AUSTIN, Texas—Over 40 years after the release of his wildly influential self-titled album on Leon Russell's seminal Shelter Records, Willis Alan Ramsey returns to touring in advance of a long-anticipated follow-up.
Ramsey's debut in 1972 earned scores of accolades from artists ranging from The Allman Brothers to Shawn Colvin. The album was mined by many artists for their own projects and performances, including Jimmy Buffett ("Ballad of Spider John"), Jimmie Dale Gilmore ("Goodbye Old Missoula"), Shawn Colvin ("Satin Sheets"), Captain & Tennille ("Muskrat Love/Candlelight"), Jerry Jeff Walker ("Northeast Texas Women"), Waylon Jennings ("Satin Sheets"), New Grass Revival ("Watermelon Man"), and many more.
Since that landmark first release, Ramsey has toured only occasionally, spending time instead with his family, honing his craft in Austin, Nashville and London, educating himself in the science of audio recording and composing new songs, some of which will appear on his upcoming album, Gentilly. His new songs have received critical acclaim as well, including Lyle Lovett's recordings of "Sleepwalkin' " , "North Dakota" and "That's Right (You're Not From Texas)", cowritten with his wife, Alison Rogers, as well as Eric Clapton's recent recording of Willis' "Positively".
Ramsey's infrequent personal appearances always garner excitement among some of the top critics in the country as well as from his fellow artists....
"His cozy, orderly, tiny-detail songs express a willful turnabout from hippie chaos, a visceral reaction particular to the early 1970s," wrote Ben Ratliff for The New York Times. "His songs are sweet, emotionally guarded and often musically complex, fitting strains of melody together that seem as if they ought not connect, expertly using rhythmic displacement as the words and chords unspool.... Perfection is terrifying, and some of these songs felt spooky."
"Willis Alan Ramsey is living proof that reward and reverence come from quality, not quantity," says Mario Tarradell of The Dallas Morning News.
"You might not have seen him lately," writes John T. Davis of The Austin American Statesman, "but if you've listened to Shawn, Lyle or Jimmie Dale, you've heard him."
And from No Depression, "Even if Ramsey had made a dozen more albums, this would still be the record that no home should be without."
"Everybody owned this record when I lived in Austin in 1977. That's because it's great and them Texans knew it. I think Lyle is great, but tell me he didn't learn something from Willis."—Shawn Colvin
"I learned every song off his record. I went to see him every time he played, got tennis shoes like his. I wanted to be Willis Alan Ramsey."—Lyle Lovett