The tall and lanky Tyler Ramsey is best known as the guitarist for Band of Horses, but wise folks also caught on to his two solo albums (s/t debut in 2004, A Long Dream About Swimming Across the Sea in 2008) and his upcoming third solo release is out this week. Hearing him open the two recent Colorado BOH shows with his own material was stunning. On a recent Saturday he met me for coffee at the shop by my house, and we headed over to sit beneath the tall arches of Shove Chapel for an hour of intricately-wrought magic.
This session is easier to write about as one complete unit, because all of the songs Tyler performed seemed to radiate imagery of birds and angels, songs of flying away and rivers of sorrow that flow out into the blackness of the night.
I thought as I sat on the edge of the stage, my back against the giant stone pillar, that this was the most celestial-feeling of the chapel sessions so far. Tyler’s voice is high and vulnerable, and in that fragility can be all the more powerfully piercing. He reminds me some of the effect Neil Young has on me, making me feel helpless, or Mark Kozelek in the smoky honesty, and sad glory. The echo of his voice seemed right at home in that space.
It should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever seen Band of Horses live, but it’s spellbinding to watch Tyler’s fingers fly over the guitar strings. From a few feet away I kept furrowing my brow trying to keep up with the sounds I was hearing and how quickly and effortlessly his fingers moved on the frets. Tyler played a worn Gibson Folksinger guitar from the 1960s, one he bought in a pawn shop in Fletcher, North Carolina. It seemed to somehow carry all sorts of stories within the wood.
These songs come from Tyler’s third album, The Valley Wind, out this week on Fat Possum. For as beautiful as these chapel arrangements are (note the loooong extended intro Tyler puts on “1000 Black Birds”), the record takes it to a whole new, lush level — very highly recommended.
Tyler ended his set with a wrenching cover of “All Through The Night,” which my ’80s-loving sister recognized immediately from her pew seat as being a huge Cyndi Lauper hit. Since the ’80s usually give me hives, I learned from Tyler that this was written by Jules Shear. The way Tyler performs it here, it sounds like an old country rambler on the AM radio, completely stripped of any veneer. It was perfect.
Take and digest this session as a gorgeous, substantive whole: