Familiar but Rocking Chuck Ragan (Album Review)

chuck ragan

Reviewing Chuck Ragan’s fourth studio album, “Till Midnight” reveals a harder rock sound than most folk/indie rock artists out today. That sound belies his punk rock roots and lends an edge to the album that elevates it to a high quality effort; however, overall the album suffers from sounding too much like other more established rock acts. Produced, engineered, and mixed by Christopher Thorn of Blind Melon at Fonogenic Studios in Los Angeles, the album features the many talents of Ragan’s band The Camaraderie which includes Jon Gaunt (fiddle), Joe Ginsberg (bass), Todd Beene of Lucero and Glossary on pedal steel and David Hidalgo Jr. of Social Distortion.

With such a producer and band behind him, perhaps it is no surprise that listening to the first single, “Non Typical” instantly calls to mind the Foo Fighters. That feeling is present again with the hard-charging “Gave My Heart Out” as you can’t help but feel you’re listening to a companion to the Foo Fighters “Best of You.” After all, Rami Jeffe of the Foo Fighters is a guest artist on the album and almost everyone involved has been in at least one other well established band. The problem comes when several tracks start to sound too familiar rather than original.

There is a polish to this album that is unexpected but not entirely welcome. Listening to Ragan’s earlier albums there is a rawness that gives him a true Americana sound whereas on “Till Midnight” that raw quality is only present periodically. Don’t get me wrong, the Springsteen-esque gravel in Ragan’s voice, his interesting song-writing and ability to find a catchy hook make the album worth listening to and take it beyond some copycat effort. “Something May Catch Fire” is a fun, driving sound that takes advantage of some wonderful percussion to create a melody that highlights Ragan’s rough vocals in the best way possible. It’s just interesting to see how production can really change the overall feel of an album.

Best track on the album by far is “For All We Care.” The stripped-down vocals and gentle strumming create a haunting lullaby that doesn’t prepare you for the 3rd quarter rock anthem he inserts. The result is a wonderful, soaring and entirely different track that probably would have been a better choice for a first single than “Non Typical.” There is not a bad track on the album but “For All We Care” gets better with every listen and makes the listener want to hear more. If that’s the case, check out Ragan’s earlier stuff, particularly “Covering Ground.” “Till Midnight” will be released on March 25, 2014 via SideOneDummy Records and the first single “Non Typical” is currently available on iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify.

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