Tyler Ramsey joined Band of Horses in 2007, climbing aboard just before the band hit the road in support of Cease to Begin. He quickly became Ben Bridwell's right-hand man, initially serving as a stand-in for co-founder Mat Brooke (who'd left the lineup to form his own band, Grand Archives) before graduating to a bigger role on Infinite Arms, where he co-wrote four tracks and shared lead vocals on "Evening Kitchen." With The Valley Wind, he makes a temporary return to the solo career that sustained him before Band of Horses came calling. With its pastoral arrangements and acoustic fingerpicking, the album bears a strong resemblance to Neil Young. At the same time, it illuminates the degree of influence Ramsey wields over Band of Horses' sound, since these songs essentially sound like sparse, stripped-down versions of Infinite Arms' slower tracks. Both albums straddle the line between Americana and country-rock, and Valley Wind's vocal harmonies often sound as though they're being bubbled up from the depths of a mountain valley, thanks to the way producer Bill Reynolds (another Band of Horses heavyweight) shrouds songs like "1000 Black Birds" and "Angel Band" in heavy reverb. Those looking to be swept away by anthemic songwriting will walk away empty-handed, since The Valley Wind rarely rises above a casual breeze. Still, this is the best solo record by an indie rock guitarist since Carl Broemel's All Birds Say, proof that Ramsey's career has more than enough horsepower on its own. ~ Andrew Leahey
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