Subsequent to creating a buzz out on the West Coast, vocalist/guitarist Ramsay Midwood relocated to Austin Texas, performing amongst the nouveau crop of rock-based C&W bands. But this Virginia native’s rather asymmetrical past, including stints as a bike messenger and bit actor, only bespeaks part of the story. His affections for bluegrass and American roots music came to fruition during his upbringing in Virginia. Moving forward, Midwood toured Europe, where this outing was initially issued for the German Glitterhouse label back in 2000. With notoriety and rave reviews emanating from the European press and elsewhere, California-based Vanguard Records has insightfully re-released the artist’s debut.
The CD artwork suggests a lightheartedly retro approach, featuring the imprint of an LP on what would be the jacket sleeve and the inclusion of: “electronically altered for stereo” on the front cover. Midwood launches the festivities with a lower register, murmuring type vocal delivery on the catchy (and radio friendly) tune titled “Chicago.” Otherwise, Midwood’s art is founded upon an earthy style of prose, complete with mild distortions to the English language, or perhaps something that might ring like cowboy jargon. He combines downright hilarious lyrics with a downtrodden outlook, amid his charmingly eccentric view of life. Loose comparisons to Woody Guthrie may be in order, while Midwood evokes widespread imagery that also conjures up notions of dingy, roadhouse saloons. Moreover, the ensemble provides sympathetic support via its sprightly melding of country rock and blue grass with melodic themes and straight four beats.
The artist injects some black humor and Americana-like musings into the proceedings with the piece titled “Spinnin’ on this Rock,” featuring lyrics about shooting his friends and losing his job on the dock. Overall, Shoot Out at the Ok Chinese Restaurant is a strangely beautiful event. As Midwood’s bucolic yet altogether ingenious lyricism hits the mark in a rather prolific way.