Check out our festival coverage, including that from SXSW 2017 and BIGSOUND 2017, through here.

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David Ramirez / January 2018 UK Tour

 
By on Thursday, 7th December 2017 at 8:00 am
 

American alt-country singer/songwriter David Ramirez has announced a nine-date UK tour for the early part of next year, to coincide with the UK release of his excellent fourth studio album ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’. We at TGTF reviewed the album back in September when it was released in North America; if you missed it, you can read the review right back here. Don’t miss Ramirez’ stunning live video performance of album track ‘Eliza Jane’, playing just below the tour date listing.

Tickets for the following shows are available now. Ramirez will follow his UK live dates with shows in Scandinavia and the Netherlands. You can find a complete listing of his upcoming tour dates on his official Facebook. TGTF’s past coverage of David Ramirez, including several live reviews, is collected back here.

Friday 12th January 2018 – London Old St. Pancras Church
Saturday 13th January 2018 – Brighton Open Studios
Sunday 14th January 2018 – Sheffield Greystones
Monday 15th January 2018 – Bristol Louisiana
Tuesday 16th January 2018 – Nottingham Bodega
Wednesday 17th January 2018 – Leicester Duffy’s
Thursday 18th January 2018 – Manchester Castle
Friday 19th January 2018 – Glasgow Broadcast
Sunday 21st January 2018 – Newcastle Cluny 2

 

Album Review: David Ramirez – We’re Not Going Anywhere

 
By on Friday, 22nd September 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

David Ramirez WNGA album coverWhen I first listened to Austin, Texas-based singer/songwriter David Ramirez, I found myself inexplicably torn. The song was ‘Harder to Lie’, from his 2015 album ‘Fables’, and I recoiled from its unflinching lyrical honesty and Ramirez’ brutally emotional delivery, even as I was drawn to the poignant vocal harmonies and wailing slide guitar. Upon collecting myself, my immediate thought was, “I’m not sure if I want to hear that again, or if I never, ever want to hear that again.”

My curiosity overcame my hesitation and I did some further listening to David Ramirez. His back catalogue comprises three full length LPs and a handful of EPs, all self-released and self-produced, and all with a perversely haphazard feel to them. Ramirez’ new fourth album ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’, sounds sharply focused in comparison. The songwriting is tighter and more concise, and the instrumentation is both more expansive and more deliberate, perhaps owing to production by Sam Kassirer (Josh Ritter, Lake Street Dive). But Ramirez hasn’t strayed from his country-blues style, nor has he abandoned the raw emotionality that has become his trademark.

Perhaps the best example of Ramirez’ unique sentimentality on the new album is early single ‘Time’. Its lyrical and musical effects play off of each other brilliantly, conveying a paradoxically clear sense of the dazed apathy caused by time passing without measure or purpose. By contrast, ‘Watching from a Distance’ is the album’s most straightforward single, with a strong vocal chorus and verse lyrics that are simple in tone but pregnant with existential angst: “just ‘cos we can’t speak / doesn’t mean you’re not on my mind / like a ghost / like the moon / like a God / like the truth”.

Several of the songs on ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’ make reference to the current American political and social atmosphere. Opening track ‘Twins’ alludes to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, its title referring to New York City’s fallen Twin Towers. Lyrically, the song is almost an astonishingly simple reflection on how the country has changed in the intervening 16 years, with paired couplet questions “where were you when we lost the twins? / where were you when fear settled in?” framing the wistful echo of the chorus “there she goes . . . goodbye America, America, America . . .”

Later on the album, ‘Stone Age’ invokes ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’, and Ramirez’ voice seethes with anger in the lines “I’m having trouble seeing colors in the dawn’s early light / no more red, no more blue, all I’m seeing is white”. Amazingly, the recorded version of this track captures the full impact of Ramirez’ live performance of the song in Phoenix last November, when the shock of the 2016 American presidential election was still fresh in everyone’s mind.

Ramirez’ country roots are most evident in ‘Good Heart’, where he adopts the character of a jaded barfly hardened against love, and ‘People Call Who They Wanna Talk To’, which emphasises his Texas drawl and the twang of the steel guitar. ‘Telephone Lovers’, in turn, explores the challenge of maintaining intimacy in a long-distance romance. The desperate refrain “you’re too far away” also harkened back to last November, when the song took that lyric as its working title.

The album closes with a pair of touching and more personal tracks. ‘Eliza Jane’ was inspired by Ramirez’ own great-grandmother, whose story was passed down to him by his mother, and whose narrative weaves inextricably into his own. Closing track ‘I’m Not Going Anywhere’ reflects the pair of women pictured in the album artwork, a mother-and-daughter pair of breast cancer survivors celebrating life on their own terms. Ramirez’ singing voice is at its level best here, both in terms of expressivity and technique, in his delivery of the lines “when you shake hands with grace and pass through the pearly gates / well then, find you the nearest neon sign / then, mama, you’ll see I was right / I’m not going anywhere”.

David Ramirez’s earlier music is somewhat unapproachable, his stubborn defiance proving to be both a fiery inspiration and a bit of an obstacle. But he seems to have softened slightly with ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’, despite its recalcitrant title. He describes the songs as being about “fear, and how instead of benefitting us, it sends us spiraling out of control.” My strongest impression is that the new album sees Ramirez overcoming his own artistic fear, and finding clarity in the process.

8.5/10

David Ramirez’ fourth studio album ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’ is available now via Sweetworld / Thirty Tigers. TGTF’s full previous coverage of David Ramirez is right back here.

 

Single Review: David Ramirez – Time

 
By on Friday, 18th August 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo by Stefanie Vinsel

American folk rocker David Ramirez has just released a stunning new single, the third from his forthcoming LP ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’. The new song, called ‘Time’, is set to feature as the opening track on the album and follows previous singles ‘Watching from a Distance’ and ‘Twins’. (You can watch the promo video for the politically-charged ‘Twins’, which juxtaposes lyrics about contemporary America with black-and-white film footage from around WWII, right here).

‘Time’ starts off, straightforwardly enough, as a piano ballad with stark, country-tinged realism in the opening lines, “who wants to grab a drink tonight? / I know it’s only Tuesday and you gotta work tomorrow”. But the prevailing synth ostinato quickly indicates a change of palette from Ramirez’s typical alt-country instrumental arrangements, with the expected wailing guitars taking a momentary back seat. This very clever instrumentation allows the sparkle of the keyboard sounds to illustrate Ramirez’s dizzying bridge section lyrics: “round and round, I’m getting busy / one more round please, let’s keep this fuzzy / I hear a tick-tock, can you tell me is he trying to mock / it’s all been a bit blurry for some time now.”

Despite the apparent shift in musical direction, Ramirez hasn’t lost sight of what worked well on his previous album ‘Fables’, specifically, the combination of his sharply poignant lyrics and the raw emotion his vocal delivery. This song’s simple, echoing chorus “I got nothing but time” works beautifully in Ramirez’ drawling baritone, conveying a deeper sense of hidden desperation with every repeat. Like so many of Ramirez’ previous songs, ‘Time’ is an emotionally-challenging listen, but it’s absolutely worth the lingering heartache it evokes.

9/10

David Ramirez’ fourth studio album ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’ is due for release on the 8th of September via Thirty Tigers / Sweetworld. You can read TGTF’s past live coverage of David Ramirez, including a review from SXSW 2017 back in March, by clicking here.

 

SXSW 2017: A Friday night mix of British, American and Canadian acts – 17th March 2017

 
By on Wednesday, 19th April 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

It felt somewhat strange that I spent St. Patrick’s Day at SXSW 2017 on mostly non-Irish acts. Friday afternoon at SXSW has typically been reserved for the Full Irish Breakfast, but that had happened on Thursday this year. The only hint of Ireland I heard on this St. Patrick’s day was early on Friday, when I stopped briefly at Latitude 30 for the Output Belfast day show. My Friday evening was instead full to the brim with British and American acts, save one Canadian artist who made a strong impression near the end.

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I started the evening with an early show at Stubb’s BBQ. Reading quartet Sundara Karma were first on Friday night’s bill, (as we had discussed in my interview with them on Tuesday) and they played before just as the sun was beginning to set over Austin. The crowd at Stubb’s trickled in slowly, with punters lingering over dinner and beer. But once the band started playing, all attention was on the stage.

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Sundara Karma frontman Oscar Pollock didn’t spend a lot of time on pleasantries, instead allowing the band’s sharp lyrics and edgy guitar melodies to do most of the talking. But make no mistake, this band cultivates an almost psychedelic visual impression onstage as well, with long hair and flashy gestures to match their dynamic alt-rock sound. They certainly weren’t daunted by the large outdoor stage at Stubb’s, and their impact was successfully established. I overheard several punters enthusiastically sharing the name Sundara Karma as I made my way to the exit after their set. Stay tuned for more on Sundara Karma in my recap of Saturday night at SXSW, posting soon.

DSC08892

My next stop was west of Congress, at another venue I’d never visited before, the Tap Room at the Market. The Market is a bustling, trendy Austin night spot, with the smaller Tap Room nestled below. On this night, the Tap Room was hosting the Grammy Museum Homegrown showcase, which featured a curation of artists from the Los Angeles area. I arrived on the scene just in time to hear one of the singers I’d featured in my preview of L.A. artists at SXSW.

BeLL

Alt-pop singer BeLL was already onstage, and I was immediately taken aback by the power in her vocal sound. I was excited to hear her quirky but catchy single ‘Bang Bang (Remember My Name)’, which had caught my attention in writing the aforementioned preview. It debuted back in November and has already been featured in a television trailer on ABC Family here in the States; you can catch a listen below before it blows up on radio waves everywhere.

Warbly Jets

Up next was a band who pride themselves on not fitting into the L.A. music scene, alt-rock quartet Warbly Jets. Their sound is certainly more in the supersonic jet-propelled vein than the sunny pop and laid-back folk you might typically expect to hear from Southern California. Onstage, they were both smoothly self-assured and and a tiny bit cocky, convincing their audience that they’re a force to be reckoned with. Their debut single ‘Alive’ was a highlight of the evening.

OPS

I was already peripherally aware of next band on the docket, Ocean Park Standoff, because my kids know their current single ‘Good News’. It’s an infectiously upbeat track, perfect for radio play or maybe even for a summer 2017 Spotify playlist. As it turns out, the song is also pretty representative of what Ocean Park Standoff does in live performance. The band were smiling and relaxed throughout their set, and their good vibes were expansive enough for a much larger room. Keep an eye out for this trio to make their mark during their upcoming American tour dates with Third Eye Blind.

Following my stop at the Grammy Museum showcase, I had intended to try to catch Ryan Adams at Austin City Limits, even nabbing a SXXPress pass for that show earlier in the day. But while I was at Stubb’s, I got the news that Adams had cancelled his performance due to illness. I was mildly disappointed, but I did have a backup plan to catch another American singer/songwriter, David Ramirez at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop.

"David

People in Austin were out in full force to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and 6th Street was jam-packed. Adding to the crush and confusion was the fact that many of the music venues had multiple queues outside to deal with the different priority entries: Platinum and Music Badges, Interactive and Film Badges, Music Wristbands, and paying customers. Obviously this was only an issue for the high-demand shows, but it’s something SXSW organisers will need to focus on for next year, as many of the venues simply didn’t have the space or staff available to cope with up to 4 different queues for each show. Maggie Mae’s was one of the most difficult venues to get into, not only because is it located in the heart of 6th Street, but because it has two stages and only one entrance.

David Ramirez band

Austin native Ramirez had a full band in attendance for his show at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop. In my previous experience, this has been a nice addition to his sound. He’s a starkly effective performer alone, but the depth and vibrance of his country-rock sound really come out with the addition of backing vocals, keyboards and drums. Unfortunately for Ramirez, his Friday night set was plagued by technical problems. After a lengthy and apparently unsuccessful soundcheck, Ramirez and his band played a truncated set, leaving out several favourite songs that appeared on his written setlist. He did, however, play a couple of newer songs that got the local crowd’s attention, including the London-referencing track ‘Too Far Away’.

I finished the evening (and started the next morning) at St. David’s Episcopal Church, where the Communion Music showcase was being held. I’d been to the church’s Bethell Hall already on this trip to Austin, but I hadn’t yet visited the Sanctuary, and by midnight on Friday night, it was already becoming full in advance of a performance by Rag’n’Bone Man scheduled for 1 AM.

This was the one occasion during the SXSW week when the availability of SXXPress passes worked to my advantage. Earlier in the week, I had either failed to get passes in time, or I simply hadn’t needed the ones I did get. But I’d managed to get one for St. David’s on this night, and the staff at the church were remarkably adept at handling their queues, probably because the venue has been open to non-credential holders in past years. I intentionally arrived early to the Communion showcase, knowing by their reputation that the earlier performers on the bill would be worth seeing, even if I wasn’t already familiar.

"Charlotte

I wasn’t disappointed in that regard with French-Canadian pop singer Charlotte Cardin. Her silky, delicate vocals and soulful pop song arrangements were easy on the ears without being too saccharine, perhaps thanks to their ever-so-subtle jazz inflections. Her debut EP ‘Big Boy’ was released last July on Cult Nation Records and features songs in both English and French, including standout track ‘Like It Doesn’t Hurt’. She also won over a few fans with this cool, almost aloof-sounding version of Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’.

Very few punters left after Cardin’s performance, and despite the dreaded 1 AM time slot, there was a bit of hustle-and-bustle in St. David’s Sanctuary surrounding the arrival of Rag’n’Bone Man. Mary had reported to me the very long queue outside the British Music Embassy for his performance there earlier in the evening, and the audience here were fairly buzzing with anticipation.

"RBM

In a bit of a surprise, Rag’n’Bone Man (aka Rory Graham) started his setlist with the song most of us already knew, ‘Human’. This was an acoustic version, less immediately bombastic than the one we’ve heard on American radio, but it was singularly and tastefully appropriate for performance on the St. David’s stage. Graham was equally gentle and mild-tempered in his onstage banter, though he did pick up the dynamic in his songs as the set went on. We were treated to current American radio single ‘Skin’ as well as a stunningly beautiful song I hadn’t heard before called ‘Grace’, which you can take a listen to just below.

The authenticity of Rag’n’Bone Man’s performance, along with the high-quality of his songwriting and musicianship, exemplifies what I’ve come to expect from the Communion showcase over my years at SXSW. Though I wasn’t able to see the whole show on this Friday night, I was glad to at least catch the end of it, discovering a promising new artist and witnessing a rapidly-rising up-and-comer in the process.

 

Live Review: David Ramirez at Valley Bar, Phoenix, AZ – 18th November 2016

 
By on Monday, 28th November 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

Austin-based singer/songwriter David Ramirez passed through Phoenix before the American Thanksgiving holiday, making his second appearance here in just over a year. If you’re a regular TGTF reader, you might remember my review of his previous show in the same venue, downtown Phoenix’s Valley Bar. On that occasion, Ramirez was accompanied by a full band and special guest Liza Anne, but by design, this gig was quite a different event.

Ramirez is playing completely solo on his current tour, without either a backing band or a support act. Dubbed the ‘Bootleg Tour 2016’, these shows also involve the element of live recordings, which are being distributed via download to all ticketholders within a few days of the show they attend. The souvenir recording is a unique and intriguing digital age concept, and it became even more appealing as we in the audience discovered, much to our delight, that Ramirez had a few yet-to-be-released songs up his sleeve.

Without an opening act to warm up the crowd, Ramirez began the night somewhat unceremoniously by simply walking on stage, saying a quick greeting and starting to play. He opened with a sequence of old favourite songs, starting with ‘I Think I Like You’ from his 2011 ‘Strangetown’ EP before turning to his more popular 2015 album release ‘Fables’. ‘How Do You Get ‘Em Back’ and ‘Communion’ were apparently more familiar to the punters gathered near the stage, and Ramirez’s set quickly gained momentum. Despite his own admission to feeling a bit under the weather, the grit and raw power of his singing voice held up admirably to the stripped back song arrangements presented here, especially in the bitterly poignant ‘Harder to Lie’.

Of the new songs in the set, ‘Too Far Away’ grabbed my attention straightaway, with the coincidentally relevant lyrics “Well, I’m coming to London, gonna bring you back to Texas / you’ll have your first Thanksgiving and you’ll meet the parents.” Like so many of Ramirez’s songs, this one has a bittersweet twist, which he immediately counteracted with the dry cynicism and dark blues edge of another new track, titled ‘Stone Age’.

David Ramirez internal

In the end, Ramirez played quite a lengthy set, 22 songs in total, including the unreleased tracks and a remarkably fitting cover of Neil Young’s ‘Vampire Blues’. He seemed to take advantage of the relative success of last year’s ‘Fables’, interspersing songs from that album with older releases that might not have been as well known. It must be said that Ramirez’s acoustic version of ‘The Bad Days’, from 2013 EP ‘The Rooster’ was exquisitely effective whether his audience knew it already or not, and he indulged a shouted request for ‘Fires’, which dates back to his 2009 album ‘American Soil’.

Though I missed the backing vocals I was accustomed to hearing in the full band arrangements of several familiar tracks, Ramirez’s voice and acoustic guitar were equally compelling on their own, especially in a small, intimate venue like the Valley Bar. And if his new songs see the light of day, so to speak, it will be interesting to listen back to the bootleg recording and compare the fully arranged studio versions to these stripped back preliminary performances. Ramirez’s Bootleg Tour 2016 continues through the end of December; you can find the remaining dates listed here.

David Ramirez is currently listed as a showcasing artist for SXSW 2017, which will take place in his hometown of Austin next March. As always, any information we bring you about SXSW 2017 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts, and the artist lineup is subject to change. To keep abreast of David Ramirez’s upcoming plans, we recommend that you keep an eye on his official Facebook. For news and updates on SXSW 2017, you can consult the festival’s official schedule here.

After the cut: David Ramirez’s set list.
Continue reading Live Review: David Ramirez at Valley Bar, Phoenix, AZ – 18th November 2016

 

Live Review: David Ramirez with Liza Anne at Valley Bar, Phoenix, AZ – 4th November 2015

 
By on Wednesday, 11th November 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

Last Wednesday night, I trekked once again to downtown Phoenix for a gig at the intimate and all-but-hidden Valley Bar, which is quite literally nestled in a back alley between a couple of sandwich shops. The rainy weather didn’t stop a steady crowd from trickling into the venue, and before the gig started, I heard several punters chatting about the headliner, Texas alt-country songwriter David Ramirez, having obviously heard him or seen him live before. I, myself, was less familiar, having been turned on to Ramirez’s music after seeing a Tweeted recommendation of his latest single from none other than Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody. I spent the two-hour drive to Phoenix from Tucson listening to Ramirez’s latest album ‘Fables’ via Apple Music, and it was just the thing to whet my appetite for the evening’s headliner at the Valley Bar.

Liza Anne

Lest I get too far ahead of myself, let’s start not with Ramirez, but with his guest on the night, Atlanta native singer/songwriter Liza Anne. Her tunes are the kind of starkly melancholic neo-folk I might have predicted, but with the added twist of prominent vocal harmonies provided by backing vocalists Sam Pinkerton and Molly Parden. Liza Anne’s opening set, which included haunting echoes of melody from her recent LP ‘Two’, had a cool, aloof edge despite its emotional lyrics that would prove to be in sharp contrast to Ramirez’s viscerally organic Americana style.

Because I was fairly unfamiliar with Ramirez, I decided to stick to the standard policy of shooting photos only during the first three songs of the set, leaving myself free to enjoy the latter part of the show uninterrupted. And though I missed a few classic photo opportunities later on when Ramirez’s band was in full swing, I’m convinced that I made the right decision. Ramirez’s intensity on stage was hypnotic, and his band played with the kind of paradoxically effortless energy that can only happen when you’re playing with your “best friend(s) in the world”, as Ramirez would preface his introduction of each band member.

David Ramirez 3

To my surprise (and mild dismay), Ramirez started his lengthy headline set with two of the songs I knew best from ‘Fables’, namely ‘New Way of Living’ and ‘Harder to Lie’, the latter of which has been firmly planted in my head ever since the night of the show. He scattered songs from ‘Fables’ throughout the set, interspersing them with several older tracks that caught my attention, especially ‘The Bad Days’ from 2013 EP ‘The Rooster’. Not knowing the songs well enough to sing along, I was nonetheless delighted to be in the front row, alternately tapping my toes and swaying my hips to the band’s infectious rhythmic momentum. Ramirez’s alt-country style has perhaps a bit more country twang than I usually like, but the rough honesty of his singing voice and the integrity of his stylistic devotion to foundational country rock were quite simply captivating.

The crowd were quiet at the beginning of the set, but slowly warmed up as Ramirez and his band went to work under the hot stage lights. Interaction was stilted at first, but the punters gradually got brave enough to respond to Ramirez’s banter. At one point, a cheeky request was made for a song called ‘Wandering Man’, and while Ramirez didn’t commit to it in the moment, he did play the song at the very end of his set, and it was clearly a longtime live favourite, featuring not only a rousing verse-chorus-verse, but also an extended bridge section where each of the instrumentalists on stage had a chance to show off his chops. Ramirez himself actually took this opportunity to exit the stage and head to the bar for a shot, with which he toasted the crowd before tossing it back and finishing the song with a blinding flourish.

Breathless from the frenzy of the final tune, I headed out to the lobby where the merch table was located. There I picked up a proper physical copy of ‘Fables’ and had the opportunity for quick hellos and handshakes with the band members before I headed out in the rain to drive back east to Tucson, while they headed west for the next stops on their current U.S. tour. Before I drove away, I took a moment to Tweet my own ringing recommendation to a friend in California, who would see Ramirez play a solo show on the following Sunday night.

The previous Gary Lightbody endorsement had been graciously received and reciprocated by Ramirez on Twitter, where he surely found a small legion of Snow Patrol fans (including myself!) among his new listeners, though Ramirez’s musical style is clearly more on the Americana-leaning Tired Pony end of the Lightbody spectrum. Ramirez might gain even more traction from Lightbody’s recommendation after the start of the new year, when he is scheduled to play a single live date on the 28th of January at Hoxton Square in London. A full listing of Ramirez’s upcoming live dates, including more U.S. shows with Liza Anne, can be found on his official Web site.

David Ramirez set list

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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