’Wood burning

A lot rides on a debut album: It’s the first — and sometimes only — chance to tell the world what you’re all about.

Ramsay Midwood did just that with 2002’s spectacularly named Shoot Out at the OK Chinese Restaurant.

“There were a lot of gunfights in Chinese restaurants in California … too much MSG or something,” Midwood said. “There was a restaurant in L.A. called the OK Chinese Restaurant, which I thought was funny and certainly modest, and so it just came into my head one day to call the record that.”

Calling it exactly as he sees it, Midwood is a something of a throwback, the sort of mysterious drifter who seemingly tumbled away the minute a robust Internet presence became a prerequisite to a steady music career.

Still, there the wholly unique singer-songwriter stands, telling dizzying tales with his swampy voice over psychedelic, country-blues melodies.

It was a girl and being cast in a beer commercial that led Midwood from Chicago to Los Angeles, where he subsequently landed small parts in the TV series Matlock, Chicago Hope and Party of Five. But instead of being bitten by the acting bug, the music one took hold. He got his start in tiny coffeeshops, finding them more natural gigs.

A fan encouraged him to submit a demo to an indie German label, which released Shoot Out in Europe. Vanguard Records re-released it stateside, and Midwood since has released 2006’s Popular Delusions & the Madness of Cows and 2011’s Larry Buys a Lighter through his own Farmwire Records.

“I guess it was after I made a record and it started to get a lot of airplay and folks started coming to the shows that I realized I could do it professionally,” he said. “I had made up my mind that that was what I was going to do, to the exclusion of all else pretty early on, though.”

Inspired by the likes of Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and John Lee Hooker, Midwood expects committing a good chunk of 2013 to touring with recently solidified backing band. His hope is that the sights he sees and conversations he has will inspire his fourth album.

“We are getting into that rhythm,” Midwood said. “I seem to write more when I’m away from home, so after a few months of touring, I should have enough material to record again … and I am really looking forward to recording with this band.”

Joshua Boydston

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