Ramsay Midwood Plays Hill Country, DC

Last Tuesday Arlington-raised-turned-Texas-based musician Ramsay Midwood played a rousing evening of good ol’ garage-style country-rock in the basement at Hill Country. I got the tip from my good pal Bryan Mammel of Sons of Fathers fame who currently plays with Midwood and his band.

It was my first time ever hearing of Midwood. I’d describe their sound as good time, wholesome rockabilly-country that you can easily dance your cares away to. The show really felt like I had stumbled upon some garage band just goofing around playing some quality jams. The band may not have a “young, new, innovative sound,” but that’s not what they’re aiming for. They work at the tried and true oldies sound. A more classic, tried and true route. The band thankfully doesn’t take themselves too seriously. The Ramsay Midwood sound was a combination of the easy folksy rhythms of Spirit Family Reunion and the country-rockin’ Leon Russel. Midwood also relied on a popular traditional anti-war, Christian gospel underlying song structure.

The band breaks down to:

Ramsay Midwood: He had an almost Jimmy Buffet-like relaxed voice and demeanor for being the lead guitarist/vocalist. At other times he had a catchy, monotonous sound much like Jim Morrison.

Bryan Mammel: Bright key playing adds to an otherwise traditional “generic 4-piece band sound.” Bryan truly tickles the ivories on the tune, “When God Dips His Love In My Heart” and at other times, he plays like Jerry Lee Lewis with lovely repetitive chords.

Don Heffington: a drummer (who slightly resembles Harold Ramis) who word on the street, has played with Bob Dylan, Neil Young. He carried the band in a professional manner; hanging in the back but with a reliable beat to keep the music going.

Tuesday was guitarist Bill’s birthday. Was quoted as saying he got “52 slices of bacon at Metro Diner” for his birthday. I’m hoping that diner was Metro 29 Diner because I can tell you from first-hand experience that their French Toast is pretty darn amazing. (Diners, Drive-in’s, and Dives claims so too.)

Jeff Johnston: (I have in my notes that he looked like a slightly less bearded Jerry Garcia.) On one song he spoke into a phone receiver in one song to distort his voice to sound kind of harmonica/buzzing. What an interesting and creative idea!

A definite highlight of the night was the all-too brief introduction of the singing saw. I was pretty disappointed it only made a limited appearance for just one song. I loved when the lights went out onstage for it. That added to the pure mysterious sound of the saw, though it seemed like player, Jeff Johnston was embarrassed/shy about this talent, as he was shying away from it in the entire first half. I don’t see why. It was so howly and eerie and beautiful all at once. It would be fantastic if the band could incorporate more of this unusual instrument into their music.

And the Best Lyric of the Night award goes to the line from the song, “Monster Truck”that goes: “If you don’t like it you can kiss my a**, because I drive a monster truck.”


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