The first time this reviewer was introduced to Chuck Ragan’s solo work was back in 2011 when he opened for Social Distortion at the Sherman Theater. That entire show was phenomenal, but, surprisingly, it was Ragan’s performance that left an impression. This week sees the release of his new album “Till Midnight,” and his songwriting skills, vocals, and his band’s musical talents are still as impressive as that night back in 2011.
“Till Midnight” has this inherent energy created by Ragan’s mix of punk rock and folk music. The opening track “Something May Catch Fire” has a rhythmic drum beat that keep cadence as the fiddle dances from note to note. Enter Ragan’s signature vocals, accompanied by soft drum-work that leads back to the full band, and you have a great opening track. “Vagabond” is another standout track musically. The pedal steel guitar is featured throughout the song, and the fiddle solo is absolutely incredible.
The musicianship alone isn’t the only focus, however. Ragan’s lyrical ability is also just as noteworthy. Each song possesses his usual heart-on-his-sleeve style of songwriting and has an emotional resonance that goes hand-in-hand with folk music at its core. And while they exhibit that sentiment, there are still notes of those punk rock, angst-driven anthems that Ragan is known for as well. “Gave My Heart Out” and “Whistleblowers Song” are prime examples of the latter. He even ends on a reflective note with the track “For All We Care.”
There is no simple summation of this album. “Till Midnight” is a complex, emotion-filled work. Ragan takes the listener onto this heartfelt journey, and it is a journey that should not be missed.
Chuck Ragan ‘Till Midnight’ Rating: W W W W W