Chuck Ragan – “Till Midnight”
The album opens up with the absolutely cracking “Something May Catch Fire”, and I’m not sure of the last time I heard such a great opening song. Sure, the influence of Springsteen is very loud and clear, but when you’re talking about a song which is the Boss at his anthemic best, why complain. It’s a brilliant, melodic, rocking number. “Vagabond” really just keeps the quality going. It’s a more solemn and restrained song, but has the great use of a Hammond organ that gives some light to the more country blues feel. There is a nice change in texture when Jenny O joins Chuck on “Non Typical”, where there is a great contrast of Ragan’s rasping voice against the sweeter sound of Jenny O’s.
The sound edges to more of a kind of folk Gaslight Anthem feel on “Revved”. A lot of this comparison is to do with the story telling approach of the vocal style and lyrics. The use of a fiddle rather than a guitar dominance gives it more of a folk feel. The more folk/Americana style is kept on the slower “Bed Roll Lullaby”. Then “Wake With You” sees him moving in to proper blues/country ballad territory. This is one for late night reminiscing as you sip on a large glass of Bourbon.
There is also plenty of evidence that Chuck has not forgotten his punk rock roots. “Gave My Heart Out” is a song which is just built for crowd participation at a gig. Whilst on “You And I Alone” he manages to perfectly mix both the folk/Americana sound with his rock background. It takes a relatively simple sound, but builds it in to something which is anthemic but not overblown.
We see the shadow of The Boss looming large again over “Whistle Blowers Song”, but this time we are talking blue collar woes a la a Nebraska track. The album then comes to an end with the slower “For All We Care” which has a more downbeat feel. The album therefore goes from the triumphant opening to this more melancholic and thoughtful song, which will leave the listener deep in their own thoughts.
Chuck has already got a hugely dedicated and loyal fan base here in the UK, and there is no doubt they will love this. If, however, you have never heard Chuck before, then you really need to go out and buy this. Anyone with a love for rock, folk, singer song writer, Americana or in fact just good music, will find something to enjoy here. The sleeve itself has a very classic feel to it, which is appropriate as this is a great, classic feeling album. It will stand up not only against Ragan’s own back catalogue but also be an album that stands the test of time.