Chuck Ragan: Till Midnight – album review
Chuck Ragan : Till Midnight
CD / LP / DL
If you don’t know the distinct sound of Chuck Ragan‘s voice then you clearly haven’t researched the cause of 97% of all avalanches.
Geoff Rickly once said “his voice sounds like a fucking mountain” in an interview and I agreed whole heartedly. What is so impressive about Ragan’s gravelled roar is that it seems to work beautifully in both his punk rock band Hot Water Music and his solo work, the polar opposite of the fast, distorted, world where he first made a name for himself. Till Midnight is the fourth full length studio release in his solo venture, and with it the man has reinvented himself as a songwriter.
Gone are the days where, when describing Chuck’s solo music, you could simply state “It’s like Hot Water Music songs on an acoustic”. Though the same simple chord, assertive attitude, heart lifting mentality still permeates within every slice of this ten track record, there seems to be a great deal more when it comes to the thought process of the entire thing. Where the majority of Chuck’s previous songs have seemed somewhat spontaneous, the ones within this album feel more carefully constructed, both in terms of the actual writing and the process of getting them down on record (instrumentation, production processes, etc.). Though this dip in impulsiveness has seen some of the rage of previous efforts left by the wayside, the added intricacy and emotional impact of the meticulously planned melodies more than makes up for that.
This album will no doubt appeal more to the folk side of the Ragan fan club, and less to those looking for merely another acoustic punk album, with songs like Bedroll Lullaby and single Something May Catch Fire seemingly taking more from the protest singers of the late sixties, such as Tom Paxton and good ol’ Dylan, than his more punk affiliated influences.
That’s not to say the album isn’t without a raw edge, Gave My Heart Out (the intro of which reminds me of The Beach Boys … God only knows why) and Whistleblowers Song sees Ragan take his powerful vocals to their astonishing limit, tearing through the lyrics while an explosive backbeat accentuates the impact of each line.
This album shows Chuck Ragan progress by leaps and bounds musically, whilst still maintaining the themes of love and family that made his earlier releases so sincere. This record might surprise many old time fans, as it is laced with more than a slight dose of pop folk sensibility, but even with a somewhat softer overall sound the insane amount of energy that resonates from both Chuck and everyone involved within the record makes it just as powerful as any from his back catalogue, maybe even more so.
The following UK dates in May and June have just been announced:
- Tues 27 May Nottingham, Rock City
- Wed 28th May Bristol Thekla
- Thurs 29th May London Garage
- Tues 24th June Brighton The Haunt
- Weds 25 June Manchester Gorilla
- Thurs 26th June Leeds Brudenell
All words by Ian Critchley. More writing by Ian on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.