Lydia Ramsey makes great music, again.
On her third album Seattle’s Lydia Ramsey shows her mastery of the upbeat Americana song – with songs that are so catchy that one may at first not pick up on the ambiguity in the lyrics. Some of these songs are not as cheerful as they may at first appear, some of these love songs are not really love songs – or at least not wholly love songs. When that pleasing ambiguity is married to Lydia Ramsey’s just plain beautiful vocals that trip along as sweetly as the pedal steel that sprinkles a burst of sunshine over several songs then there’s no denying that ‘Like A Dream’ is an album that will insist on repeat plays – insist gently, perhaps, but in such a winning way that you’ll be glad to give in. That is if you ever manage to get past the second song ‘Come Home With Me‘ which starts as a guitar and vocal evocation of the pandemic “I’m holed up in a city I don’t even know / and I miss the touch of your hand reminding me I’m not alone” before exploding into a prismatic spray of colour and multi-layered instrumentation.
It’s not all flash of instrumentation and winning vocals – Lydia Ramsey is also totally at home with the epic ballad, such as the slow and wonderfully moving ‘Long Dark Winter‘ where just a strummed guitar and a gentle piano line accompany a light and yet heartbroken vocal until the percussion digs in as Ramsey looks for redemption from a state of mind which sees her alienated from her past life “only coming back to find broken doors and windows closed” and “making up for lost time” before making a plea that “if I came closer would you hold my head in your lap and stay until we can leave this all in the past.” With a palpable sense of loss running through it ‘Long Dark Winter‘ is more than just another song of love falling apart.
‘Peace Will Come Back‘ opens like an Appalachian gospel as Ramsey makes a pledge that “peace will come back to me some day” as she lists a set of faults that could be personal, but also speak to the heart of a fractured nation that is not yet tired “of hating on you and everybody else” or “of living this life only for myself.” There’s a similar sense of self-judgment and societal comment on ‘Hurricane‘ which opens with a guitar and a slightly psychedelic pedal steel taking its own path through the song. When the rest of the band comes in there’s a glam-stomp feel, but with that pedal steel still weaving its own route – somewhat reminiscent of a Mike Nesmith-like tune, which is a good thing in case it has to be said.
On ‘Like A Dream‘ Lydia Ramsey has cemented her place as a noteworthy singer-songwriter with her own voice and a really rock-solid body of work across her three albums so far. The added hints of double-meanings and subtexts just add to the strength of the music on display on ‘Like A Dream.’ If you don’t know Lydia Ramsey yet then now is a great time to catch up.
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Sure, I could climb high in a tree, or go to Skye on my holiday. I could be happy. All I really want is the excitement of first hearing The Byrds, the amazement of decades of Dylan’s music, or the thrill of seeing a band like The Long Ryders live. That’s not much to ask, is it?