The final Red House Painters album was recorded during 1997 and 1998, but wasn’t released until 2001, due to complications arising from label mergers. Old Ramon is closest in tone to the more mature and relaxed Songs For A Blue Guitar, but it has an overarching air of resignation. Spread over ten songs and seventy minutes, it’s too diffuse to be effective as a holistic work, even if it has moments of creativity and beauty.
The strongest songs are the more aggressive tracks, the textural guitar assault of ‘Byrd Joel’ and the dissonant riff of ‘Between Days’. Between those two songs, the excellent epic ‘River’, one of Kozelek’s best ten minute plus efforts, and the beautiful ‘Smokey’, at least half of Old Ramon is A-grade material, so it’s difficult to make too many complaints. But at an average track length of seven minutes, songs like ‘Void’ and ‘Cruiser’ overstay their welcome, and it’s a difficult album to sit all the way through.
Old Ramon does point the way forward to Kozelek’s material with Sun Kil Moon, but it’s more uneven than his best Sun Kil Moon efforts.