Through Dang’ris Nights
Chuck Ragan was in one of my favourite bands ever, Hot Water Music. Like a lot of other people in the punk and indie worlds, he recently decided to start making acoustic music. Unlike a lot of other artists, it isn’t contrived country, ridiculous roots, or feeble folk. Chuck is doing what Chuck has always done: make incredibly honest and heartfelt music within the best of his abilities.
The trouble is punk rock barre chords don’t always translate that well. Some people criticized Chuck’s 7” single series (essentially demo recordings of songs for future release) for being nothing more than vocals and acoustic rhythm guitar. That problem has been rectified on his studio album, Feast or Famine, by adding plenty of extra instrumentation, guest players, and other vocalists.
The songs centre around family, passion, love, and Chuck’s never-wavering belief in a higher power (but don’t let that deter you). I’ve read interviews where he talks about his days in white supremacist groups and his road to reformation; songs like “God Deciding” from the HWM days, “Open Up and Wail,” and “the Grove” all reflect his sense of humanity and the preservation and preciousness of life. “For Broken Ears” is a treatise against the Iraq war, and “the Boat” is a sort of meditation on life through the eyes of a fisherman (or a boating enthusiast, I suppose). He also offers the definitive take on “California Burritos,” a standout track from the back-porch country act he created with a former HWM pal, Rumbleseat.
Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio) and Anti- recording artist Jolie Holland offer great harmonies and backing vocals to several songs, some included below. Check them out – and witness one of the most inspiring musicians working today.