James Ramsden's years in Texas built a passion for the singer-songwriters he heard in the region. In 2014, Ramsden along with partner Chris Spindler, began Roots Along The River, a music series on Long Island that brings the singer-songwriters of the Hill Country to New York, performing in a truly unique setting. Ramsden took the time to speak about his love of music, the series, its challenges and rewards and more.
What inspired you want to begin a music series on Long Island?
I grew up on Long Island in a family that was very much into music. My parents liked the old country music - Patsy Cline, Tex Ritter, and Hank Williams; Willie Nelson was about as young as it got in our house (laughing). Later, I moved to Texas and met my wife and began listening to Nanci Griffith, Robert Earl Keen, and Townes Van Zandt. It was eye opening stuff because music, and how they promote it in Texas, is just a different world. There was a station, 98.7, that played basically Texas artists, mixing the young guys next to the old - there’d be Jack Ingram and Pat Green alongside Rusty Weir, Tommy Alverson, and Larry Joe Taylor. Plus, we lived outside Austin in the heart of the Hill Country where music is everywhere. We got to experience so many live shows of bands playing original music, like Stoney LaRue and CCR and Reckless Kelly. Years later, we moved back to New York to take care of my father and we realized we really missed the music, which is a lifestyle down there, as well as the interactions with the artists.
And so a few years ago you started a series, Roots Along the River, at Peconic River Herb Farm.
Peconic River Herb Farm was a place my parents took me to when I was younger. It is a beautiful fourteen-acre paradise with a log cabin, barns, and greenhouses. It’s run by a woman, Chris Spindler, who would visit Texas and bring back things to sell, like boots, clothes and repurposed yard stuff. She also liked the music down there and we started talking. I felt that her place really called for music. She was interested and so we started planning. I didn’t know if we could do it, but I stumbled into a situation and reached out to Adam Carroll, who I spent years in Texas trying to see, and surprisingly, he called me back. It started from that one show two years ago and today we are in our third year with four shows planned beginning in August.
Alabama native Shane Owens has experienced career setbacks that would make most abandon their dreams. In 2005, he released a full album, Let's Get On It, whose single "Bottom of the Fifth," was a hit in Texas. However, the label Owens was on folded, and along with it the record, which was on the market for less than 100 days. Then, producer James Stroud (Chris Young, Clint Black, etc.) took him under his wing. Another album was recorded and ready for release in 2009 when its record company also went under. But Owens never gave up and later this year, the warm voiced baritone will release a new cd on Amerimonte Records. The singer-songwriter kindly took the time to talk about persevering, the new record and his excitement for the future.
Music is something you have been pursuing for well over a decade. Was it something that you always wanted to do?
I grew up in a small town in Alabama where my grandmother, parents and I all sang in the choir at church. I always loved country music and started playing guitar and writing during high school where I played football, which was my first love. When I graduated, I knew that my football career was over, so I started getting more into music. God has blessed me with a talent and allowed me to pursue country music to get me where I am today and I’m so excited to be on Ameritone and release this single and new album.
You have said that you "think of yourself as a crusader for traditional country music." Is there anyone in particular that you cite as an influence either on your writing, performing or singing?
I have quite a few including George Jones, Merle Haggard, and Vern Goslin. And of course, Keith Whitely and Randy Travis, who executive produced the record and has become a good friend.