Americana heavyweight Chuck Ragan has confirmed our suspicions of being one of the most compelling songwriters and charismatic performers in recent times. An icon of the folk and punk scene, Ragan consistently manages to bridge the gap between the two, earning himself a cult fan base across America and the UK. With four critically acclaimed albums under his belt, the folk rock troubadour has released album number five, ‘Till Midnight. With the help of his backing band The Camaraderie, Ragan has managed to compile a very American set of campfire anthems that showcase his obvious roots in heavy Americana, and his passion for writing honest music from the heart.
The album kicks off with Something May Catch Fire. The songwriting, arrangement, and even production are all instantly effortlessly organic. It’s easy to imagine this group of guys jamming away in Ragan’s home having a good old time. We move onto Vagabond and things don’t let up at all. This is heavy Americana at it’s best. Ragan’s voice sounds extremely similar to that of one Mr Bruce Springsteen, and he is often joined by the rest of the troop singing along with the choruses.
It is clear the switch from punk to hearty folk rock was an easy transition for Chuck Ragan. His songs still have elements of that punk-rock spirit, especially seen in Revved, where his vocals seem relentless and in your face. However the folk-shuffling drums keep everything in line and make this number one of the standout listens. We move into pedal-steel guitar territory with track Wake With You, and its reflective, insightful lyrics bring a heartfelt change in mood. Some tracks do seem to blend into one another however, with You and I Alone sounding a little too similar to what we have heard already. By no means is it a sub-standard song; it just feels a little recycled. ‘Till Midnight closes on a strong footing, with a tuneful Ragan in solo mode, before the band enters in full force to finish proceedings. It’s a continuation of that loud, in your face folk-rock and Ragan seems at ease to push the boundaries of acoustic instrumentation.
On the whole, the album is an honest representation of where Chuck Ragan and his band are currently at. It is organic, has a sense of togetherness about it and appears to have been effortlessly crafted. Chuck Ragan has beautifully scripted himself another set of fantastic songs here, and hopefully a set that will see his audience grow even larger. This music for one, deserves it.