Has the posture of a protest album, but digs deeper.
We’re Not Going Anywhere has the posture of a protest album, but songwriter David Ramirez digs deeper into both his political and personal context to create something more nuanced. His blend of cultural and relational concerns builds a 10-song statement on community, whether constructed across a wide nation or disassembled in the haze of a romantic breakup. Taken together, the tracks form a complete vision responding to, but not limited to our specific moment.
The album’s first line, from “Twins,” blends that political and personal: “Where were you when/ We lost the twins?” The question sounds like a response to familial loss before revealing itself to be a post-9/11 reflection. That look at a pivotal moment in US history sets the scene for considerations throughout the album, as Ramirez looks at fragments of a broken society and finds a place to stand and people to stand with.
That standing isn’t easy, though. Interlocked with the cultural breaks are interpersonal let-downs. “Twins” finds its localized response in both “Watching from a Distance” and “People Call Who They Wanna Talk To.” On each track, Ramirez processes separation, first in the case of a split, and then in the slow acknowledgment that physical distance isn’t the problem. The narrator of “People Call” knows what’s happening as the relationship dissolves, but he’s still longing for that connection.
As Ramirez moves through these dissolutions, he expands his musical sound. The Americana core still holds (and gives the full country flavor on tracks like “Good Heart”), but he’s added more synthesized sounds. He’s noted the influence of such bands as the War on Drugs, and that sound comes across, as does a more ’80s pop influence, at least in terms of tone. His somber work doesn’t lend itself to big beats, but the synth textures add new flavors to his repertoire.
At its best, which is most of the time, music directly supports insightful lyrical work, whether building a necessary solemn atmosphere or more explicitly interacting with the lyrics. The steady plinking on “Time” counts down the minutes while Ramirez wastes his days stumbling out of hangovers and off-handedly admitting a void at the heart of things. His singer reaches out but finds nothing but a slow-moving clock. That personal isolation isn’t disconnected from societal issues. On “Stone Age,” one of the disc’s more political tracks, he sings, “Our fathers were drinkers ’cause we shipped them off to war/ And I’m drunk on a Tuesday,” connecting the violence and strife in his country with the problems in his life. Without too much didacticism, his character study illuminates the effects of contemporary America.
In the album’s closing number, “I’m Not Going Anywhere,” Ramirez gets to make his final statement. Singing, “You can bury me in the ground/ Or spread my ash/ I don’t care/ I’m not goin’ anywhere,” he makes a bold personal statement. He’s not carrying a sign or writing a letter, but he’s resisting, and resisting something more than policy. Ramirez’ claim to permanence resists all that he sees around him – the decline, the violence, the injustice. Even the loneliness. And that personal claim expands. One pronoun makes all the difference. Ramirez brings this song back to his album title, but changes the “I” to “We,” making this low-key yet intense resistance into a communal act. Ramirez’s vision, frequently drawn from a personal context, becomes a broader and effective stance.