Featuring Willis Alan Ramsey
We reviewed two stunning gigs at Stonnington Jazz Fest: some new discoveries brought to light with established artists. Paul Williamson’s Hammond Combo featured a stellar line-up of guests to take us way into the stratosphere with his blues-soaked jazz, and we were halfway there with the opener, the unbelievably gifted young Sarah McKenzie Sextet. The luminous Kiwi songstress Tina Harrod opened for steel-guitar maestro Lucky Oceans guesting with Joe Chindamo’s Coen Brothers Project. From Harrod's latest CD we featured a cowrite with bassist-bandleader Jackie Orszaczky, to whose memory the album is dedicated. Exactly what a festival should do – bring us musos from all corners of this continent.
Our feature CD was the soundtrack of the 1970s for far too few people: Willis Alan Ramsey, the greatest unknown album ever. That’s no small claim. I can back it up with two things: one, rehearing a CD version after finding the least worn-out of my several LP copies. Roger Taylor used his new Akai turntable and presto! A CD to accompany any occasion plus tracks for my iTunes. The new technology enables my favourite LP snap, crackle and pops – a perfect blend of old and new tech. The album stood the test of time to the extent that it didn’t leave the car player once it was rediscovered. Two: the telephone didn’t stop ringing this morning with listeners wanting to know more. Good news is that WAR is reportedly working on a new album; bad news is that the CD version released a decade ago is now selling for U$110.
Checking a YouTube version of ‘Spider John’, recorded 3 May 2008 at Threadgills, Austin TX, I found a comment that ‘apparently [Willis] got asked a lot if he was going to make another album, and he was famous for answering “Why, is there something wrong with the first one?”.’
I’d have to agree that the year he spent recording resulted in a timeless product, one of my desert island discs. As with US writer Hal Johnson: see his review on Amazon (scroll right down). The connection forged by Ramsey with Leon Russell’s Shelter Recording Co resulted in the album being made there, Russell himself supplying piano on ‘Goodbye Old Missoula’.
We ended with a track off Leon Russell’s 1973 album under his Hank Wilson persona, the classic Hank Williams homage that came at the height of his rock’n’roll career, causing no small kerfuffle. Of course, Russell had been in cahoots with Willie Nelson for years, cohosting the first Fourth of July picnic and undertaking many projects with Nelson. A renaissance musician if ever there was one.
CDs ‘Move on’ (J Orszaczky & T Harrod), Tina Harrod, Temporary People (Vitamin)
‘The ballad of Spider John’, ‘Goodbye old Missoula’, ‘Angel Eyes’ (Ramsey), Willis Alan Ramsey, Willis Alan Ramsey, Shelter Recording Co
‘Goodnight Irene’ (Ledbetter/Lomax), Leon Russell, Hank Wilson’s back, Shelter Recording Co