Ben: One of the unexpected results of starting teatunes is that every now and then some plugger or promoter gets in touch with us wanting us to listen to one of their artists. Initially this was brilliant – we said yes to everything, took all we could and felt like gods – GODS – when our ill-gotten gains were delivered. As time wore on, we got less excited about these emails because, well, let’s say there’s a reason that these artists are struggling.
Then I had a message from Charles Ramsey, an American singer-songwriter who got in touch through a shared love of The Divine Comedy. I accepted a freebie copy of his second album Good Morning and Good Night and being the obliging shill that I am I gave it a listen during a quiet afternoon.
As I’m blogging about it and we haven’t discussed dross artists before, you’ve probably already sussed that I’m of the opinion that this might be a bit good. He’s also a difficult artist to describe without comparison to other artists – a practice that I think is criminally unfair but which Charles has said he doesn’t mind me doing.
Let’s start with the inevitable – Charles is a singer-songwriter who primarily uses and composes on piano. At times when listening to Good Morning and Good Night you will, inevitably, be reminded variously of Ben Folds, Billy Joel, Elton John and Rufus Wainwright. Crucially, at no point do you feel that he’s ripping off any particular artist – Charles feels very much his own performer with his own style.
And what a style it is! I purchase dozens of albums every year and find only a scant few songs create a persistence of memory, an impression on your mind that not only makes you whistle it without realising but makes you want to get back to the stereo immediately to listen to that track one more time. Good Morning and Good Night, surprisingly, has more than one of these tracks. The title track is the main culprit – a rousing, bouncy old-fashioned pop song about someone who can’t wait until they’re living with their partner. It’s early Beach Boys material, sure, but when that chorus kicks in for the second time and the production builds with the rhythm, you cannot helped but be utterly bowled over. That little ‘Dontcha know that everything is going to be so lovely / when the sun is shining bright? / And every day we’ll say / Good morning and good night to one another’ refrain will stay in your head for days. Days and days.
Charles doesn’t just stick to typical pop song faire, though. Firmly placing himself in the same vaguely-intelligentish solo singer/songwriter camp as Neil Hannon, Duncan Sheik and Ben Folds, tracks vary from the travelling ballad Still Waiting (currently available on his MySpace page) to the nostalgic My Lost Days. It’s at his most unorthodox that Charles is especially reminiscent of Ben Folds – She Changes You treads much the same territory as Folds’ Landed (people drastically changing when they’re with a new parter) and My Lost Days cribs Folds’ trademark handclaps and horn solo.
It’s a bit tedious that I keep saying Charles is like such-and-such an artist but, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a reflection of how great I consider this album to be that I’m comparing him to these great artists. I have nothing but utter admiration for Ben Folds (well, when he’s not creating rubbish like Rent-a-Cop) and, similarly, I have nothing but utter admiration for Charles. After a month of pretty solid listening, the best I can say is this: take Rufus Wainwright, strip away his ridiculous pomp and chintz, replace it with a grounded, middle-American bonhomie and you have Good Morning and Good Night.
If you like music that beguiles you, that grabs your attention and renders you unable to do anything other than listen then I cannot recommend this album enough. Ok, the production does have a tendency to make some of the songs sound a little similar and he’s someone that could really benefit from an authoritative producer but such is the nature of low-budget albums. Look past that and you’ll find music that shines like little else rarely does these days. It feels like Charles is on the cusp of being discovered – or at least I certainly hope so – and I’m glad I’m here a the beginning. Shouldn’t you be, too?
Charles offers copies of the album for sale directly through his website and through CDBaby or, if you’re that way inclined, it can be purchased through iTunes. There’s a couple of tracks up on his MySpace page, too.
Our friend Gaz over on JustPlayed gave a big ole recommendation to Charles last week and included a free mp3 download of She Changes You. As if you need further convincing!