‘Old Ramon’ - the sixth Red House Painters album, recorded in autumn 1997 through to spring of 1998 - was intended for release that summer. However, the mega-major label merger catastrophe that left hundreds of bands homeless spared few. Red House Painters looked for a brief moment like survivors, but subsequent delays eventually turned into permanent layoff. ‘Old Ramon’ sat in limbo and grew into legend as another great lost album only the privileged few would ever properly hear.
With ‘Old Ramon’ sitting on the shelf, it was like reading a book with a chapter missing. Singer Mark Kozelek had written most of the album throughout 1996 and 1997. There were ‘Between Days’ and ‘Wop-a-din-din’, written during the months he stayed in Oaxaca, Mexico about his time there and his cat waiting at home in San Francisco; ‘Cruiser’ written on an airplane ride from Los Angeles to San Francisco about a friend he’d met during the John Cale tour and; ‘Golden’, a song in tribute to John Denver, written and recorded in a single day during December of 1997, just a few months after Denver’s tragic death. ‘Michigan’ and ‘River’ had been road-tested on the band’s previous tour.
The album had come together with a good feeling, reuniting the band with their old friend and engineer Billy Anderson, who’d worked on their earlier records ‘Down Colorful Hill’ and the two self-titled releases (‘Rollercoaster’ and ‘Bridge’ by their covers). Sessions in San Francisco, Mendocino, California and Austin, Texas resulted in several hours’ worth of music being recorded. The band had spread out and worked up various arrangements for a majority of the tunes. Sadly, a twentyminute version of ‘Michigan’ fell to the cutting room floor.
Once freed from their major label commitments, reputable independent labels bid for the band’s services. This, however, is the album exactly as it was intended.
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