New records from Bo Ramsey are always a treat. Best known as the guitarist for folk singer Greg Brown and his work with Lucinda Williams, his solo stuff shows a strong independent streak and a unique guitar/vocal style and sense of taste.
Ramsey’s playing, while quiet and laid back, is also full of fire and soul. “Can’t Sleep” is a good illustration. Like many of the songs here, it’s an atmospheric ballad. But it’s set apart with slinky slide guitar and a doubled solo that sounds gorgeous and otherworldly. “Burn It Down” has a spooky feel with an essentially spoken vocal and quiet guitar parts that are beautifully interwoven.
Ramsey’s touchstones are country music and the blues, but it’s impossible to classify his music (or playing) as straightforward examples of either style. And while he’s not a great singer in the technical sense, his is a great voice; nobody else could sing his songs, especially with his feel. Lyrically, things get very mysterious at times, but the feel of the song tells you what Bo is thinking. The closer, “I Don’t Know,” may the perfect summation of his technique as player, singer, and writer. A solid song, about the state of affairs in the world and pop culture, and even a lovely testament to his own artistry – it’s set to a ballad feel with perfectly understated slide guitar.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s May ’08 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.