Tyler Ramsey – [Album]

Saturday, 01 January 2011

It doesn't happen often in this day and age where undue focus is placed on “the great musical/audiological novelty,” but there was once a time when the simple craft and care put into a collection of songs was enough to get an album over with listeners. That nature of great songwriting being enough of a hook to win fans was what made performers like Paul Simon and Neil Young superstars in the Seventies, and their songbooks have gone on to become both lauded and legendary; but it's not like names such as that are made every day, in fact it's even less commonplace now than it once was. It is because of that modern rarity that finding Tyler Ramsey and his new album A Long Dream About Swimming Across The Sea, such a thrill. On the singer's debut album [originally released in 2008, now reissued by Brown/Fat Possum to capitalize on the guitarist's recent exposure from joining Band Of Horses –ed], Ramsey lays the artistry and craft of his songs at the feet of listeners unadorned for them to examine and adore.

From the tentative and delicate acoustic guitars that open “A Long Dream,” apparitions of all the great folk balladeers from the late twentieth century seem to stand alongside Ramsey and coach the disarmingly meek singer through the ways and means required to write a timeless and enduring folk anthem. With a nasal voice and a series of elongated vowels in the lyric sheet, it works too; listeners will find themselves slip-sliding under Ramsey's spell and, by the time the song is over, they'll be in love enough to applaud enthusiastically – even if they're alone in the room where the record is playing. It is that instant adoration incited by “A Long Dream” which makes every song that follows it feel like a marvelous discovery. As the record progresses, sudden jolts of extra instrumentation like the vibraphone in “Once In Your Life,” the euphoric pop of “Birdwings” and the very-near-to-early-Wilco back porch blues rock of “Chinese New Year” all feel like revelatory new reasons to live upon first hearing them, and have an emotional impact akin to unexpectedly running into an old friend on repeated listens.

As the record begins to wind methodically to a close with the gently-panning and string-touched “When I Wake,” the true love testimonial “Iris” and (the undoubtedly future classic) “Worried,” it only makes sense that the end is near because, by then, Ramsey has run out of places to go within these thematic constraints; he's covered love, loss, deep introspection and examinations of beauty here with captivating results, but things would begin to get stale and frustrating for listeners were he to stay on this tack any longer. That may be why (while the singer does leave the door on the record open for future examination) the dream ends, noticeably before “Please Stop Time” closes the record. In that final song, sounds seem to snap into waking focus and Tyler Ramsey joins listeners to look at what has transpired through the album's previous run-time and, in that moment (which is marked by a more stark, less hazy production), the singer comes to and marvels at the it all; there was beauty and warmth and love but, as the singer says himself, it “seems much colder” here in the end. Will that be where Ramsey goes next? Now that the dream has ended, will whatever follows A Long Dream About Swimming Across The Sea be overtaken by crushing reality? Maybe, but listeners can hope it won't mean that the timeless songwriting chops expressed here will not fade as Tyler Ramsey wakes.



A Long Dream About Swimming Across The Sea is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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