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Ramsay Midwood: Shoot Out at the OK Chinese Restaurant / Undone

C. Michael Bailey By

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Ramsey Midwood performs a brand of "roots" music more authentic than anything Sun Volt, Wilco, or the Scud Mountain Boys could possibly conceive. The Austin Texas cum Arlington Virginia native produces a beautifully legitimate low-fi version of an American musical sour mash. The closest thing I can think of would be the love child of Hank Williams (senior, if you have to ask) and John Lee Hooker.

Shoot Out at the OK Chinese Restaurant was originally released on the German Glitterhouse label in 2000, garnering favorable reviews. It was picked up by Vanguard and re- released in 2002, much to our fortune. "Mohawk River" is an errant "Route 66" with lyrics so original that you wonder when John Prine really lost religion:

...I took the Mohawk River to the Palantine Bridge Little Rock Arkansas all the way to Ruby Ridge I did five years on a dry lake bed never thought of home and I always dress in red...

"Monster Truck" is a intellectually dyspeptic burp over Bob Dylan’s "You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere." Midwood employs a full-bodied band replete with slide guitar for this outing, showcasing his basic lead and rhythm guitar...

...I swear to the Lord I treat everybody fair and I don’t want no sympathy, a shake, a howdy or a cup of tea...that’s my state of mind right now, I think I’ll go and eat a cow and you don’t like it you can kiss my ass, ‘cause I drive a monster truck...

Darkness descends in "Waynesboro," accented by a blues banjo...

...and yes Mr. Zimmerman the times are always a changing and nothing ever seems right had a woman who loved me but she never loved me right so I took her by the hair and threw her into the cold watery night...

And so it goes. Midwood is an acerbic wit with a piece of straw hanging from his lower lip. His singing style and phrasing is strangely off kilter, much like his overall creative vision—but what a vision...

...I wouldn’t mind shooting in the shoulder or shooting in the spine then I’ds go to church and feel me up a nurse and dream about the lady in the alligator purse...

Undone is touted as a set of "bootleg" recordings. To be sure, this EP documents five songs performed and recorded live with damn little engineering. This makes the music fresh as clear moonshine. This is the true element for Midwood, who is the Texas homespun love child of Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg. His music is not so much raw as authentic. The sound is not contrived and was not practiced. Only from the source can a musician sound this way. With an obvious debt to both acoustic rural and urban electric blues, Midwood really mixes things up with everything else he adds. "Prophet Omega Riff / Chicago" (the latter from Shoot Out ) smacks of T Rex, The Doors, and Lucinda Williams.

If John Prine has not produced anything of interest in years that is okay, Ramsey Midwood is here to extend...and redefine the songster vision.

For more information, please see Ramsay Midwood and Vanguard Records .


Track Listing: Shoot Out

Personnel: Shoot Out

Title: Shoot Out at the OK Chinese Restaurant / Undone | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Vanguard Records


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