David Ramirez, Apologies
I know this’ll sound weird, but go with me on it, okay? There’s this great, great feeling of downtrodden world-weariness to David Ramirez’s Apologies, one that infuses every track, even the more upbeat, more overtly roots-rock-y songs like “Stick Around” or “Mighty Fine.” Ramirez sings like a man who’s been broken down by the very life he’s chosen, roaming from place to place to place, never really finding a place of his own to hold onto.
Apologies is at times desperately, crushingly sad, music perfect for drowning your own sorrows to, especially on “God Bless,” which makes Ramirez’s relationship with the bars he travels through. He sings and strums delicately, like he’s afraid to break the fragile silence of the room, and it’s stark and haunting and beautiful all put together.
I can’t help but think of Steve Earle when I hear Ramirez’s cigarette-roughened voice, and he shares a songwriter-as-storyteller sensibility with Earle, as well, neither of which is a bad thing by any measure. The vocals are up close, like you’re sitting right next to him as he plays and pours out his pain into a shotglass. Opener “Chapter II” is a good example, with Ramirez bringing to mind both Earle and Crooked Fingers’ Eric Bachmann equally.
Musically, I find myself thinking of the aforementioned folks and Ryan Adams’ solo stuff, particularly on the warm, beautifully wistful “Stick Around,” where Ramirez is yearning for that most basic of human needs, to be wanted by somebody else, to be pulled out of the road life by somebody who asks him to stay. Beyond that, there’s a nice resemblance to the wholly underrated Band of Annuals; the two share the same unpretentious, no-frills approach to roots-country music, and it’s a quality I happen to love.
There’s a weird bit of Tom Waits lurking in back alleyway, too, which makes sense considering that both songwriters spin out stories of people (including themselves) who dwell in those darkened bars and streets, who love and lose every damn time.
Ramirez, though, sounds like he’s made his peace, almost. He’s lost, to be sure, pleading for some kind of guidance from above on “An Introduction,” and he’s desperate, uncertain, and decidedly wounded by the things that’ve happened in the past, but at the same time, he recognizes the damage he himself has done. The title of Apologies itself is an apt one, to me, because it feels like Ramirez is asking for forgiveness even as he bleakly declares in “Friends and Family,” “‘I’m sorry’ / That phrase has lost its meaning / I’ve used it far too often / Now no one can believe.” It may not mean much anymore, but it still needs to be said.
Step forward to the final track, “Find The Light,” and it almost sounds like Ramirez himself has. He’s gone through the darkness, the fear, and the pain, and he’s come out with his head high, a man who’s seen how far you can fall and is now bestowing his blessing upon someone else. That’s a place many people never reach.