Bo Ramsey

Live

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Bo Ramsey is the kind of slippery, gutbucket guitar picker you either like a lot or don't -- there is no middle ground with him. The cat has been in the roots rock wars for most of his life, and has been writing songs that reflect the dreams, aspirations, mistakes, and heartaches of people who find themselves in his situation. In fact, Ramsey is rock & roll itself -- what you hear is what you get; who you see is what he is. Yes, that's a very good thing. Paying for the privilege of getting into one of Ramsey's shows could be considered preferable to getting a free front-row seat to one of Bruce Springsteen's. The reason is simple and it's conveyed very well on this live album: Ramsey doesn't have to try as hard to bring people into his world and he doesn't have to reach so far to get into theirs. This set, recorded in 1995 (one track in 1994) in a club in Iowa drips with the greasy heart of rock & roll's excessive spirit. Ramsey can play the damn guitar, no argument, and his band is tight as the fingers on a hand for his material. He puts out enough steamy, quaking heat to warm this audience of dozens. No, that's not a slight. Ramsey plays as if he were playing to 20,000 when he lets it rock on "Wounded Dog," "Long Long Time," and "I Don't Know." When he gets bluesy, as he does on "Jimmy Lee," he's as swampy and mucky and profound as Tony Joe White. And here's the rub: Ramsey himself could have written the soundtrack to Big Bad Love, or for that matter could have written the novel, because he lives it everyday. Sometimes living it doesn't necessarily make for great music, but in Ramsey's case it makes for the best rock & roll there is: real.

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