Asheville, North Carolina’s Tyler Ramsey is best known as the most recent addition to the alt-country Band of Horses, but he’s also been serving as their opener on their most recent tour. And now he drops his sophomore record, a collection of exquisite finger-plucking harmonies. While a few tracks are a little shallow, and there isn’t an amazing amount of variety, A Long Dream is still a solid delivery.
Title track and first single “A Long Dream” opens up the record, and displays real power as it combines folk with an oceanic atmosphere. Ramsey stays at high tide with the following “Ships”, a more straightforward piece, wryly sad, but effective in its emotion and knowledge. From there, A Long Dream goes into some slower terrain, with mixed, but generally positive, results. “Night Time” contains some atmosphere and even sweetness, but “Once In Your Life” just plays it obvious and kind of banal, before picking up into a great folk-rock rollick in its last third.
But the slow and sad Ramsey is strongest in the middle of A Long Dream, with “No One Goes Out” and a cover of Jackson Browne’s “These Days”. “No One” has an epic nature to its melancholy and wistful look into the past. The inimitably coverable “These Days” (Nico’s version is best-known; there are other singer/songwriter versions by Elliott Smith, St. Vincent, and Paul Westerberg) puts its alt-country heart on its sleeve, but instead of being hackneyed or trite, Ramsey plays it just right. Mixed in with these two pieces are two fun, different instrumentals: the funky-slide of “Chinese New Year” and finger-pluck magic of “Birdwings”.
The final third of A Long Dream is its most stripped-down. The straight-up “When I Wake” comes off a little flat, and “Iris” just ain’t that special, but Ramsey varies things up a bit on record’s the final two tracks, “Worried” and “Please Stop Time”. “Worried” employs an interesting echo effect, while “Please” strips to an almost medieval level, reminiscent of a lute.
Gearing up to tour with, and open for, Band of Horses in 2008, Ramsey looks set to be more than just ‘the new guy’, thanks to A Long Dream About Swimming Across the Sea. There are times when he could dive a bit deeper, or go out a little further, but he definitely has his strokes down.
MP3 Stream: "Ships"