Driven by a restless traveling soul with conflicting feelings of both wanting to experience distant shores and keep near to his family in rural Pennsylvania, the artist known as The Ram has put these feelings and more into his new album, Songs of Wanderlust.
Greeting the world on October 20th, the album was born as a culmination of the Carlsbad, California, artist’s unique stories along his journey, depicting tales of love and exploration over the past two decades. According to “Rammer” himself aka Mark ODonnell, this jazzy rock n’ soul record did not happen overnight; “I’ve been recording for 20 years, but never pushed through the release doorway until recently. The confidence to do so came from work, discipline, and good people.”
Clocking in at 50+ minutes and ten songs — the final three of which are alternate or extended cuts of earlier songs — Songs of Wanderlust is a 70s-era blues and classic rock n’ soul tour de force. Each track is full of vitality and packed with catchy lyricism and resonating instrumentation, showcasing The Ram’s seasoned musical prowess, rendering this album one for an array of listeners.
The record opens with “Motor Kine,” offering a revved-up slide guitar and percussion introduction that cruises with a ZZ Top or Allman Brothers-ish vibe (minus their respective geography), blending rockin’ blues with The Ram’s own unique brand of California rock. “Imagine a Jeep Cherokee packed with close friends and surfboards deep in Baja, two hours south of Ensenada, Mexico,” he says, setting the scene for the song.
As he sings lines like “Your desert is of the rarest beauty / I’ve never seen the like / Your sands they give me my water / Your sun keeps me alive,” the electric guitar and bass rhythms drive the track forward, sparking a palpable excitement for the rest of the record.
The album’s third track, “It’s A Saturday Night,” continues the theme of gritty vocals, and a particular energy offering kicked back instrumentals and a sticky chorus. The song urges the audience to focus on the fun in life and live every day like it’s a Saturday night, clinging to the things that bring us joy and make us feel alive.
Lines like “What’s your pleasure / On this finest evening / Tell me your dreams, we can bring them to life,” roll this idea home, making the song both a fun listen and a timeless piece of hopeful advice.
Another standout track, “Cut Loose,” offers a groovy, low-key energy that serves as a heartfelt prayer to The Ram’s beloved Aunt Sally and to his family as a whole.
Despite his longing to travel and explore the wonders of the world, the artist has always felt a strong connection to his family, and this song exemplifies this. The lyrics are especially moving with lines like, “Her love built an institution / Her touch was just a healing hand of grace / When he was looking for just a little inspiration / All he had to do is say her name.”
The seventh and final song before the alternative/extended closing tracks, “Outside The City,” opens with illuminating guitar rhythms that carry the song through its duration, packing into each line a sense of sincerity and meaning. Another familial tribute, this song details The Ram’s relationship with his grandmother, and the unique bond they shared.
The final line, “Your heart tells you / The wind speaks the gospel truth,” is simple yet beautiful, and it serves as a satisfying conclusion to a lyrically resonating and instrumentally bold and soulful album.
Note* Paul Howard contributed to this article