It isn't likely that anyone is going to accuse Ramsay Midwood of being glossy or ultraslick anytime soon. Earthy, gritty, rugged, and soulful, Midwood is an Austin, TX-based singer/songwriter whose folk-rock, Americana, and roots rock owe a major debt to the blues -- in fact, his songs are soaked in blues feeling. Midwood brings a variety of influences to the table. Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Levon Helm, and Ramblin' Jack Elliott have obviously had a major impact on his work; so have Bob Dylan and Tom Waits (especially Waits' early recordings). There are traces of Bruce Springsteen in some of Midwood's writing, and there are times when he brings to mind the darker, moodier side of bluesmen John Lee Hooker and Lightnin' Hopkins.
Midwood isn't from Austin originally; he was born and raised in Arlington, VA, a suburb of Washington, D.C. Both of his parents were interested in the arts. His father was a tuba player, and his mother (who volunteered at the Smithsonian Institute) did a lot to encourage his interest in roots music, especially folk, bluegrass, and the blues (both acoustic country blues and electric urban blues). After reaching adulthood, Midwood moved to Chicago and got into acting. In the Windy City, he hooked up with the famous Steppenwolf Theater Company and played two roles in a production of The Grapes of Wrath: Al Joad and Floyd Knowles. Financially, Chicago was a struggle for Midwood, and when he had a chance to make some money by appearing in a beer commercial (which was being filmed in Los Angeles), he decided to visit the West Coast. The fact that he was dating a woman who was planning to move to L.A. permanently also affected his decision, and after he got there, he realized that he liked the weather and ended up staying. In L.A., Midwood performed his songs in small coffeehouses, and one of the people who admired his singing and writing urged him to submit a demo to a small German indie label called Glitterhouse Records. Midwood ended up recording his debut album, Shoot Out at the OK Chinese Restaurant, for Glitterhouse, which released it in Germany in 2000. The album received its share of favorable reviews in various European countries and earned Midwood a small but enthusiastic following on that continent.
After a fire destroyed Midwood's L.A. apartment in February 2002, he decided to move to Austin, TX. In November 2002, Shoot Out at the OK Chinese Restaurant was released in the United States by Vanguard. ~ Alex Henderson