Old Ramon

The long-awaited sixth album from frontman Mark Kozelek and the Red House Painters was originally recorded in ‘97 but languished in production the last three years thanks to a label merger that left the Painters without a home. The 34-year old Kozelek is known as a talented neo-folk songwriter, and the 10 songs here are melodic and well written, ranging from warm, lush numbers to stripped down, mournful acoustic ballads like the opener about his cat, “Wop a Din Din.” There are also some subtle rockers in the mix, like “Cruiser,” a nine-minute number that tells a story about leaving a lover while painting a vivid farewell to Los Angeles. Actually, all of these mid-tempo epics are worthwhile in their own right, and the 70-minute album succeeds at never really tiring, even though many of the songs are similar, emotional fare. The playing by the band, including guitarist Phil Carney, bassist Jerry Vessel and drummer Anthony Koutsos, provides a sweet, echoing backup to the deep musings of Kozelek (who played a role in Cameron Crowe’s film Almost Famous and also recently recorded an album of early AC/DC songs played as slow ballads). Fans of Mark Eitzel or Tim Buckley would love this stuff, as would anybody looking for honest lyrics, temperate guitar work, or an indie rocker not afraid to sing an ode to John Denver.