Los FelizSideOneDummy Records
By Bobby Gorman
I’ve always enjoyed Hot Water Music, and the one time I saw them live back in grade nine they blew me away, but to say they had a major impact to my life like they had for so many others would be a lie. Nevertheless, I was still slightly saddened to see them melt away into the darkness of the night – but I guess all good things must come to an end sometime; luckily, the destruction of something beautiful sometimes makes way for the creation of yet more pieces of art, because not only did we get a new act in The Draft but we still get to hear Chuck Ragan‘s passionate voice in what I’m sure will be a successful solo career. And what better way to kick off his career than with a live record?
Opening up with a warm greeting to and from the crowd, Ragan quickly launches into one of the highlight of the album – Open Up And Wail; a song which instantly sets the tone for the remainder of the record. Strong guitar work, cheers from the crowd and passionate worn out vocals from Ragan lead the song forward and the entire album reads that way as well as you can hear the energy put into the songs and the power and meaning behind it. WIth heartfelt lyrics and blue-collar subject matter, Ragan wears his heart on his sleeve and it comes through that way.
Getting help from friends and neighbors, songs like Valentine are pushed even further with a soothing fiddle playing in the background and the cover of Bukka White‘s Dream Of A Miner’s Child is made that much more realistic with a quick mandolin beat to go along with the bluegrass fiddle. Playing fan favorites like The Boat, Do You Pray (whose lyrics “I wanna dance like nobody’s watching, and sing like nobody cares. / Climb to the top of those mountains we see, to find peace, and die up there” sends shivers down my spine every time), Congratulations Joe and a reworked rendition of Hot Water Music‘s God Deciding, Ragan is continually greeted with cheers that are clearly audible and add an extra depth of intimacy on the album. He closes the set with California Burritos which not only has the crowd clapping along but singing the chorus back at him during the final take – and keep in mind, this is the first official release so all those fans had got the bootlegged live audio beforehand.
This is a blue-grass, blue collared, folk record from one of punk’s finest front men. It is honest and sincere, and somehow the fact that the first release from Chuck Ragan is a live album just seems fitting – after all, Hot Water Music were always known for their insanely intense live show and this just shows the other side of Ragan‘s live show persona. If you liked Tim Barry or Greg Graffin‘s solo output, then you’ll also enjoy Los Feliz and will soon be patiently waiting for his first proper release.