Willis Alan Ramsey

Willis Alan Ramsey

Shelter / Koch Records, 1972


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Chances are that you've never heard of Willis Alan Ramsey. But you've undoubtedly heard his influence in the over 25 years since he recorded his self-titled (and, to date, only) release in 1972. While some groups I'd label as results of his influence already existed, the power of the eleven songs on this disc make it sound as fresh today as they did back then.

Ramsey's country-folk feel to his music brings up images of such artists and groups as Little Feat, The Eagles, Lyle Lovett (who helped to bring Ramsey out of obscurity on some of his latest releases) and... the Captain & Tenille?

Okay, time to lose readership: How many of you remember that poison-control standard "Muskrat Love"? I grew up hearing that song (yes, the Captain & Tenille version) every goddamn hour on the radio; after years of therapy, I thought I had put it out of my mind until I heard America's version of it. Well, ladies and gentlemen, meet the author of that song: Willis Alan Ramsey.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Now, before you go forming a lynching party, I will say this about the original version, correctly known as "Muskrat Candlelight": The original version is not nearly as bad as the pop effluvia previously mentioned. With a funky bass line (well, funky for country, anyway) laid down by Ramsey himself (he also plays guitar and harmonica, as well as sings), the track actually has some life breathed into it. Too bad other groups sucked the life right out of it. Hey, the lyrics still sound like a Mother Goose reject, but leave it to the author himself to make the best version of the song.

Even after one listen to Willis Alan Ramsey, I defy you not to get hooked on the strange rhythm section on the album's closer, "Northeast Texas Women". If that doesn't sound a bit like The Band doing "Up On Cripple Creek", then you need to get your ears checked. Just hearing this song shows me that Ramsey and his backing musicians were having a lot of fun doing this record. And if you need big names, how's about Leon Russell, Carl Radle and Jim Keltner sitting in on the killer track "Goodbye Old Missoula"?

Admittedly, not everything on Willis Alan Ramsey works. "Geraldine And The Honeybee" is a bit too blah for me, as is "Watermelon Man" (no, it has nothing to do with the Godfrey Cambridge movie of the same name). But more often than not, the music on this album delights and charms the listener. Tracks like "Boy From Oklahoma," "Wishbone" and "Angel Eyes" all are pleasant surprises.

With all that goes right on Willis Alan Ramsey, one has to wonder why Ramsey chose to fade back from the spotlight. I mean, had he continued to record albums like this, he would have easily been the Garth Brooks of his generation. Instead, he said his peace on this one disc, and left it up to us to guess what would have come from his pen and guitar next.

If you knew of Willis Alan Ramsey before this re-issue, you'll want to snag this disc just to retire your old vinyl copy. If you've never heard of him before, you'll want to discover what all the hubbub is about - and before long, you'll be singing the praises of Ramsey and his one magical album.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Shelter / Koch Records, and is used for informational purposes only.