Old Ramon, Red House Painters Sub Pop

Paul Wong
Benjamin Bagby and Ping Chong are definitely on another level.<br><br>Courtesy of UMS

Country twanging slide guitars blend with background vocals while Mark Kozelek croons a very believable “You are my everything,” during “Michigan.” The song progresses so much from the first minute to the third minute that it is little more than a shadow of its opening.

Unlike “Michigan,” the Red House Painters have stayed quietly in commercial obscurity a lost feeling that has been compounded by a record label merge pushing a three-year pause on Old Ramon”s release.

Commercial insignificance follows Kozelek throughout pop culture. Virtually anonymous playing Stillwater”s bassist in Cameron Crowe”s “Almost Famous,” and more unknown in music circles, Kozelek”s indelible ability to force listeners into his dark cathartic corner and simultaneously pen tunes that glisten with accessibility is what has furnished his reputation as one of music”s most underrated songwriters.

Kozelek”s conversational lyrics coupled with his effortless singing make songs like “Wop-a-Din-Din” about the lost love of adolescence, when in fact he”s tuning about his cat. His honesty is heightened by his ability to make his songs completely personal to you, me and him.

This is nothing new for the Red House Painters. It”s their sixth album, and the song is still the same. They”ve been quietly putting out some of the strongest records since their self titled 1992 debut. RHP isn”t a band reinventing the wheel the melody on “Byrd Joel” is slightly borrowed from “Three Marlenas” it”s far more convincing when Mark sings than Jakob Dylan.

“Sister woke me up as he fell out of the sky,” begins “Golden,” an homage to Kozelek”s idol John Denver. The song lays Kozelek”s soul on the line, and his adoration for Denver is more than apparent.

How the Red House Painters have remained commercially silent is beyond me. Their songs aren”t quirky and pop smart instead they are sincere. Old Ramon is Kozelek”s reputation as a mopey folkster should be replaced with underrated candid songsmith. It”s a wonder that people bubble about other three letter acronym”d folk bands when it should be RHP.

Grade: A

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