Striding onto the stage wearing a Nudie-style sequined coat and big black Stetson, Mason Ramsey had the sold-out Saturday night crowd at the Bourbon Theatre screaming before he sang or played a note.
Forty-five minutes later, they were screaming even louder as the 12-year-old country sensation ended his fast-paced, impressive show with his first hit “Famous,” delivering it with the stage presence and confidence of performers two or three times his age.
That song, co-written by one of the Florida Georgia Line guys, is contemporary country. But Ramsey rose to fame via the old school -- a viral video of him doing Hank Williams’ “Lovesick Blues,” complete with yodel that was shot in an Illinois Walmart.
Even at 12, Ramsey’s got some traditional country in him, singing with a cry in his voice and covering not just ol’ Hank but Johnny Cash -- actually June Carter and Merle Kilgore -- with the classic “Ring of Fire.”
And as 85,000 learned at Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon when Ramsey did the National Anthem, the boy can really sing.
He’s also a solid guitarist -- he played acoustic on about two-thirds of the 14 songs, backed by a drummer and electric guitarist -- plus he’s developed some serious older-than-his-years stage moves including a guitar-shifting hip-twister that would make Dwight Yoakam proud..
He’s even a decent songwriter.
“I think altogether I’ve written 11 songs,” Ramsey said. “The other song (“Puddle of Love)” was the first song I wrote. I’m going to sing you this one. It’s the last song I wrote. It’s called ‘Gone.’”
“Gone” appropriately enough has this line -- “you know I love Hank Williams singing ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart.’”
The crowd loved Ramsey singing Williams’ songs -- singing along with “I Saw The Light” and “Hey Good Lookin.” They didn’t know the words to “Jambalaya (On The Bayou)” but Ramsey sure did and he delivered it with zest.
Ramsey saved the yodeling for the end of the show, first throwing some undulations into “Twang” and then, on stage by himself with his guitar, nailing “Lovesick Blues.”
Ramsey’s got a high boy’s voice -- I’m guessing he’d be an alto in a choir. So it’s going to be interesting to hear what happens when puberty pays a visit. If that change doesn’t wreck his voice, he very well could have a long career -- he’s got the talent and the charisma.