A few years ago Matthew Mayfield told me to listen to David Ramirez. For some reason I must have had cotton balls or something in my ears when I gave him that first listen. I just didn’t “get” what he was doing. Then sometime in the last several months it just clicked for me. David Ramirez, I realized, is the Austin, Texas songwriting genius that far too few people know about. He is a living legend, crushing the independent music scene with intensity and intimacy.
“Fire of Time,” the opener on this album, is a lyrically heavy song that packs a punch. It’s about clean life after addiction or trouble of some kind. What’s really powerful, though, is the way that David Ramirez captures this Johnny Cash frankness with a subtlety that even Cash could never master. He resolves the emotion of the song with the personified audience, a person (seemingly a woman) who gets him. Anyone who has been in trouble understands that supportive person who seems to be there, even when you hurt them. “You remind me who I was and who I want to be. You remind me that though not whole, I’m not empty.” Wow. Powerful and beautiful. “There are things I lost in the fire of time…” Preach it.
“The Bad Days” has a great overall sound, echoing some of the best sounds of classic rock and country music. “You’re still my girl in the bad days…” the key lyric to the song, helps listeners connect with a deeper sense of Ramirez’s own heart about relationships. It’s a wonderful, relatable concept of trying to get through hard times. We’ve all been there.
In my mind, “The Forgiven” is not only the best song on this album; it’s one of the best songs of the year. It’s receiving steady play from me, for sure. It is, on the surface, about being a confessional Christian in the face of persecution. “You’re just a songwriter, you ain’t a preacher.” Ramirez accents the dichotomy that people expect him to sing about heartache and heartbreak, but not the faith that helps sustain him. His life (at least how it’s presented in press and music videos) is hard lived, but nevertheless full of hope. This apologetic for his songwriting seems, in one sense unnecessary, but in another sense an awesome blessing to hear his heart. Why, world, don’t we love to hear about the forgiven?
The fourth track “Don’t call me crying” is another heart-filled lament about enduring life and relationships. It has a certain epic sense to it that seems fitting a film or tv soundtrack. It has several glimpses of “real life” that makes it easy for regular people to connect with. While its fun to hear songs about life on the road or as a songwriter, this is nice to have a song with the types of emotions we all can and do have.
The last song on the album is “Glory,” sporting a more country-folk sound and less of the rock influence. It’s a definitively “southern” song. Deeply influenced by gospel and country, the track reeks of the malaise of the sultry southern summers. “You take me to glory.” Both a love song and a plodding, even lackluster dream, Ramirez finds a way of showing the fantastic in seemingly ordinary terms. From the simplicity of the song structure to the relatively plain lyrics, the song accomplishes an incredible feat of familiarity and comfort while being fresh.
Ramirez is one of this generation’s greatest songwriters for sure. His name comes up in conversations about songwriting, Austin, and independent music all the time. He’s a must-know name. His discography has some truly incredible music in it. I would say this album is a must-own for most steady readers of ETTG. If you trust my words about music at all, Ramirez is in the pantheon of artists that demand your time and attention.