Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Gary Stewart / John Wesley Coleman III split on Sophomore Lounge Records

Ryan at Sophomore Lounge sent in this great split the other day, and it's one of those singles that has such an insane story behind it which lead to the kind of a single that is perfect for this medium, something that has to exist as a 45. Gary Stewart from Kentucky, had a 30 year career in country music and was one of those unappreciated songwriters like Townes Van Zandt, a musicians musician. There's even a story of how Bob Dylan personally drove to a show just to tell him how much he liked his Your Place or Mine record.
Ryan met John in Texas through a mutual friend and they ended up bonding over Gary's work and months later John mentioned he had just recorded a cover of Gary's "Ramona" with Vinnie from JAILL and this single was born.

Before I even knew any of this background story the simple pencil drawings from Mike Poland of both of these guys had me interested, then to find out just a little more about Gary's life and I couldn't wait to put this on and hear the original and cover version from John and Vinnie.

"Ramona", has all the big produced '70s sound in this rock country style, a slow calculated electric strum, heavily gated punchy drums, but the draw to any of his tracks has to be his vocal style which is loud and heavy with just a little room reverb. A slight Roy Orbison waver in that higher register, that seems to verge on that country near crack at times, and it's a sad song of regret you hear when he gets to belting, "Ooohhhhh, Ramona".
Track in a slick slide solo after the last verse over a chorus of sharp organ, their almost echo-ing each others pitch and you'd have a little piece of genius, hidden under the packaging, someone who was able to slip past the usual makings of artists and work damn hard at his craft until the day he shot himself with a shotgun. The recording on this side is crystal clear and it wasn't easy tracking down that licensing and masters to get this actually pressed, but clearly it was worth it. like all great songs we read so much into, Gary called his guitar Ramona, or at least that's what he'd like us to believe. It's just another girl's name.

John Wesley Coleman III has gotten great reviews already from his self released Steal my Mind and has a bunch more on it's way from Daggerman and Goner. Here, he's titled this one "Oh Woman" because he's talking about maybe more than just one named woman out there in his life...or I could see recording a song like this, it might be a little weird taking such a personal lyric over, probably just made sense this way.
John keeps that distinctive guitar and bassline from the original piece, and updates the sound with a huge delayed reverb that comes feedbacking in. John has a similar tortured howl when it comes to the chorus, and throughout he's got that same laid back vibe. It's an homage to Gary's style and coming from someone who obviously appreciates his legacy. There's a drum machine cowbell and a handclap and a backup oooo vocal tastefully bringing this to 2011. It's a great single that can introduce you to a new artist and revealing a underrated classic at the same time.

Get this one from Sophomore Lounge Records.

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