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Singer/songwriter Willis Alan Ramsey is a cult legend among fans of Americana and progressive Texas country. Blending folk, country, and pop with witty, introspective lyrics, Ramsey recorded a critically acclaimed debut album for Leon Russell's Shelter label in 1972. It was one of the first albums by the new school of Austin singer/songwriters that would come to be tagged "progressive country" (Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt among them).
However, Ramsey subsequently disappeared from music, owing to conflicts with his label and a general distaste for the business. Countless artists covered material from Willis Alan Ramsey, most notoriously the Captain & Tennille, who took "Muskrat Candlelight" into the pop Top Five under the new title "Muskrat Love." That's no indicator of the respect Ramsey commanded in the country world, with artists like Jerry Jeff Walker ("Northeast Texas Women"), Waylon Jennings ("Satin Sheets"), Jimmy Buffett ("The Ballad of Spider John"), and Jimmie Dale Gilmore ("Goodbye to Old Missoula") all cutting versions of Ramsey's songs. Ramsey spent most of the '80s living in the U.K. and studying Celtic music but enjoyed something of a rediscovery thanks to Lyle Lovett, who praised the songwriter to the skies. He and Ramsey co-wrote "North Dakota" for Lovett's 1992 album Joshua Judges Ruth and teamed up again for "That's Right (You're Not From Texas)" on 1996's The Road to Ensenada. Meanwhile, Shawn Colvin re-recorded "Satin Sheets" for her Cover Girl album, and Lovett later tapped the new song "Sleepwalking" for his own covers album, Step Inside This House. In 2001, Ramsey appeared on Austin City Limits, performing nine new songs as well as some older material; he also mounted a tour and reportedly worked on a new record.