Chuck Ragan

Till Midnight

Written by: PP on 28/04/2014 23:42:03

If you're looking for the missing link between Chuck Ragan solo material and his main band Hot Water Music's latest album "Exister", then you've just found it. On his third solo full-length "Till Midnight", Ragan utilizes a full band to a much larger extent than on previous work, undergoing a similar transition as Frank Turner did between "Love Ire & Song" and "Poetry Of The Deed". Although additional instrumentation has always been present on Chuck Ragan solo material, it has never been as much at the forefront as on "Till Midnight". Acoustic and electric guitars are layered on top of a full drum set and country-tinged instrumentals in a manner that suggests this is a band effort rather than Ragan's own work, thus pulling the sound much closer to the throaty vocals and energy of "Exister" and Hot Water Music in general.

That being said, the punk elements of his main band are all but extinct on "Till Midnight", which rather focuses on Americana and country melodies, as driven by the soothing usage of warm harmonica, and string instrumentation to supplement the standard acoustic guitar work. Vocally, the album is of course nothing short of awe-inspiring, given the golden throat of Ragan in its scratchy glory demonstrating how to sing with charisma and warmth throughout the record. On choruses like those on "Non Typical" and "Something May Catch Fire", you can of course tell that Ragan comes from a punk background given how these are delivered, but it's rather a complete blend into the Americana theme rather than a distinct influence on the record. You only need to revisit the classic folksy track "Revved" to realize that Ragan is able to draw a clear divide between the energetic and dynamic punk rock of Hot Water Music and his work on his solo material when necessary.

Where debut album "Gold Country" reinvented Ragan's gravelly voice in a gruff alt country setting, sophomore "Covering Ground" lacked memorable songs despite largely following in the steps of its predecessor. That's something that has changed massively on "Till Midnight", which contains without doubt the best solo material so far on Ragan's career. Weak tracks are practically nonexistent, and the strong tracks have you singing along in as raw manner as your voice allows in an attempt to imitate the warmth-driven, gravelly throat of Ragan. Why not break out a harmonica as well to get fully into the mood, because that's what this album truly requires: to engulf yourself into the rich, textured alt country melodies that it offers in plentiful manner throughout.

Initially I would've been skeptical with the stronger inclusion of a full band on what started off as Chuck Ragan, a harmonica, and an acoustic guitar, but "Till Midnight" is convincing evidence to the contrary. Even as songs like "Gave My Heart Out" echo "Exister"-era Hot Water Music during the chanted choruses, this is first and foremost an acoustic solo album with a band backing, not the other way around. Chuck Ragan may have just found a way to be heard by the large audience, for which Hot Water Music was always a little too complex and challenging bite to chew.

8

Download: Something May Catch Fire, Non Typical, Revved, Bedroll Lullaby
For the fans of: Ducking Punches, Arliss Nancy, Kill County, Frank Turner, Hot Water Music
Listen: Facebook

Release date 25.03.2014
Side One Dummy

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