Reviews Chuck Ragan Gold Country

Chuck Ragan

Gold Country

When Hot Water Music vocalist/guitarist, Chuck Ragan released Feast or Famine, it took a lot of fans by surprise. There have been a lot of punk musicians who form acoustic side projects in their down time, but how many of them sounded as good and authentic as Feast or Famine did? That album carried a very strong folk vibe and had a bit of a country feel as well. After recording an album with country musician Austin Lucas, he has returned to the studio to make the highly anticipated Gold Country.

Here we see Ragan take the folk approach he did on Feast or Famine and add a bit more flavor to it by adding even more instruments into the mix. This is evident on the opener "For Goodness Sake," which starts out sounding similar to his last album but the light strings, backing vocals, and pounding drums help add a lot more depth to the song. There are plenty of fiddles present on the majority of the tracks which give Gold Country a pretty strong country vibe rather than a folk one. He also brings in a pedal steel guitar on songs like "Don't Say a Word" and "Good Enough for Rock and Roll." One surprising thing is that there is little use of Chuck's harmonica on this album despite it being used so frequently on Feast or Famine. One would think that he would use it a lot on here since especially since Gold Country leans toward a more country sound.

Despite that, Ragan manages to do fine without it as Gold Country almost tops Feast or Famine as Chuck's songwriting continues to not disappoint. There are also a few tracks where he sounds more powerful and emotional than ever before. Key example being the mournful ballad, "Ole Deisel" where Chuck's rough voice soars through the guitar and the violins. "Cut Em Down" features mainly him and a clean electric guitar and the group vocals in the chorus help add a triumphant climax to this song. The weeping country ballad "Don't Say a Word" is another slow but heartfelt track that makes great use of the pedal steel guitar. The closing track, "Get 'Em All Home" is a ballad that speaks of ending the current war overseas and the struggle soldiers are going through. This is another one of the album's standouts as it continues to show Chuck's great songwriting and is probably the best showcase of this new country sound that Gold Country is focused on.

While the depressing songs are arguably the stronger ones, he also throws in a few upbeat numbers to lighten the mood a little bit and most are rather enjoyable. Songs like "Good Enough for Rock and Roll" and "The Trench" have an upbeat country sound that give you a good positive feeling when listening to them. These two songs in particular might come off as a surprise to some listeners because of how upbeat and catchy they are. "Let it Rain" is nice acoustic sing-along with it's addictive chorus and backing vocals from Austin Lucas. He does a decent job of balancing the mellow tracks with the simple, happier songs to suit whatever mood you're in.

Well, Chuck Ragan has done it again. Gold Country is a new direction for this country sound he's experimenting with really works for him. The thing is, this isn't just an acoustic album with country elements added in, it actually sounds like he worked really hard to make an authentic country album. My only real complaint is that the record, as a whole, isn't as strong as Feast or Famine but even then, it's still a great record. It will be very interesting to see what direction he decides to go in after Gold Country but one thing's for sure, we can always count on him to write great music no matter what project he is involved in.

8.7 / 10Corey S.
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8.7 / 10

8.7 / 10

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