REVIEW: India Ramey’s “Shallow Graves” is Fierce Determination and Southern Noir


Good vs. evil is perhaps the original theme of country music. After all, so much of the music (and the musicians) started off in America’s churches. Fewer artists, though, have actually lived that fight. India Ramey served as a district attorney who focused her work on domestic abuse cases before turning to music full-time. She brings her fierce determination and an unflinching sense of right and wrong to her second wide release, Shallow Graves, a guitar-soaked record driven by Ramey’s big voice.

The music on Shallow Graves packs a dark sense of Southern noir – Ramey calls the record her “post-apocalyptic western.” The title track takes on the type of person who carelessly lays waste to all around him – “Someday soon, those skeletons are gonna bury you.” “Debutante Ball” is a honky-tonk shredding of the upper-crust types who, when it comes down to it, really aren’t any better than the rest of us – “All those stuck-up snots turned sloppy/And their redneck started showin’.” Hypocrisy ain’t welcome here.

Ramey knows how to kick back, too. “Up To No Good” is a dancehall ode to behaving badly. After establishing her mindset – “Every time I read the news/It’s clear we’re all screwed” – she serves up her solution – “Take me to the door so I can get busy gettin’ sideways.” With its whiskey-soaked guitar solo, it’s the type of tune you’ve missed out on by not being in loud, sweaty clubs for the past six months.

The very next track on the record, “The Witch,” deals with a metaphorical demon – Ramey’s own anxiety. Set on a good, sludgy bass line, she evokes an everyday struggle familiar to so many – “She’ll make you feel like you’re dyin’ every day that you’re alive.” Another, more insular struggle comes up in “Keep Hope Alive” which features a mother trying to keep her recently released son out of prison, with questionable results – “She pretends not to notice he’s already high again.” Balanced against gorgeous strings, it’s here that Ramey’s voice stands out best.

Before a cover of Hank Williams’ “Angel of Death” wraps the album, Ramey sings her most direct attack on evil. “King of Ashes” returns to the dusty gothic feel found across the record as the singer sets up a showdown of sorts between the stupidly oppressive – “He’ll burn it down just to be king of the ashes” – and those unwilling to act – “Hate is gasoline, and silence is the matches.” Two months from Election Day, Ramey is determined to let neither evil nor inertia overshadow good.

Shallow Graves was produced, recorded and mixed by Mark Petaccia and mastered by Alex McCollough. All songs (other than “Angel of Death”) were written by India Ramey. Additional musicians on the album include Carson Medders (electric guitar), Will Medders (baritone and electric guitars, drums and percussion), Ethan Ballenger (baritone and electric guitars), Cheyenne Medders (acoustic guitar and bass), Mark Petaccia (acoustic guitar, drums and percussion), John Simpson (pedal steel), Brian Wright (lap steel), Noah Denney (bass, drums and percussion), Eleonore Denig (strings), and Sally Jaye, Anna Harris and Ashley Petaccia (background vocals).

Go here to order Shallow Graves:

Find details on Ramey’s September 4th live stream of her album release show here (it’s free, but tips are always nice…):

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