Ramsay Midwood

Midwoods Shoot Out is much better than the middling fare at the eponymous Chinese restaurant.

Ramsay Midwood's masterful wordsmithing and sparse production values carry the 11 songs on this striking debut. Midwood, a Virginia native residing in Austin, has put together a song cycle that often verges on the timelessness of his influences: Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and early Tom Waits. This is earthy, sitting-on-the-porch-swing music at its best.

Shoot Out benefits from the experienced hand of former Lonesome Stranger Randy Weeks -- who co-produced and played guitar, banjo, harmonica and drums -- and will go down nicely with fans of his work. Midwood's sandpaper rasp vocals are perfectly suited for the rootsy blend of folk, country and bluegrass that he and Weeks construct.

Meanwhile, lines like "I heard Merle Haggard was a junky / I know it's so 'cause I read it on the radio" from "Chicago" and "Suck it from the poor / make another war / catch the details on the news at four" from "Monster Truck" exemplify Midwood's talent for turning a phrase. And you can almost taste the roasted corn and smell the fresh-cut hay as Midwood drawls his way through "Spinnin' on This Rock." Midwood came well armed to this Shoot Out -- there's not a single dud in his ammo belt. This disc announces the arrival of a major new talent.

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