Ramsay Midwood inhabits the margin. Born of a tuba-playing father and a Smithsonian Institute-volunteering mother in Virginia, he’s also a graduate of the Chicago Steppenwolf Theater Company and cut his teeth as a singer/songwriter in Los Angeles coffeehouses. For almost a decade he has been entrenched in Austin playing the very vibrant live scene at reputed venues like The Saxon Pub, Sam’s Town Point and The White Horse.
His first album, the masterpiece Shootout at the OK Chinese Restaurant, was released domestically on Lawrence Welk’s label, Vanguard (a sister of the formerly Durham-based Sugar Hill Records)in 2002. Two subsequent releases were self published. Yet, he remains working under the radar for the most part. In turn, this pleasant gurgle of production lends his songwriting an authenticity (let alone humility), like a modern surrealist troubadour.
Midwood celebrates the humor in the mundanity of life. Teasing out the quirks of persona, place or social station, he utilizes the storytelling traditions of Guthrie, Dylan, Waits and others to mark the lives of the (real or imagined?) characters of his songs. Critics have claimed the sonic influences of Guthrie and Seeger, Levon Helm and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, John Lee Hooker and Lightnin’ Hopkins. So, “eccentric” might one way to describe his work. “Deranged” has also been employed and would be equally accurate.
He rarely embarks on tours to offer crowds outside of Austin a taste of his impeccable low-fi, blues-inspired swampiness. But the folks at NewRaleigh (and this author) have managed to persuade him to set a date here in Raleigh on his new Fall Tour. It’s worth noting that Randy Weeks will be along for the ride with Midwood’s band. Weeks penned “Can’t Let Go” made famous by do-no-wrong singer/songwriter Lucinda Williams. The Berkeley Cafe will host Midwood and his band on Tuesday, October 2nd. Don’t miss this rare opportunity. Tickets are on sale now for $15 in advance.
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Texas singer-songwriter Ramsay Midwood's music is at once highly idiosyncratic but also as familiar as a bad habit. His bluesy, rootsy romps instantly start your head bobbing as his bizarre lyrics full of rich, Southern Gothic visuals set your imagination flowing. His style and lyric-making ability will excite and confuse you in the way that good poetry can. His music is bright with surprise, sultry beat, and innovative comparative operators. One can liken his sound and style to a potpourri of incense and smoky vapors complicated by the thick heat of a swamp and spiced with healthy dashes of salt, sandpaper, and beer foam. A strong sense of plain-stated, Southern Gothic surrealism helps buoy the themes of loss and redemption infused throughout his work. You’ve not heard another musician like him. Two albums are out now: Shootout at the OK Chinese Restaurant, Popular Delusions & the Madness of Cows, and Larry Buys A Lighter.
The best intro to Ramsay Midwood is one he wrote himself though: “I was always an admirer of Woody Guthrie’s seemingly heroic undertakings. I vowed to fight his same righteous fight. I immediately broke this vow by chasing an actress to Hollywood and many songs later I chased a stripper from Wisconsin to LA, realizing that I was a simply a make-believe cowboy unconsciously herding women of questionable virtue into a corral in my head, where I could engage in long periods of self-loathing. This was when I decided to start my own space program. The initial fund-raising has been difficult, but I’m certain once I get my driver’s license things will pick up.”
Listen to Ramsay Midwood on Spotify below ....