A weird commercial curse always haunts records that were shelved for a long time after completion. Let's hope Mark Kozelek's astonishingly pretty and -- shocker of shockers -- palpably optimistic Old Ramon wiggles into the spotlight unscathed. Finished in 97, the Red House Painters' sixth disc languished in label-merger purgatory while Kozelek kept busy acting (he's Stillwater's bassist in Almost Famous) and creating masterful tributes to John Denver and AC/DC. While the mostly acoustic Old Ramon places the primary emphasis on Kozelek's sunny melodies and starkly conversational lyrics, there are unexpected moments when the band set the overriding folk/pop vibe ablaze with snappy guitar freak-outs before smartly returning to form. Add a love song and a tender ode to Kozelek's cat -- who could ask for anything more?