David Ramirez, The Rooster

David Ramirez, <em>The Rooster</em>

That voice right there, that’s the voice of a man who’s crawled through hell and up out the other side, and now he’s standing back on his own two feet, albeit a little unsteadily. With Apologies, Austin’s David Ramirez chronicled his recovery from some kind of crippling, life-/family-destroying addiction to booze or pills or whatever else (he doesn’t really ever specify), and along the way he tried to make his amends to friends and family as he tried to put the pieces back together.

With Rooster, that part of the work’s done, and while Ramirez is clear-eyed and regretful, even still, now he’s trying to move forward and make progress on down the road. On the very first song of the EP, the somber, melancholy “Fire Of Time,” there’s a wonderment in his voice as he rediscovers everything he’d lost to his addiction and subsequent recovery: how to smile, how to kiss someone and mean it, and how to hold a woman’s hand without immediately sleeping with her.

Then there’s “The Bad Days,” which is defiant and hopeful despite the trouble that surely lies ahead; yes, Ramirez is saying, it won’t always be perfect when he and his love are together, and they’ll hate him, but they’ll still be together all the same. “Hold on strong / and don’t let go,” he demands before declaring,” We’ll carry on / I know we can find a way / ‘Cause you’re still my girl in the bad days.” And he’s right, of course — love’s not always easy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the effort to make it work.

It doesn’t always work, naturally, as depicted on “Don’t Call Me Crying,” which sees Ramirez singing about how a relationship crumbles until the two people involved are really no more than strangers anymore. He brings things back upwards, though, with the pretty, gently-smiling “Glory,” a track that serves as a meditation on love and letting it be the ruling force in your life; with it’s chiming, back-and-forth rhythms, it’s hard not to get that warm feeling in your chest and let a smile crawl slowly over your face.

Probably the most affecting track on The Rooster, though, is “The Forgiven,” and it deals with a different kind of relationship completely. With the song, Ramirez takes his fans (and music fans in general) to task for turning up their nose when he’s singing about coming back from the bottom, about redemption and his faith. “Sing about those hard times,” he says, “sing about those women / We love the broken / not the forgiven.”

There’s no small amount of bitterness buried beneath the guitars and shuffling rhythms, and Ramirez makes a fair point: nobody wants to hear about the guy who’s doing alright, who’s putting his life back together, who’s found a God or a faith he can hold tight to as a center; we all want the train wreck, the drunken, half-gone mess of a man that we can shake our head at and think, damn, I’m glad that’s not me. And that’s a shame, because there’s beauty in everyday, normal, simple life, too.

The faith part of it hits home to me, as well, since as somebody who’s pretty secular himself, I have to admit that when even songwriters I like and admire start singing about Jesus, I have to force myself not to tune out. It’s just not something I can relate to; never having been one for going to church (and being fine with that), I don’t “get” the joy that people feel, if that makes any sense. That said, when it’s done well, even a heathen like myself can appreciate it, and that’s absolutely the case here. Ramirez makes his case and holds his head up high, and it’s a beautiful thing to witness, truly.

Throughout The Rooster, Ramirez plays a scuffed-up-yet-fragile breed of countryish folk, informed by Steve Earle-like roots-rock and gospel as much as it is by Bob Dylan. The guitars jangle and rumble warmly, playing up-close in your ear as Ramirez croons alongside, his oceanfloor-deep voice bringing to mind Johnny Cash and Eric Bachmann in equal measure, and by the end you just want to sit down in a chair and listen intently once again to everything he has to say.

[David Ramirez is playing 5/9/13 at Walter’s, along with Mason Lankford & Second Lovers.]
(Sweetworld; David Ramirez -- http://davidramirezmusic.com/; David Ramirez (Facebook) -- https://www.facebook.com/davidramirezaustin; David Ramirez (Twitter) -- https://twitter.com/ramirezdavid)
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Review by . Review posted Thursday, May 9th, 2013. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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One Response to “David Ramirez, The Rooster

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: The Beans + David Ramirez + Odessa + Versklaven + Another Run + Come See My Dead Person + More on January 17th, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    […] in the past couple of years, and the one-two punch of 2012′s Apologies and 2013′s The Rooster has left me floored. The man chronicles crawling through life’s wreckage like few people […]

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