For the past three years or so, Tyler Ramsey has been a member of Band Of Horses, taking an increasingly prominent role in the group run by Ben Bridwell. But before Ramsey was the guitarist for Band Of Horses, the North Carolina native had been a solo artist and had released two albums.
With Band Of Horses in-between albums, Tyler has taken the opportunity to rekindle his solo career. The Valley Wind is a modest affair…nine songs over 35 minutes played mostly by Ramsey with a bit of help on guitar, vocals and drums from Seth Kauffman and an appearance on bass on one track from producer (and fellow Band Of Horses member) Bill Reynolds.
The album begins with a brief (45sec.) instrumental featuring just Ramsey’s shimmering guitar playing. The tune dies away and the title track starts up featuring guitar, bass and percussion. When Ramsey sings, it’s impossible not to be reminded of Neil Young. The songs itself deals with a self-destructive friend (a topic not-uncommon for Young either), with a lyric like, “every waking hour you let both ends burn”. Later he mixed sadness and resignation with a touch of humour as he sings, “somebody left the stove on in the house too long, now we can warm our hands on the front lawn”.
1000 Black Birds begins with some delicate finger-picking. Ramsey’s voice is drenched in echo, reminiscent of Jim James in My Morning Jacket. The Nightbird is gently acoustic, yet dark. “Kill the nightbird that’s been keeping me awake” Tyler sings over a ghostly guitar.
Stay Gone is the most fully-realized production. Reynolds and Kauffman chime in on bass, guitar, drums and harmony vocals. The result is a comfortable, familiar sound…jangly electric guitar, CSN-style harmonies…fans of Fleet Foxes or The Decemberists should appreciate it.
The only track that disappoints is Angel Band, a slow, plodding number, that, despite its lovely guitar, seems to go nowhere. The album closes with All Night, an appropriately dreamy track featuring drum machine and heavily-reverbed electric guitar. As Ramsey’s languid vocal sings, “I’ve got nothing else to do”, this is music to lean back, chill out and daydream to.
Click here to listen to the title track from The Valley Wind: