Omni Artists Productions
OACD 30102

You put in your time in the shed, you get some recognition, and soon find yourself with Mountain Heart playing mandolin and resonator guitar. For Aaron Ramsey, who followed that path, the logical next step was a recording of his own. Joining him for that debut are a cast too large to name, but know there are some eminent players here: Tony Rice, Ron Block, Dennis Crouch, Stuart Duncan, the current members of Mountain Heart. That sort of crowd. Eighteen in all.

Twelve songs are included, and a heavy mood characterizes the first three. “Streets Of Abilene” pops along at mid-tempo, telling of a lawman brought West to end the town’s violence. “No One’s Found Her Yet,” a notch slower and more ominous, follows the trail of a missing woman. Both are cast in the contemporary ballad style with melodies designed to sound minor key and old, yet recognizably modern. “Streets Of Abilene” comes off best. The third track, “The Healer,” is a gospel number written by Ramsey’s father, Mike. And, though it’s slow and solemn, it offers a positive message.

That positive theme signals a change. From that point on, the rest of the recording predominantly turns lighter, musically, even when the story is sorrowful, as on “Dark Days And Desperation.” Beginning at track four—a fine rendition of the classic “One Tear,” with Abernathy on lead vocal and Rice adding a melodic solo—the tempos also become more buoyant. It is among them that the highlight tracks can be found, including “The Souls Of The Pioneers” on which Aaron plays all instruments, “He Is Here,” and a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Fare Thee Well (Farewell).” The downside is that the producers seem to have forgotten the need for further contrast; tracks four through nine are all of about the 120 bpm range. That is, however, a small fault. Good writing, strong support, and Aaron’s voice (baritone in range and wonderfully resonant) make this a solid debut. (Aaron Ramsey, 158 Leah Ln., Vilas NC 28692, www.aaronramseyonline.com.)BW

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