Jim Ramsey’s On the Dying Breath of Wisdom is simply lovely music
Contemporary folk.” That’s what they call it, but the only thing contemporary in my estimation are the lyrics. The music is pure retro and pure gold. Jim Ramsey is his name, and his music has been elsewhere described as folk, soft rock, progressive and Celtic.
That last designation gave me some pause. I fancy myself a fellow who knows a little about Celtic music and I didn’t initially hear anything overtly Celtic, but…upon repeated listening I recognized an element of the man’s voice that is definitely on par with today’s contemporary Irish singers.
So it is an apt designation, so long as you aren’t looking for the sort of drinking, fighting and hell-raising Celtic tunes some other, less-reputable local sorts are known to proffer.
Jim’s album, On the Dying Breath of Wisdom, was first released in 2012 and contains ten tracks that exemplify ’70s progressive folk. Some of the characteristics of that genre/era include very high production values (more on that in a moment) lavish “background” arrangements with a simple guitar or piano featured more prominently in the foreground, and straightforward lyrics largely drawn from real-life experiences.
Back in my days as a fledging radio jock, it might have been labeled “adult contemporary,” a designation that often provokes sneers from the sort who prefer music that makes them want to break things.
But the truth is that it’s music that isn’t seeking to be pretentious, preachy or edgy; it just wants to be beautiful, and at that, Jim succeeds easily.
I said I would touch a little more on the production values of this album.The first track, “Concord to Paris,” opens with a blazing synth that, if not a vintage analog model (Sequential Circuits, Moog or Oberheim come to mind), it sure as hell replicates the sound closely enough as makes no difference. That alone was enough to give me a smile.
I have a particular love for analog synths that may be explained further in a future article when I’m a day past deadline and no bands have offered up anything that week.
That being said, as the track grooved, I couldn’t help but think, “Something here is very familiar, I sense a presence I’ve not felt since…” Then I checked the liner notes and there it was: recording engineer Fred Schendel.
Ah, Fred. There is little-to-no-chance that Fred remembers me, but he is the sort of fellow that, having met him, you will never forget. Fred (and Glass Hammer) are nigh legendary in certain musical circles in this town. His touch on a recording is as recognizable as the smell of scotch on Richard Burton’s breath. The most wonderful thing about this is that Fred’s particular talents make him the perfect vehicle for realizing Jim’s vision.
The combination of the two, along with the considerable talents of Joseph and Unita Akins and Ed Holub (with assistance from Steve Babb) has created an album that, as a representative of its genre, is nearly flawless.
I say “nearly” only to operiet ones asinum, which Google Translate tells me is Latin for “cover one’s ass.” If there is a flaw, I can’t find it. It is the best of what it is.
The album is On the Dying Breath of Wisdom, the artist is Jim Ramsey, the lyrics are straight from the heart, and it’s all available online through jimramseymusic.com as well as the usual suspects.
Listen to it. It's worth it.