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Contest: Win Tickets to See Chuck Ragan in Vancouver

Chuck RaganChuck Ragan is no stranger to the road. Having toured for years with Florida’s influential Hot Water Music, ten years ago he stripped it down and took his raspy voice on the solo route. He helped organize and headline the annual Revival Tour and has since expanded to have a full backing band supporting him.

As you’d come to expect from the touring troubadour, he’s back on the road in support of 2014’s Til Midnight

Friday night (June 10th) will see Chuck Ragan pass through Vancouver with Kris Orlowski and Ben Rogers at The Venue and the fine folks at Blueprint Live have given us a pair of tickets to give away to a lucky winner.

Enter to win below!

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Chuck Ragan

Chuck Ragan

The Flame In The Flood

Ten Four Records
By

Rating: 3.5/5

 
 

 

 

The prospect of gravel-toned folk soloist Chuck Ragan writing a videogame soundtrack might sound foreign – at least until learning that the game in question is the rustic river navigating, natural resource scavenging survival quest, The Flame In The Flood.  Such themes feel like an intuitive fit for Ragan’s earthy tones on paper, and come across like an extension of his typical solo personae in execution.  Composed of ten upbeat yet moody songs, Ragan adjusts his songwriting to mirror the game’s sense of vast exploration and discovery.  Whether lyric or instrumentally based, Ragan communicates a deep sense of evolving atmosphere.

Opening with the full-band contributions of backing instrumentalists The Camaraderie, Ragan establishes a somber, humanizing groundwork.  With a cautious tempo, the title track synthesizes the pedal steel and emotive violin strokes with the type of personal weight that might flood one’s sentiment at the onset of a grand adventure.  “In the backwaters beyond fables and fears, there’s freedom in moving on,” expresses Ragan with sense of circumspect curiosity, masking the dualling factors of trepidation and excitement.  “Gathering Wood” follows suit, communicating a sense of initial liberation in the opening moments of an inaugural campfire.  Jovially plucked acoustics saunter hopefully as Ragan establishes a sense of companionship (offered in the game by your faithful canine) in the line, “you’ll be there for me in the dark, in the wind, in the rain.”  

Other typical Chuck Ragan-type anthems like “Loup Garou” and “Landsick” fill the track listing with plenty of toe tapping, finger snapping folk-driven tunes.  While not the most distinct products of Ragan’s brand, others like “Cover Me Gently” offer up a few surprises, including a vocal appearance by Revival Tour mainstay Jon Snodgrass.  Of particular note, album closer “What We Leave Behind” concludes on a sense of hope and accomplishment.  Integrating the sort of clean-calling vocals “ohh-ohhs” more expected in the indie world (think Bastille-lite), Ragan offers a magnificent send off to a personal journey.

And of course there are the clear instrumental calls of “In The Eddy” and “Spanish Moss.”  While running at a somewhat indulgent length for instrumental tracks on a predominantly vocal album, “In The Eddy’s” sense of distant exploration and isolation resonate like the crackling embers in a midnight campfire.  Each minimally plucked note hits home like the dying light of a final flickering flame – marking the departure of the initial excitement.  “Spanish Moss” emerges with similar effect, this time shining the lamplight squarely on melancholy violin notes akin to early Murder By Death.  While they might warrant skipping over with repeat listens, they certainly fit the bill for their virtual intent.

Overall, The Flame In The Flood is fairly typical of Chuck Ragan’s discography.  So much so that the album will likely gain a reputation as a “secret” album.  Much like Ragan’s soundtrack for the movie It’s Better In The Wind, The Flame In The Flood was handled and released internally by Ragan’s own Ten Four Records, placing it apart from his formal offerings through SideOneDummy Records.  But unlike It’s Better In The Wind, The Flame In The Flood better reflects the latter, making for a rewarding discovery for fans looking for another yet dose of rustic, tried and true Americana.  

Chuck Ragan To Write Videogame Soundtrack

Chuck RaganChuck Ragan has announced that he will be providing the soundtrack for the upcoming video game, The Flame In The Flood.  The game has been described as an experience “which projects the gamer into a completely unique, procedurally-generated river, through environments inspired by the Everglades, The Mississippi Delta, Louisiana Bayou, and other quintessentially American places.”  Ragan comments on the creative process:

“I’m completely honored to share some original music to the world through TFITF… Viewing some images of early layouts and catching the drift, so to speak, of what the game would be all about, the direction of music that I wanted to take and work on with The Camaraderie became very clear… I spent quite a lot of time running out to the river, setting up camp to build a fire, write, fish, write more and repeat…”

Ragan continues, detailing some of the other artists making an appearance on the soundtrack:

“I also wanted to invite and include friends to be a part of it, playing, writing or singing anything they wanted to add. Cory Brannan, Jon Snodgrass, Adam Faucett and of course The Camaraderie are some of the very important collaborations on this recording that made the soundtrac k it what it is.”

The album will be available on February 4, 2016 via Ten Four Records, and was co-produced by Ragan and Todd Beene.

Chuck Ragan Announces Tour Dates

chuckragan1American folk troubadour Chuck Ragan has announced a series of US shows in January and February. East coast shows will feature his backing band The Camaraderie and support will be provided by Cory Brannan. 

Chuck Ragan and The Camaraderie will be releasing The Winter Haul Live in the new year and you can check out the full list of tour dates below.

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Rocky Votolato Chuck Ragan

Chuck Ragan / Rocky Votolato

Kindred Spirits Split

SideOneDummy Records
By

Rating: 3.5/5

 
 

 

 

Chuck Ragan is no stranger to shared splits with other modern country lovin’ folk troubadours.  Most of the time he’s hanging around other punk influenced frontman (Ben Nichols, Jon Snodgrass, Tim Barry, etc…), but for his latest, Kindred Spirits, Ragan’s opted to pair up with someone a little closer to the west-coast indie side of the spectrum, Rocky Votolato.  For those unfamiliar, Votolato is the soft spoken antithesis to Ragan’s unmistakably gravelly tone.  While this might not be what Ragan’s fanbase would typically gravitate towards, the contrasting sides fit surprisingly well together.

Rocky Votolato plays a clean, mature, folk-flavoured brand of acoustic alternative evoking a somber sentiment.  Landing somewhere in the vicinity of The Weakerthans and Good Old War, opener “Sparks Of Recovery” floats in calmy with a weighted air.  Votolato feels as if made for an intimate outdoor venue lit by warmly glowing lanterns at the roll of dusk.  “We can beat death while we’re still alive,” sings Votolato insightfully amidst the twangy choral strum of “St. Louis.”  His crisp delivery accents the clear, mature, emotion flowing from each note in a way that hints at his twenty-plus year career.

Flipping over to the other side, Chuck Ragan’s offerings are much what fans have come to expect from the punk frontman gone Americana posterboy.  Instrumentally, the songs’ fall in line with Ragan’s modern output, played under the tuneful direction of his backing band, The Camaraderie. What becomes notable for Ragan’s contributions is the host of guest appearances by many similarly regarded solo artists, giving his side somewhat of a Revival Road feel (excluding the omission of Tim Barry).  

“Justice And Fair Shake” opens with a tuneful rough-and-tumble beat made all the more merry with the strokes of that ever-lively and buoyant fiddle.  The track features a guest spot during the chorus in which Dave Hause (The Loved Ones) joins Ragan for a chorus of sing-along harmony.  The song reaches that special place in memory, although Hause seems to be drowned out by Ragan’s burly calls (although the same can be said of Ben Nichols in the electric guitar-led “Before Dust”).  By comparison, Ben Nichols (Lucero), Jon Snodgrass & Chad Price (Drag The River) are given featured appearances as they help reenvision the now crowd favourite, “Vagabond.”  Maintaining the same steady twang as the version that initially appeared in Till Midnight, the clear vocal variety of these industry vets shines through in a way that gets pretty close to overshadowing the original.  

Assuming that most fans will come into awareness of this split from Ragan’s home on SideOneDummy Records, the bulk of fans will enter for Chuck Ragan, but are likely to quickly become pleased by Rocky Votolato’s contributions as well.  While Ragan and Votolato aren’t the most intuitive fit, their styles are likely to be well received by one another’s followings.  If you’re into alt-country and Americana, you can’t go wrong with Kindred Spirits.

Chuck Ragan – Vagabond (ft. Ben Nichols & Jon Snodgrass)

Rocky Votolato Chuck RaganChuck Ragan has released a new song from his upcoming split with Rocky Votolato.  The track is titled “Vagabond” and will appear on their Kindred Spirits split which is due out June 2, 2015 via SideOneDummy Records.

Listen to the song, which features Lucero‘s Ben Nichols and Drag The River‘s Jon Snodgrass, here courtesy Noisey.

Chuck Ragan Announces Split With Rocky Votolato

Rocky Votolato Chuck RaganChuck Ragan and Rocky Votolato have teamed up for a brand new six-song 7″ split.  The shared effort will go under the titled Kindred Spirits and is due out June 2, 2015 via SideOneDummy Records.

To celebrate, the label has premiered a the Rocky Votolato track, “Sparks Of Recovery,” which can be heard below along with upcoming tour dates.

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Chuck Ragan Interview

chuckragan1Ahead of his pre-Christmas shows in Canada, Chuck Ragan took time out to speak to us about being back in Canada, his latest album, Till Midnight and the future of the Revival Tour.

Check out the full interview here.

Chuck Ragan  interview

Chuck Ragan

Chuck Ragan

SideOneDummy Records
By on Dec 10th, 2014 at Phone

 

 

Ahead of his pre-Christmas shows in Canada, Chuck Ragan took time out to speak to us about being back in Canada, his latest album, Till Midnight and the future of the Revival Tour.

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Chuck Ragan Working on Video Game Soundtrack, Announces Tour Dates

Chuck RaganFolk punk favourite Chuck Ragan is working on the soundtrack to The Flame In The Flood, a video game currently the subject of an ongoing kickstarter campaign and being developed by The Molasses Flood, a collective featuring the art director from Bioshock and including others who have worked on such games as Halo and Guitar Hero. Chuck Ragan has said this about being involved in the project:

“I’m completely honored to link up with The Molasses Flood team who’ve invited me to write an original score for The Flame In The Flood…There are some exciting tracks going down for this project that feature The Camaraderie and The Fearless Kin along with more special and surprise guests to come. I’m scoring a mix of compositions inspired by this game and the journey within that weave in and out of stripped down instrumentals and broader spectrums of production.”

Chuck has also announced a series of shows down the US east coast in October and December, check below for the full list of dates.

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Tours: Chuck Ragan (Canada)

Chuck RaganAmerican folk troubadour Chuck Ragan has added a handful of Winter Canadian dates to the previously announced American dates.  The Canadian leg of his 2014 Winter Haul tour kicks off on December 15 in Toronto and include six solo headlining shows across the country.

Full tour listings are below.

Ragan continues to support his recent full length, Till Midnight, released earlier this year via SideOneDummy Records.

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Chuck Ragan And The Camaraderie Reveal First Art Contest Submission Winner

Chuck RaganChuck Ragan and The Camaraderie have unveiled the first winner of their Till Midnight inspired fan art competition.   The track “Vagabond” serves as the inspiration behind the picture as presented by Atlanta, GA artist Caleb Morris.  Camaraderie bassist Joe Ginsberg comments:

“Caleb’s unique and clean illustration work immediately jumped out to us… he has a way of creating strong characters whose personality transcend the page. For this reason, I was really excited when he chose ‘Vagabond’ as his inspiration, and even more thrilled at the end result. Caleb has truly captured the character that all of us in the Camaraderie often play…a Vagabond!”

Morris explains his inspiration:

“I’d been trying to weasel my way into the Chuck Ragan camp for a while and when this came up, I thought it was the perfect project for me… I picked ‘Vagabond’ to illustrate because I’d spent a couple years traveling in a band and now traveling with illustration so I had some idea of what it’s like going from town to town and never staying in one place too long. Joe Ginsberg and the rest of the team were some of the most fun and excited people I’ve had a chance to work with and I tried to capture that spirit in the work.”

Future original pieces along with their artist profile will be featured on Chuck Ragan’s official website and social networks, with exclusive pieces and limited edition merchandise inspired by the art to be featured and sold on Ragan’s website. Selected artists will receive a flat fee of $200 for their composition.

   

Video: Chuck Ragan – You and I Alone

Chuck RaganFolk punk troubadour (and Hot Water Music front man) Chuck Ragan has recently unveiled a new music video for his single You and I Alone.

The video was filmed on pristine El Matador Beach in Malibu, CA and directed by Dannel Escallón; it can be seen below.

You and I Alone appears on Ragan‘s recently released album, Till Midnight.

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Frank Turner Announces Book of Tour Diaries

FTWinchester, England’s favourite son Frank Turner has announced that he will be writing a book of tour diaries. In a post on his facebook page he has said that a deal has been struck with Headline Publishing. Frank did contribute a short chapter to The Road Most Travelled, a book of tour stories from a number of musicians put together in 2012 by Chuck Ragan. The post also states that he is hoping to release it in spring 2015, we are looking forward to it!

 

 

Chuck Ragan Launches Art Contest

Chuck RaganChuck Ragan and The Camaraderie have announced an art campaign for creative fans.  Fans are asked to submit pieces inspired by Ragan’s new album Till Midnight, available now on SideOneDummy Records.  Artists will be selected from the submissions and assigned a song to base their contribution on.  Bassist and music director Joe Ginsbergof comments:

“While making Till Midnight, we were so focused on the sound of the record, but every song tells a story… I’m so amped up to see how artists relate to these stories and what art comes out as a result!”

Their original pieces along with their artist profile will be featured on Chuck Ragan’s official website and social networks, with exclusive pieces and limited edition merchandise inspired by the art to be featured and sold on Ragan’s website. Selected artists will receive a flat fee of $200 for their composition.

Artist portfolio/website links along with a $10 entry fee payable to PayPal must be submitted to camaraderieartcampaign@gmail.com no later than April 30, 2014 to be considered.

   

Northcote – The Lowville Sessions: Drive Me Home

NorthcoteCanadian singer-songwriter Northcote has revealed the first installment in the Lowville Sessions live set with his performance of Drive Me Home from his Self-Titled album.

The performance can be seen below while the rest of the set is soon to follow. He’s releasing the series in anticipation of his upcoming UK and European tour opener for Chuck Ragan on his Overseas Till Midnight tour. Joining them for a few dates will also be Dave Hause.

The dates are below.

 

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Chuck Ragan - Till Midnight

Chuck Ragan

Till Midnight

SideOneDummy
By

Rating: 4/5

 
 

 

 

It feels like only yesterday Chuck Ragan released his watermark album, Covering Ground. The album distilled his gritty sound into its’ folkiest form, creating a compilation full of odes to wanderlust with an audible ache expressed through his lonely lyrics. It was the farthest he had strayed from the gritty punk sound of his other project, Hot Water Music and arguably eclipsed anything he had released prior.

Naturally Till Midnight was approached with a healthy load of trepidation and high expectations. After a break, Ragan is back with a full band, which includes his usual partners (guitarist/pedal steel player Todd Beene, fiddler Jon Gaunt and bassist Joe Ginsberg), but is fleshed out with a great cast of new band members and guest musicians (drummer David Hidalgo Jr., of Social Distortion, Rami Jaffee of Wallflowers/Foo Fighters, Ben Nichols of Lucero, Dave Hause, Jenny O., Chad Price and Jon Snodgrass of Drag the River). The sound on Till Midnight is noticeably more “full” than the Americana sound of Covering Ground. In addition to the bulking up of the sound, the lyrical content changed from focusing on themes of travelling and the emotions related to life on the road, to a much more positive focus. Chuck Ragan loves his wife and he wants the world to know it. However this happens to be the weakness with this album. Much like fellow songwriter Bruce Springsteen, Ragan in love isn’t quite as interesting as unhappy Chuck. 

By no means does that mean that Till Midnight is a bad album. It is a great album throughout. It just doesn’t live up to the watermark created by Covering Ground. The fleshed out sound isn’t as interesting as his sparse Americana influenced music. It leans more toward a regular rock record in the vein of the aforementioned Springsteen (think his mediocre Working on a Dream release). That being said, there are still elements of the roots music that has become the trademark of his solo career. Vagabond is a rollicking tune anchored with plenty of steel guitar reverberating in the background. First single, Non Typical, is a great love song. Ragan’s gravel throated voice evokes plenty of emotion as he hollers his way through the track, with plenty of gang vocal support. The rawness of his voice helps keep the song from descending into kitsch, which is a considerable feat considering the sugar coated lyrics I need you like I need all my blood in my brain. There is a roots rock swagger that pervades Bedroll Lullaby, which brings to mind Neil Young and The Band. The catchy Gave My Heart Out rolls along at a quick pace, with plenty of room for crowd sing along moments. The pretty Wake With You is a mellow tune with a constrained Ragan on vocals, the edge of his voice smoothed to an almost whisper, reminiscent of Brett Detar. Throughout the album, the fiddle and steel guitar take center stage, reinforcing that his long time partners are where his strength lies. On paper, the pedigree of guests (Nichols, Hause, Snodgrass…) sound like a dream collaboration, but in reality their contributions are surprisingly easy to miss. 

In the end, Till Midnight is a solid entry in the discography of an artist fast becoming one of the most lauded roots artists around. He has firmly separated himself from his punk roots (remember when Hot Water Music played main stage at Warped Tour?) and tweaked his sound to blend Americana, Heartland rock, classic folk, hints of country and the occasional splash of the blues. Ragan is undeniably a wonderful songwriter and this is an essential release for fans of his solo work. While it doesn’t live up to the hype that Covering Ground created, it stands alone as a great album that shows artistic growth. 

Chuck Ragan Full Album Stream

Chuck raganChuck Ragan has debuted a full album stream of his highly anticipated new solo record, Till Midnight, which is set to drop next week, March 25, 2014 via SideOneDummy Records.  

Be sure to check out the full disc here.

Video: Chuck Ragan – Something May Catch Fire

Chuck RaganChuck Ragan has released a brand new music video.  The video features the track “Something May Catch Fire” and will be available on his new record, Till Midnight, which is set for a March 25, 2014 release via SideOneDummy Records.  Ragan comments:

“I felt they captured an essence of love that we’ve all have either known ourselves or have dreamed of knowing one day… it’s easy to find inspiration when you’re with someone you fall in love with over and over again throughout your lives.”

Listen to the song here courtesy CMT.

Tours: Chuck Ragan / The White Buffalo

Chuck RaganChuck Ragan has announced a five week tour in support of his forthcoming new album, Till Midnight, which is scheduled to be released on March 25th through SideOneDummy Records.

The co-headlining tour will see Ragan sharig the stage with The White Buffalo while Jonny Two Bags will serve as the opening act. For the tour, Ragan has brought his backing band, The Camaraderie, along with him. The band features Jon Gaunt (fiddle), Joe Ginsberg (bass), Todd Beene of Lucero and Glossary (pedal steel, electric guitar), and David Hidalgo Jr. of Social Distortion (drums).

The tour begins at Slim’s in San Francisco on April 3rd and wraps up at Los Angeles’ Fonda Theatre on May 9th. For every ticket, one dollar will be donated to Wildlands Network to help better our air, water, forests, and the wildlife that inhabits them.  Ragan explained the deal saying:

“As much as we love music and sharing it with the world, we’re aware that our means of travel does make an environmental impact on our surroundings. We’ve aimed to release some merch and means to offset our carbon footprint on this tour and help make a difference along the way.” 

VIP packages, limited edition sustainable merch bundles, and tickets are available here.

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Chuck Ragan Announces New 7″

Chuck RaganChuck Ragan has announced that he plans to release a new 7″ leading up to his new record in March.  The 7″ will feature two versions of his current single “Non Typical,” and will be available on February 25, 2014 via SideOneSummy Records.  Following the 7″ Ragan will release his new record, Till Midnight, which is set for a March 25, 2014 release via SideOneDummy Records.

The 7″ can be pre-ordered here.

Video: Chuck Ragan – ‘Non Typical’ (Live)

Chuck RaganHot Water Music and folk favourite Chuck Ragan’s fourth solo album Till Midnight is due for release on March 25th via SideOneDummy Records, and he dropped by the label’s HQ with his backing band The Camaraderie to perform Non Typical, a song taken from the upcoming record.

Check out the video below:

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Chuck Ragan Details Fourth Full Length

Chuck raganChuck Ragan has announced details for an brand new album.  The record will be titled Till Midnight and is set for a March 25, 2014 release via SideOneDummy Records.  Ragan comments on what fans can expect:

“There’s a lot of love songs on this one… I love to write love songs because it’s the most powerful emotion… I’m usually writing about whatever’s going on in my life. And when you’re living your life by wearing your heart on your sleeve, there’s not a lot to hide behind.”

Till Midnight was produced, engineered, and mixed by multi-instrumentalist Christopher Thorn of Blind Melon behind the walls of Fireside Sound andFonogenic Studios in Los Angeles.  Ragan also made some remarks about working with his long time backing band, The Camaraderie, which includes Jon Gaunt (fiddle), Joe Ginsberg (bass), Todd Beene of Lucero and Glossary on pedal steel and David Hidalgo Jr. of Social Distortion:

“We share a mutual trust and an idea of how music, family, friendship, giving, good energy and community should all be seamless… These guys believe in this and I’m completely blessed to say that they believe in me. So, we started calling the bond that we have The Camaraderie.”

Guest vocalists include Lucero frontman Ben NicholsDave HauseJenny O., and Chad Price and John Snodgrass of Drag The River.  Full track listing is below.

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Chuck Ragan – Non Typical

Chuck RaganChuck Ragan has unveiled the first song from his fourth solo album online.

The track, Non Typical, can be heard on RollingStone.com.

The album in question is called Till Midnight and was produced by Blind Melon and AWOL Nation member Christopher Thor, it will be available on March 24th through SideOneDummy Records. For the album, Ragan recorded with guitarist-pedal steel player Todd Beene, fiddler Jon Gaunt and bassist Joe Ginsberg, and new drummer David Hidalgo Jr., currently of Social Distortion and formerly of Suicidal Tendencies. 

The album features guest appearances from Foo Fighters’ Rami Jaffe, Lucero’s Ben Nichols, Dave Hause and members of Drag the River.

Tours: Chuck Ragan

Chuck RaganFolk soloist Chuck Ragan has announced plans for a brief tour of the Midwest this September.  The tour’s five dates kick off after an appearance at Riot Fest Chicago on September 15th and conclude at Riot Fest in Denver on September 22nd.  Support will be provided by Jamestown Revival.

Ragan’s touring band will consist of Jon Gaunt (fiddle) and Joe Ginsberg (upright bass) and special guests Todd Beene (Lucero, Glossary) on pedal steel and Dave Hidalgo (Social Distortion) on drums.

Ragan last released Covering Ground was released in 2011 via SideOneDummy Records. Tour dates can be found below.

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Dates Announced For Revival Tour

Revival TourDates for the sixth annual Revival Tour have been announced and can be seen below.

The 2013 edition of the Revival Tour kicks off in March and features acoustic performances by Dave Hause of The Loved Ones, Rise Against frontman Tim McIlrath, LA’s Jenny O., Hot Water Music‘s singer and original tour organizer Chuck Ragan, Seattle-based singer/songwriter Rocky Votolato, NJ-based singer/songwriter Jenny Owen Youngs, with additional artists to be announced.

The tour will last five weeks starting on March 15th.

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Chuck Ragan/ Sam Russo/ Jimmy Islip/ Helen Chamber

Chuck Ragan / Sam Russo / Jimmy Islip / Helen Chambers

Split

Specialist Subject Records
By

Rating: 2.5/5

 
 

 

 

In celebration of recent tour dates in the UK, Chuck Ragan has released a split LP with 3 English artists that he has played with on previous rounds through the country. Starting things off is Chuck himself, contributing 3 cover songs, including one by Leatherface with his Hot Water Music bandmate Chris Wollard. Of the three songs, this is easily the best. Both of the other songs are slow songs that could be considered at best B-side quality recordings. It is understandable that Ragan would not want to release his best material on a small pressing LP, but it almost feels like he wanted to use his name as a vehicle to introduce people to some obscure English artists without worrying about overshadowing them too much. It just hurts that Ragan would release something so mediocre.

Next up is a trio of songs from Sam RussoRattling Keys is vaguely reminiscent of a Gaslight Anthem ballad, but his thick accent is distracting. After the disappointment of the first three songs, these throwaway tracks are almost heartbreaking.

The redemption comes in the second half of the album, starting with Jimmy Islip. Starting with 1990, he kicks things off with some uptempo folk punk sure to bring a smile to the faces of devout Frank Turnerfans. Fortune Teller slows things down a bit and suffers with the decrease in tempo, but Big Heart keeps things going with more English high speed folk. Islip is a great find for listeners on the other side of the pond.

The closing tracks come from the lone female, Helen Chambers. Female folk artists seem to receive less recognition than their male counterparts, but if this is because of a male domination conspiracy, then feminists have found their revolutionary heavyweight firepower in Chambers. Her strong voice exhibits a slight warble in Biding My Time bringing to mind the legendary Buffy St. Marie in her prime. She overshadows all of the men on the album, even during the simple quiet Paper & Glue. But where she really shines is on the final track, Speak Your Name, an acapella song with an Appalachian folk sound that sends shivers down your spine.

This limited LP may be a stretch for punk fans with only a passing interest in the current crop of gritty folk artists, but for fans with an open mind and a keen ear, Jimmy Islip and Helen Chambers provide some high quality music. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the first half of the album.

Chuck Ragan - Los Feliz

Chuck Ragan

Los Feliz

SideOneDummy Records
By

Rating: 3.5/5

 
 

 

 

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 DecidingRagan 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.

Chuck Ragan - Feast or Famine

Chuck Ragan

Feast or Famine

SideOneDummy Records
By

Rating: 3.5/5

 
 

 

 

Chuck Ragan forged a name for himself with countless tours and records with his former act, Hot Water Music. When that endeavor was put to rest, Ragan went out on his own to create more folk-oriented, blue grass music which quickly garner energetic buzz through the internet thanks to his passionate live performances scattered across California. The buzz grew so much that SideOneDummy decided the first proper introduction to the now solo performer should be a live record. Thus, Los Feliz was released documenting one of Ragan‘s early performances; that was, of course, quickly followed by this: Feast Or Famine – the first solo studio album from the celebrated musician.

Now, six of these songs were previously released on Los Feliz so those don’t offer much as far as new material goes; however, it is nice to hear the slightly reworked versions. I still think Symmetry is one of the weaker tracks on the album (just like it was on Los Feliz) but Do You Pray soars to new heights with a much more pronounced blue grass feel and the perfectly placed female vocals shadowing Ragan softly in the background during the chorus that add a great layer to an already amazing track. The Boat is still a driving song with a heavier musical backdrop but Ragan‘s beer worn vocals are still the main force leading the song and pulling the listener into the album – just like it was on Los Feliz and I still like For Broken Ears just as much as I did previously.

The six new tracks follow in the same general format that was first introduced by Ragan in his live album as they are folk inspired, blue-collar anthems led mainly by his worn out vocals and acoustic guitar but supported quite solidly by instruments such as the mouth organ, violin and mandolin. Geraldine is a slow moving love song full to the rim of soaring violin melodies and the aforementioned female vocals scattered softly in the background creating a perfect contrast that holds the song together once again. On Hearts of StoneRagan borrows from Greg Graffin and Don’t Cry (easily one of the standouts on the record) is a faster song with a heavier, darker tone to it and a full mass of instruments with two guitars and a mouth organ. The vocals are passionate and pull the listener in and throws the listener into the final half of the record with hopes held high. Feast or Famine ends it all with Do What You Do, a passionate track with a uniquely tuned guitar that somehow summarizes the entire album perfectly.

The record is a very solid release. While not as energetic as Hot Water Music and maybe not as emotional as his live album was, Feast Or Famine is a sincere, honest, folk, blue grass record with Ragan‘s signature vocals and amazing lyrics. If you liked Los FelizTim Barry‘s Rivanna Junction or Greg Graffin‘s Cold As Clay, then this will be right up your alley.

Chuck Ragan - Covering Ground

Chuck Ragan

Covering Ground

SideOneDummy Records
By

Rating: 4.5/5

 
 

 

 

By now it is almost expected that every singer in a punk rock band eventually releases a stripped down acoustic solo album. For the most part these are little more than unnecessary acoustic songs that could pass as throwaway B-sides from their full band. There are of course a few notable exceptions, such as Joe Strummer’s Streetcore, which fused punk rock energy, folk storytelling and world soundscapes into a brilliant farewell album. Hot Water Music’s Chuck Ragan has a lot of years ahead of him before he can stand alongside a legend like Strummer, but over the course of a multitude of 7”s, full lengths and split albums he has proven that his solo work stands strongly on its’ own merit.

This album is his testament to a life on the road, which is confidently backed up by the miles he has clocked as a solo artist, with Hot Water Music and with The Revival Tour. Nothing Left to Prove contrasts a melancholy fiddle arrangement with Ragan’s ragged voice to create a pleasant dissonance. For the most part these are full fledged folk songs, a far cry from the thousands of solo artists out there with an acoustic guitar.  You Get What You Give is reminiscent of Hot Water Music, while Come Around is a respectable country song. While he may have his roots in the Florida punk scene, this album owes more to Tennessee than the Sunshine State. He has transcended the solo artist moniker to become a legitimate folk musician. During the love song Wish on the Moon he samples Elvis Presley. The harmonica that has been loved by everyone from Dylan to Woodie Guthrie shows up on Seems We’re OK. The hidden track at the end of the album is a beautiful quiet ballad, with simple melodies and the cleanest vocals of Ragan’s career.

What helps elevate this album above his previous releases is the musicians that he collaborates with. Frank Turner, Brian Fallon and Audra Mae all make appearances, while the fiddle and stand up bass help to give his songs body. Add to this his heartfelt lyrics and consistently great voice and this becomes a great collection of songs. Not only has he released his best solo album to date, he has released his best piece of music ever. It is by no means perfect (Right As Rain comes across as sludge folk, painfully dragging on and on, while Valentine fails to be memorable after multiple listens), but Covering Ground is a great folk album from a great artist.

Video: Revival Tour Live (Cardinal Sessions)

Rocksound.tv has posted a live video from the Cardinal Sessions of Revival Tour artists performing Chuck Ragan’s song On The Bow in Germany. Artists include Chuck Ragan, Rocky Votolato, Joe Ginsberg, Jon Gaunt, Emily Barker, and Cory Branan.

The Revival Tour is in its fifth year and third trip overseas. It will continue to Italy and the rest of Europe through the end of the month. 

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