September 26, 2011

Fuel/Friends Chapel Session #7 :: Tyler Ramsey (Band of Horses)

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:

Angel Band
1000 Black Birds
The Nightbird
All Through The Night (Jules Shear/Cyndi Lauper cover)


September 7, 2011

the world is such a wonderful place: Band of Horses concert review

There is something exceedingly uplifting and near-transcendent about a Band of Horses show, especially if you can wedge yourself down in the front where the waves of sound crash over you and your feet vibrate throughout the entire show from the bass.

After Kings of Leon canceled the tour where BOH was opening, dates were rescheduled with just the Seattle quintet in smaller venues. I found myself grateful to get to see them in that dark, small Fox Theatre on Monday night instead of the Comfort Dental Amphitheatre or wherever they were scheduled to play before.

It’s been years since I have seen BOH live, and since then they’ve released the newest album, Infinite Arms, and further perfected their excoriating live show. It was a holistic music-enjoyment experience for me, as they project an endless stream of images on the large screen behind them throughout the night.

My brain soared all over the place, as the images of wheatfields and old barns and crowded parties and starry nights swirled and spun into their songs. I loved the way the show tied together the visual with the auditory, because that’s how I hear music. This was especially potent on “Ode to LRC” where the crowd sang along with the line, “The world is such a wonderful place,” as scenes flashed rapid-fire behind the band, or as “Is There a Ghost” was sung in front of stars and a crescent moon. Yes.

Their songs are all universally bigger on-stage, with a greater energy; I found it to be way more Neil Young/expansive-70s-country-rock than I expected. Every song was dazzling, and even the loping dreamy ones on the records took on an urgent, dynamic air.

It’s also clear from watching this band that they all genuinely like each other, and that chemistry crackles back and forth between their music while they are on-stage. This was especially apparent during the encore performance of “Evening Kitchen” (one of my favorite songs on the new album), performed with just Ben Bridwell and guitarist Tyler Ramsey, who wrote the song.

The evening was one of those rare concert experiences where everything comes a little unsewn inside you, and for two blissful hours you are redeemed.

Also: a note about the opener. After recording a Chapel Session with me on Saturday afternoon, BOH guitarist Tyler Ramsey opened the show with his intricately haunting solo material. Watching his fingers fly over the strings again was spell-binding. His new solo album The Valley Wind comes out on Fat Possum later this month, and I can’t wait to share that chapel session with you guys.


Subscribe to this tasty feed.
I tweet things. It's amazing.

Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

View all Interviews → View all Shows I've Seen →