Willis Alan Ramsey (self-titled)

A one of a kind record from a talent so deep it kills you to learn… this is all there is. Straight out of Austin, Texas this may be the best of the whole Armadillo/outlaw scene, though Willis never wanted a part of it in the first place. Country fans and foes alike should grab this record and hold on tight.

Willis Alan Ramsey’s record  merges country and soul as much as it combines chicken shack production with a touch of studio glitter. Put out by Leon Russell on his Shelter label (Russell also contributes keyboard), Ramsey was only twenty when he wrote many of these tunes, and only 22 or so when he laid down the vocals. Pretty remarkable considering the sound. It’s an ecclectic mix of styles with songwriter tunes ranging from the sweet and waltzy to bluesy, gritty grooves. “Muskrat Candlelight,” the album’s most sugary spot, would be covered by America and forever confined to the Lite 97s as “Muskrat Love.” But other tracks tear it up. All originals except for “Angel Eyes,” which fits like a glove on Side 2, every song is a serious keeper.

A few tracks are ornamented with strings and orchestral accompianment, which works for the more developed numbers, but the sound gets so nicely stripped at times. On two tracks, “Satin Sheets” one of them, the only percussion is a steady kick drum with a thick cardboard sound. “Ballad of Spider John,” the hypnotic storytale opener, also achieves this effect; the simplicity delights me to no end.Then this little green bit of heaven closes with a cut no one could argue, a swampy and irresistible groove: “Northeast Texas Women.”

Willis Alan Ramsey made one of those perfect albums. Unfortunately for us, he was seriously jaded by the music business, and never put out another record.

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“Northeast Texas Women”

:D CD Reissue | 1999 | Koch | buy from amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1972 | Shelter | search ebay ]

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  • Souls on Tape

    You’ve turned me on to a great classic! Thank you!

  • Tim

    Awesome. Northeast Texas Women is great! Keep up the kick ass posts!

  • ib

    There is a real Townes Van Zandt feel to the tracks you posted, but i’m wondering – after reading your review – if the Spider John mentioned (as in “Ballad of…”) is in reference to the great & vastly underrated Spider John Koerner ?

  • Brendan

    Great question, ib. I have no idea if the ballad in question is an homage or not, but unless Spider John Koerner was a freight riding, hometown robbing, “supermarket fool” of sorts, I’m not sure they’re explicitly the same person. A great tune to start the album with tho.

  • Chris

    Nice Brendan, really nice.

    The kind of music that makes you want to keep flipping the vinyl over and over and over and over…

    Keep ’em coming.


  • T.

    Willis Alan is my favorite artist of all time … the ‘green’ album may have company soon … be on the lookout for some exciting news … or at least, that’s what I hear … a girl can hope.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent surprise! Damned straight! Vastly underrated talent who will always be unfortunately harnessed and harassed with that dang muskrat song. — Northeast Texas Native.

  • ALC

    WAR is a close friend of mine. No “Spider John” is not about Koerner. It’s a description of a character he once rode along with when hitch-hiking many years ago. His soon to be released “Gentilly” is gonna make a huge wave. Looks like february 2009 release. Just like the green album it’s perfect where it needs to be and raw where it needs to be. It has two things sorely lacking in music today. Great songwriting variety and just downright FUN! When’s the last time you heard that adjective used in relation to music?

  • phil spector

    Nice review of this Lp in the latest issue of MOJO #183, february 2009.
    It’s a review in the “Buried Treasure” section….. and they did interviewed Willis Alan Ramsey himself!!!!!

    when ask why he hadn’t made an another LP in 36 years, he answered funnily “Was there something wrong with the first one ?”……

  • Duncan Walls

    This was also available on DCC briefly in late 80s early 90s on CD… found it in a used bimn for $3, had iu for two weeks and someone stole it…had to go find it on LP again…glad to hear another is one the way…he was slated for one on Nonesuch about ten years ago…saw the ads and everything…what happened?
    It IS a perfect LP…I even like the America version of Muskrat and will tolerate Capt & Tenille’s version
    Lyle Lovett did some nice takes of Willis on his Texas Songwriter tribute CD…he certainly reminded me of Willis when I first heard LL

  • Any word on the release date of “Gentilly”? Does anyone know how we are going to buy it?? I Tunes, Amazon, On Line?? I host a program called “Lone Star Sunday Night” on WKGC in Panama City, FL and can’t wait to to get the new release on the air…just have to keep plaing the 1972 LP until then..

  • Nik

    man it’s an absolute fucking crime that ramsey’s own recording of muskrat candlelight isn’t the one folks are fed over the radios! and a further crime that this album isn’t available today! I’ve seen compact disc copies go for almost a hundred bucks online, records for a more affordable $20 or something. but anyways, just had to drop in with my two cents.

  • Niki,

    WAR version is the ONLY one I will play on the air. Hell, I’ll play it for you this Saturday (11/2010) on my show Lone Star State of Mind, 11amCT. Streaming at WKGC.org

    Please God, let WAR release “Gentilly” before I get too much older and croak:)


  • Jeff Spigel

    Check out the album by Jamie Oldaker CD “Mad Dogs And Okies”. You will find songs and as I remember, performances by Willis Alan Ramsey. Its got a great line-up of musicians. Its worth your time. Check it out! By the way, I go back to the days when Willis Alan Ramsey’s album was part of my favorite recordings in my collection and have always loved the album.

  • Anonymous

    WAR recorded the score of a movie for Hal Ashby called Second Hand Hearts. If you can find that film, you’ll hear some rare sounds.

  • al maginnes

    I saw Willis Alan Ramsey play a live show in 1989, and he had a bunch of new and good songs. Don’t know if or when a new album will ever appear, but he has the songs.

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