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Chuck Ragan, originally of Hot Water Music, has been a recognizable name in the punk scene for years. Recently, he has been releasing solo records with many friends including Jon Gaunt, George Rebelo, Austin Lucas, and Digger Barns to name a few. A bit of a departure from the sound of Hot Water Music, in his solo career Chuck has gotten back to his roots, playing “good ole folk music” more suited for swinging on front porch swings than swinging fists at somebody in a mosh pit.
Like very few can, Chuck Ragan makes great straight up blue collar music, and just listening to his most recent release, Gold Country, is guaranteed to put calluses on your hands. The album starts off nicely with an up beat track titled For Goodness Sake; the lyrics making for a great guide to life. His emotions really start to come out, however, on the album’s third track Rotterdam, a wistful song about his memories and the tracks ahead of him. Glory, Done and Done and The Trench sound like the Chuck everyone knows and loves. Good anthems to sing along to, spilling your beer all over the guy next to you as you raise it high. As he slows it back down a bit with Don’t Say a Word you can feel that emotion start to come back out. This song gives more of a darker side to the album. Its somber tone and self reflective lyrics really make this song a stand out track on the album.
As the album plays on with 10 West you can hear the raspy mountain man preach his convictions about hard work, family, friends, being on the road and relationships made along the way. It was on the intro to Ole Diesel when the cello caught me ear and I’ve come to think of this song as the heart of the album. It really gives it a warm feeling, a feeling that no matter where you are in life “Ole Diesel” will get you on back to where you belong. With Cut ‘Em Down Chuck reveals more of his views on life and how to live it. The words “to hell with political champagne charades, I’d rather dig a hole in the earth…” show where he stands. One of my favorite styles of Chuck can be seen on Let It Rain. He does a great job of getting everyone involved on this one; Digger on the stand up, Jon Gaunt on the fiddle, and Chuck belting out what means most to him. Then he takes us on the road with him out of Birmingham, Alabama with Good Enough for Rock n’ Roll. This song makes you feel like you’re in the tour bus with the boys, helping out on gang vocals and clapping along the whole way to the next stop. The next stop brings us to the last song on the record. Get Em All Home is a heart felt song about the people who have fought and are still fighting today overseas. This song is sung in perspective of a soldier not only of war but of life itself. We are all fighting our own wars one way or another, whether overseas or in our own struggles with daily life.
Compared to Chuck Ragan’s earlier works this album, in my opinion, does the best at showing the listener more of who Chuck really is as a musician and as a person. With the help of his good friends, Chuck creates a sound that deserves to be heard no matter what genre of “punk” you’re into. The man speaks true and has proven repeatedly that he should be listened to; and remember “There ain’t no good byes on the road, unless you aim to be dead and gone.” Keep trucking Chuck and so will we.