A crusading attorney by day and an aspiring country chanteuse by night, India Ramey found her self at a crossroads in 2009 when funding for her deputy D.A.’s position in Montgomery, Ala. abruptly went away.
“I got laid off right around the time I had started work on my first album,” Ramey remembers. “So my producer calls me up right after it happens and says, ‘Hey kiddo, are you looking for another attorney job? Maybe don’t do that so quick. You’ve got a good thing going on with your music. You can be a lawyer any time you want.’
“I took his advice and went with music full-time. It was the best decision I ever made.”
Though it seems strange on first blush, Ramey’s erstwhile dual career makes sense in light of her painful personal history. She grew up in backwater Georgia in a sorely dysfunctional family home, her father a chronic alcoholic-addict, prone to eruptive, violent episodes fueled by booze and rage.
Both music and law would eventually prove to be part of her coping mechanism; as a legal professional, she worked with battered women, with victims of violent homes much like her own. As a musician, she exorcised her demons through the medium of songwriting, through deeply personal numbers like “The Baby,” recalling her fraught childhood, and “Devil’s Blood,” a cathartic musical tirade about her father and his abusive ways.
“Music has been very therapeutic,” she says. “And there’s something about country music in particular. There’s an old saying that country music is ‘Three chords and the Truth.’ So when I started writing, I thought about what it is I wanted to say. Well, all my favorite country artists have good stories to tell.
“I felt like my life and the things I’ve seen have been pretty interesting, to say the least. So I wanted to tell stories about that life. Because the world is not always a happy place. A lot of times, it’s messy and dark.”
That dark worldview invested in Ramey’s lyrical themes inheres in her vocal expression as well. Her singing voice is high and lovely, capable of convincingly pulling off lilting ballads or even laying on little a love-song sap, though she’s rarely wont to do so. But the sweetness is balanced by a bitter edge, an aural hint of repressed anger and desolation birthed somewhere in the brutal recesses of Ramey’s past.
Earlier in 2017, Ramey released “Snake Handler,” her third and best-realized album to date. Like her previous records — 2010’s “Junkyard Angel” and 2013’s “Blood Crescent Moon” — it’s full of the powerful, confessional sketches that have become her songwriting trademark, including a lush and uncannily moving number called “Saying Goodbye,” about visiting her father on his deathbed.
“My marching orders now are to tour like crazy, get out and meet the people who are buying the music and share the stories with as many people as I possibly can,” she says. “In the end, it’s about getting the songs out there and heard by other people. That’s the most important thing to me.”
India Ramey will play Preservation Pub Tuesday, Nov. 28 at 10 p.m.