Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

David Ramirez hits the singer/songwriter trifecta

July 4, 2011

There’s three basic parts of Damien Rice’s sound: moving songwriting, evocative lyrics and an untamed caterwaul. That occasionally grating third element is what keeps Rice’s fanbase from growing or shrinking. If there was an artist who captured the first two elements in a similar way, but toned down the roaring, I’d put big bets on that guy to be big.

I’m going to Vegas on David Ramirez.

The acoustic guitar-playing Texan’s easygoing voice can get intense, as in the climax of “Argue With Heaven,” but it never gets abrasive. You can tell David Ramirez is all-in, but he’s not reckless. That element of control makes “Argue With Heaven” a powerful, repeatable track.

Three more of the earthy, grounded tunes on his EP Strangetown follow a similar tack; “Wandering Man” is train-whistle roots rock, and while it’s not a fine song, it’s not Ramirez at his finest. That would instead be “Shoeboxes,” which incorporates gentle alt-country fingerpicking to back up his anguished voice.

It’s important to note that his emotions are contributed through tone and inflection in addition to volume. If it’s the voice that makes a songwriter, Ramirez is on the right path; he’s either spent time honing his voice to transmit what he wants or been blessed with a rare set of pipes. Probably both.

“Strange Town” calls up more Rice comparisons in mood and accompaniment, which is welcome. “I Think I Like You” is an easy-going piece that puts a lot of gravitas into that simple sentiment; in that vein, consider the weight he can assign to lyrics that have standalone dramatic import, like ruminations over mementos and memories of a lost love on “Shoeboxes.”

David Ramirez has the trifecta going for him: engaging music, mesmerizing vocals and poignant lyrics. If you’re a fan of singer/songwriters, Ramirez is in your future, whether right now or when he inevitably gets a larger following. He’s going to hit The Blue Door in OKC Friday night. If I wasn’t playing a show, I’d be there.

Listen to and download “Shoeboxes.”

Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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