CHUCK RAGAN – ‘Till Midnight’
(Out Now on SideOneDummy)
THERE’S A PRESSING DESIRE TO STAY UP WELL PAST 12AM to cherish every musical moment of Chuck Ragan’s new album. Proceeding hiatus from his renowned band Hot Water Music, Ragan unlaces his punk-rock boots and trades them in for some southern kicks. His latest shift into Americana begins with ‘Something May Catch Fire,’ the closest he’ll get to turning into Keith Urban or Toby Keith and not blasphemed as a sell-out. ‘Vagabond’ is Ragan’s own twisted Jimmy Buffet number; but thankfully, he does not fashion a foolish Hawaiian shirt and hippie sandals. Instead, Ragan disguises heartache with melody, as the song’s wretched demeanor is lost in the soulful harmonies.
‘Non Typical’ stings like The Rolling Stone’s ‘Gimme Shelter’ and is the boldest testament to one of England’s finest. Akin to HWM Drag My Body, it could be characterized as the most studio-produced track, before the string arrangements on ‘Revved,’ truly excel. ‘Bedroll Lullaby’ stays true to Ragan’s Gainesville, FL roots and is a pure ode to Tom Petty’s ‘Last Dance with Mary Jane.’ ‘Gave My Heart Out’ is essentially ‘Non Typical Part II,’ swiftly followed by the stunning ‘Wake With You’, its fingerpicking guitar chords, echoing fiddles and shuffling drum brushes performing more as noises in nature than instrumentation.
‘Whistleblowers Song’ is a throwback to the former Ragan hit ‘Meet You in the Middle’ and jams like Bad Religion gone acoustic, while finale ‘For All We Care’ is a coming of age tale and is the most prolific “journeyman” song. Come its close, Till Midnight leaves listeners searching into the evening for whatever makes their hearts beat proudly. For Ragan, it’s simply the joy of sharing his stories through song. Well done sir! (9)