It’s almost at the point where Chuck Ragan has reinvented himself. Sure, he’s always had the voice and he’s done the countrified thing in the past with Rumbleseat, but the level of professionalism and dedication he’s brought to his solo project is worth noting. He’s now released four solo records and built his own momentum beyond the punk rock scene.
Till Midnight maintains the same tone as its predecessor, Covering Ground. It’s generally positive in theme while simultaneously searching for answers and companionship. The majority of the record is influenced by folk and a bit of punk rock road warrior mentality. When the first person is used, which is often, it’s of a “man on the road” point of view, going so far as the second song, aptly titled “Vagabond.” More than anything, Ragan sings what he knows: life on the road as a troubadour with a simple message, as in the opening lines from “Whistleblowers Song,” “We’ve got a whole lot of hate on our hands/ and not enough love to go around.”
The songs are heartfelt and honest, the key elements to the solo style, as it’s his voice that people identify with. If there’s a development with this record, it’s the increasing backing music. He now tours with a full-band and the instrumentation throughout the record always includes more than just a man and his guitar, most often also pulling from drums, bass, fiddle, and harmonica. It’s more full and with less reliance on the acoustic guitar.
That extra instrumentation gives an extra punch, as in “Non Typical,” which pulls in guest vocals from Jenny O. The harmonies play well together, complementing the sound without being overshadowed by the celebrity of a guest appearance. The music is a little bit countrified, but never in a hokey fashion that affects its earnestness, rather it adds nuance and depth as in “Wake with You.” The pedal steel is a nice change of pace and it really stands out here. Overall there is a nice variety of energy, from the ballad “Wake With You” to the upbeat and let-it-soar vocals of “You and Alone,” while the majority rides the current somewhere in between, more relaxed and thoughtful than excited or weary.
7.2 / 10
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Posted March 30, 2017, 9:27 p.m.
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Posted Jan. 27, 2016, 6:10 p.m.
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On June 2 SideOneDummy is releasing a split 10" between Chuck Ragan and Rocky Votolato. The record is titled Kindred Spirit. Ragan released Till Midnight last year.
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