Chuck Ragan – Gold Country

May 11th, 2010 by Eric Loose


Summary: Chuck Ragan made me think twice about my hatred towards country music…incredibly consistent and well-structured, Gold Country is not one to miss this year.

Punk and country music don’t have a whole lot in common, right? Chuck Ragan sets to prove that wrong with Gold Country and does a pretty damn good job of it. Former frontman of punk band Hot Water Music, Ragan didn’t have a whole lot to prove. He was already pretty acclaimed in the punk scene. So, when he decided to swap Hot Water Music for a solo country-Western album, I was a little surprised. His first solo album, Feast or Famine, was a bare-bones album that managed to showcase Ragan”s versatility. His follow-up incorporates that same simplicity, but Ragan manages to add a little extra here and there.

The most important aspect of Gold Country is Ragan’s vocals, of course. His gruff voice gets the job done, and while his singing isn’t spectacular, it certainly fits in well with his new country-influenced record. You’d think this man had grown up on a ranch in West Texas, singing folk songs around a campfire late into the night with the closest of amigos. In fact, I can’t imagine a better setting for the songs showcased here on Gold Country. Ragan retains that sweet simplicity that begs you to sing along. He has a distinct tone, almost a cry of desperation, that is more evident on Gold Country, particularly album highlight “Old Diesel.” The melodies aren’t quite as sharp as they were on the more “singer-songwriter” of Ragan’s solo releases, Feast or Famine. The addition of gang vocals, on “Get ‘Em All Home” and “The Trench” especially, gives a boost to the atmosphere of camaraderie and fraternity on Gold Country. In addition, the lyrics tend to reflect and further this. Once again, simplicity is the keyword, as Ragan sings about “Old Diesel,” old California roads, and other things a guy living in Baltimore only hears about on folk CDs.

It always delights me when you can tell where or how a record was recorded without looking at the band’s website. It’s hard not to listen to Gold Country without thinking, “Hey, this was probably recorded in secluded Northern California with a group of close friends,” when, in fact, it was.

I’ll admit, I despise the country music to which I’m accustomed. I grew up in a rural area where  Toby Keith and Kenny Chesney were commonplace. Please don’t mistake Chuck Ragan for any of these impostors. Gold Country is lively, substantial, and most of all, incredibly consistent. I listened over and over but could not find a dud on Gold Country. Chuck Ragan happens to be equally adept at the slow burners (“Don’t Say A Word,” “Old Diesel”) and the more energetic songs (“The Trench,” “Rotterdam,” “Let It Rain”). If you’re a fan of music that’s been stripped of it’s musical layers but still retains emotion, significance and energy, Chuck Ragan’s Gold Country should be at the top of your “To Buy” list.

Recommended Tracks:

For Goodness Sake

Rotterdam

The Trench

Let It Rain

Old Diesel

Get ‘Em All Home

Overall Grade:

89% B+

Download on Chuck Ragan - Gold Country




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