. The stories of his people stir behind his eyes. He possesses coal mines and radio towers, lush gardens tended by old couples in the cool of the day, friends visiting around the kitchen table. He knows long gray highways, hollers where the sun isn’t seen until ten in the morning, church-houses and school-houses and convenience stores lit brightly in the blue-black night. But more than anything he knows the way his world sounds: the roar of coal trucks, the tambourines of cicadas, the grinding of four wheelers and augers, the gloaming bounce of a basketball on a one-lane road, the lonesome song of whippoorwills. Ratliff has listened carefully to the ancient tones, to the old ballads and the country songs born in the hearts of those hills. He’s turned the volume up on the old folks bent over their banjos who have history caught in their hands. He’s driven through town late at night with the radio turned up on a hard rocking song. Two-stepped his way around the smoky dance floors of honky-tonks. He’s kicked his boot heels up at parties where the bass is thumping."