Allen Ramsey,
Allen Ramsey
(Wooden Pickle, 2004)

Allen Ramsey is a more muscular version of the 1970s singer-songwriter, the sort of performer who chronicles mood swings and relationship travails. He's too young to have been there, but I take it that the genre, whose mostly baleful influence continues, amounts to his personal roots music. Though recorded (and very nicely) in Nashville, this eponymous disc is not country or folk music, and it's not hard rock or soft pop either, but elements of each show up here and there. There is really nothing here you haven't heard before, which does not mean that Ramsey's way of doing it is necessarily without interest or purpose. At times, nonetheless, the question does arise.

As a general principle this sort of stuff -- obsessively confessional, personal songwriting -- is not to my taste. If it is to yours, however, you may find that Ramsey is preferable to many. His songs are solidly constructed, he has a good melodic sense and he sings in an expressive yet unpretentious voice that, even when announcing the latest heartbreak, seems never all that far from a chuckle. He's more fun than James Taylor; of course, that may not be too demanding a feat. In any event, I like just about anybody who invites us not to take him- or herself overly seriously.

I just wish Ramsey had more interesting things to sing about in front of that fine band and those loose, unfussy arrangements. With all this possibility around him, you'd think he'd have something more stimulating to put into his songs than pleasantly reshuffled romantic cliches. Maybe, sigh, the problems are excessive youth and insufficient experience.

- Rambles
written by Jerome Clark
published 13 August 2005

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