Album Review: Tyler Ramsey’s A Long Dream About Swimming Across The Sea

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by Ben Guerechit

A lanky bearded fellow from North Carolina has begun to make a name for himself on the touring circuit. That name is Tyler Ramsey. Riding shotgun along the Band of Horses North American, and currently European, tour trail, Ramsey has brought along the soft, warming touch of instrumentalism he demonstrates on his most recent release, A Long Dream About Swimming Across The Sea.

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Looking a bit like Kenny Loggins circa 1972, Ramsey played both opening act and guitar slinging BOH sideman in November at Seattle’s Showbox. As previously noted, he kept the BOH masses at bay just long enough to catch the attention of a few in attendance with his practiced finger picking and taming pipes. While this first glimpse, for many, that the fall tour provided didn’t necessarily catch people off guard, it welcomed them to a new voice. Likewise, Ramsey was also welcomed in South Carolina. According to the Tyler Ramsey website, he was brought into the fold, when BOH bassist Bill Reynolds had Ramsey trip down to Mt. Pleasant for an introduction to the band. Apparently, Ramsey and Ben Bridwell made fast (and bearded) friends and soon plans began to hatch.

The recent tour has turned a spotlight on Ramsey’s A Long Dream, which has been garnering increasing amounts of attention, and rightly so. The understated, ethereal Echo Mountain release is all coddled up in alluding lyricism of love lost… and found. The weightlessness of Ramsey’s sound makes the album so easily consumable that the last few tracks get lost to attention, and a repeat listen becomes necessary. The first two thirds of the album, however, have just the right amount of engagement. Title track, “A Long Dream,” feels more like a stroll down a windy road than a sleepy paddle across an unknown body of water. Ramsey’s stretched out vocals accompanied by a rolling tempo and circular guitar patterns towards the end give the song a hospitable feel.

Tyler Ramsey - Night Time (MP3)

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Sticking to the maritime theme, Ramsey uses “Ships” as a metaphor for navigating obstacles some folks have in following others’ dreams rather than their own. “When the wind died down you found yourself drifting in a ship whose sails weren’t big enough to carry you and all the extra weight,” he sings. Typically, songwriters use analogies in the wrong way and they come off as a big cheesy ambiguous nothing. However, Ramsey’s point comes across with ease highlighting his rich talent for songwriting as well as his insight into the psychology of our culture.

Throughout A Long Dream..., Ramsey suggests the sound of similar artists of his style -- namely Iron & Wine’s Our Endless Numbered Days comes to mind upon listening to “Night Time,” but here lo-fi techniques are dropped for some well-ventilated production. Some slide action on the instrumental “Chinese New Year” is reminiscent of Doug Martsch’s guitar from his one and only solo album, Now You Know.

The cover of Jackson Browne’s “These Days” as first heard on Nico’s debut Chelsea Girl, is well received when infected with Ramsey’s airy vocals and subtle touch. He’s united the two previously mentioned editions of the song into something that’s at least worthy of its predecessors. “Iris” and “Worried” are a twofer package of lonesome drifting tunes filled with enough longing to have you picking up your phone and dialing a 1-900 number. Ramsey attempts to bring the mood back around with lyrics about holding on to a special moment in time, on the last song, “Please Stop Time.”

The first of the two paramount songwriting examples from A Long Dream... arrive in “Once In Your Life.” Chopped into three separate sections, the lyrics and music take you on a Rubber Soul sounding journey from the idea of a soul-mate, to the anticipation of finding that soul-mate and the eventual irony of love. “No One Goes Out” is bound to be a fan favorite on tour, as Ramsey describes all of the best bits of going to a show. “And it got to the part where he poured his heart in it, and you turned around and the whole room could feel it...” Sounding like something stolen from Bridwell’s personal songbook, Ramsey has written the perfect incarnation of what you’ll witness next time BOH and Ramsey come to town.

Even though the hypnotic nature of A Long Dream About Swimming Across The Sea may find you forgetting what you are listening to, it does capture the essence of faraway sunrise music. His subtle approach to songwriting melds into your surroundings with an effortlessly spacious touch and ease of appeal.

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