I watched David Ramirez in the movie Between Notes, listened to American Soil (2009) and Apologies (2012) and wasn’t surprised to see him touring with talented storytellers like Gregory Alan Isakov and Joe Pug, but when I listened to this year’s Fables I felt like I was hearing this voice for the first time. Rebellious, reflective and wounded; it feels like a story that has no intention other that being truly told. Without asking for answers, it tries to reconcile with what it means to make music for a living. It seeks to find the place where fiction begins and truth wounds, and wonders what happens if no one is listening at all.
There’s been little living inside my speakers for the past few weeks other than Fables and Noah Gundersen’s Carry the Ghost, so it didn’t come as a surprise to learn that Gundersen helped Ramirez produce this album. Though certainly unique artists with different stories to tell, there is a riotous spirit and rawness to these albums that ties them together. It’s an art for art’s sake sensibility, unaccustomed to music made to rest easy on ears and top charts for acolytes.
The album begins with Communion, signaling a sharing of something much more intimate than what we partook of in those grape-hued cups. New Way of Living demonstrates how quickly belief can dissipate when words don’t come readily, and battles that age-old conflict between art of sincerity and commerce. Moving further into a vulnerable place, Harder to Lie explores what it means to love without invention: “When it comes to loving me you best be ready 'cause this will get heavy when you learn just what I am. I fed you fables with words from my tongue trying to make you think that I was a better man than I was.” Lovers are often liars and it’s not something that we often talk about; how meek are the vulnerable to uncloak our tongues from the stories we’ve built around ourselves?
The album slowly works up to what feels like the great finale of Ball and Chain—a ballad to the man behind the microphone. With an ending like this I’m left wondering about the burden of the artist and the desire to continue to tell stories no matter what the cost. I can’t imagine people won’t listen to this album, but even if not one person did, it would still be worth it.
You can purchase Fables here. In the spirit of both Fables and Carry the Ghost, I found a wonderful cover of the classic Girl from the North Country by Dylan and Cash. While you’re at it, you should check out more from SerialBoxTV.