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Review: Tyler Ramsey

Santa is a wily fat guy. I don’t even have a chimney in my house of five fireplaces and yet he somehow managed to get in my house this Christmas. Underneath the Christmas tree this year were two presents in one box: Tyler Ramsey’s new album “A Long Dream About Swimming Across the Sea” and a note telling of Ramsey’s involvement with one of my favorite bands, Band of Horses. Ramsey is on tour with Band of Horses and is actually accompanying their set with his chilling guitar talents.

Mr. Ramsey grew up in the hills of North Carolina and has acquired a folk sound that integrates nearly every folk-characteristic available. His dainty finger-style guitar picking leads the path through rollicking music and lyrics that bring to mind the likes of artists Owen, Waterdeep, American Football, and even Mates of State on occasion. “A Long Dream” is fifty minutes of dreamy music that is everything music should be: symbolic, eclectic, emotionally stimulating, soothing, and gut-level-honest. Reminiscent of Elliott Smith’s honesty, Ramsey takes the heartaches of love and re-verses them in such a way that enables you to feel his pain while imagistic memories of your own heartache float through your head. Each time I’ve listened through this album I get the feeling that Ramsey is a musical reincarnation of Nietzsche—a deeply wounded, lonely, and poetic man who has suffered the blunt of love’s razor (read: loneliness) and, yet, through those experiences is now more suited to provoke others to feel their own experiences. Ramsey knows the Carolina valleys all too well, and in this work he manages to remind us that even in the valleys there is divinity, a sense of beauty.

The album starts off with what becomes familiar finger-style-guitar-playing and Ramsey singing about some dream of swimming across the sea. Two songs later there is talk about loving a girl till she’s finally said her “goodbye”, which is followed by my favorite song off the album “Once in Your Life.” The album is summed up with track 12; Ramsey keeps it simple by reiterating a soft “please stop time”. There are two moments in relationships when time stops. One is when you wake in the morning with your lover resting on your chest and the scene outside your window matches the utopia of your bedroom (“Please Stop Time”). The other is when, you finally have that moment of “goodbye” and all you do is get drunk or high to (hopefully) forget, at least for a few hours (“Once in Your Life”). Dreams—those moments when the sense of time ceases and you find yourself inebriated with either joy or pain…these are the stuff our lives are made of. And Tyler Ramsey reminds us, in only12 songs, of these scenes, these emotions, these indispensable ingredients to life that are always haunting and often hunted.

Note: this comes from Asheville, North Carolina—the east coast capital of indie music; Tyler’s new album is yet another testimony as to why Asheville has acquired its reputation, and “A Long Dream” will certainly put Ramsey on the map, too. We all know that all dreams come to that most horrifying part: waking up. Thankfully, when I woke up, I found out Tyler Ramsey is playing with Band of Horses, and things just do not get too much dreamier for me.

-Mr. Green