Show Preview: Chuck Ragan @ Red 7 (11/11)

Date 11/11/11
Location Red 7
Doors 9pm
Tickets $10 @ Frontgate

Veteran and now legendary songwriter Chuck Ragan is making a stop back into town at Red 7 on Friday night.  Local up and comers East Cameron Folkcore and Possessed by Paul James will also be on hand to provide some entertainment.  Friday night is full of great lineups, but be sure to keep this one on the short list.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/YouGetWhatYouGive.mp3]

Download: Chuck Ragan – You Get What You Give [MP3]

New Folk Tune from Chuck Ragan

One of the great things about being an old-ish punk rocker is watching your idols grow up along with you.  Their music changes as your tastes do, both of you seemingly taking the same path.  For me, this has been the case watching Chuck Ragan of Hot Water Music fame go out on his own with his folk recordings.  Generally they rely upon acoustic guitar and his throaty vocals, giving old post-punk fans a bit of enjoyment, and sense of self, while listening to a bit of folk.  You can pick up Ragan’s new album, Covering Ground, on September 13th, and it’ll be worth it; I haven’t met a Chuck Ragan LP I didn’t like.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/YouGetWhatYouGive.mp3]

Download: Chuck Ragan – You Get What You Give [MP3]

The Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt

Rating: ★★★★½

To begin, I knew very little about Kristian Matsson and his project The Tallest Man on Earth.  But, his second album, The Wild Hunt, will not only change that for me, but for many listeners across the globe.  It’s easy to place the Swede’s work in a certain genre, even under a certain association with a famed folk hero, but throughout the duration, Matsson makes this album all his own, creating a beautiful piece of work to be played over and over again.

You’ll start The Wild Hunt with the two things that will stick with you eternally: incredible finger-picking and the uncanny resemblance to a young Boy Dylan. The former is one of those things that enables Kristian to pull out every single emotion from his tunes, carefully plotting where his fingers go with ease.  The latter is something that might plague him, which is unfortunate, as every song on here stands on its own merit, creating a great collective song cycle.

A lot of folk music has the capability to seem redundant, especially when you feel as if you have heard the singer before, but a few deviations make The Wild Hunt rise above typical folk revivalists.  For one, his songs are rather short, in comparison to similar artists.  It allows him to make really succinct songs such as “Thousand Ways” or “Troubles Will Be Gone.”  These songs will breath fresh air into your listening experience, and they’ll leave before you grow tired of hearing them blend into the next number. Then there is the tiniest vocal inflections he puts into his recorded performances that make Kristian stand out in what can sometimes be branded a stale world. Every slight move up or down on the scales, or every little yelp allows the vocals to stand on their own, rather than live in a world of comparisons.

Listening to this album time and time again, I found it difficult to discover a favorite track, as each listen, each mood evoked something different for me.  At first, it was “King of Spain,” which comes off like a folk song written by a steam engine.  On top of that, the subject matter of the song wins me over with its nod to the Iberian Peninsula. But, “You’re Going Back” took me in a different direction.  It has hints, at least in the song structure of a lot of old punks who’ve turned to country, such as Chuck Ragan, with it’s throaty yell of “driver please don’t go that f**cking way” near the last minute of the tune.  Here you find The Tallest Man on Earth getting carried away with his own passion, and that definitely makes each song a winner in my book.

Fortunately for me, this album came across my desk while I was in search of something calming, yet something challenging.  The gentle moods created by songs like ‘The Drying of the Lawns” fit perfectly into what I needed at the time. Then I looked back at the whole of The Wild Hunt, and I found that each song had something to offer, and nothing to throw out the window.  The Tallest Man on Earth has made a complete record worthy of repeat listening, now and forever.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/06-King-of-Spain-1.mp3]

Download: Tallest Man on Earth – King of Spain [MP3]

Friday In Austin! (11/13)

revivaltour2009Friday is another one of those rare (or not so rare) days in Austin that comes around every once and a while that blows the minds of us music types.  The day is so jammed full of music goodness that we are dedicating a whole post just to Friday’s shows.  Which one are you headed to?

The Parish: Elvis Perkins & A. A. Bondy @ 8pm for $14.

Mohawk: Bishop Allen and Darwin Deez outside @ 8pm.  Tickets for $10.

Stubbs: Indie supergroup Monsters of Folk @ 7pm for just $35.

Beerland: Local boys Frantic Clam, Visitors, Basic & Hotel Hotel for only $5 @ door.

Austin Music Hall: Mastodon, Dethklok, High on Fire, & Converge @ 6:30 for $35.

Red 7: The Revival Tour with Chuck Ragan (Hot Water Music), Jim Ward (Sparta), Frank Turner, Possessed By Paul James, & Jon Snodgrass and Chad Price (Drag the River) for only $10.

Chuck Ragan – Gold Country

chuk

Rating: ★★★½ ·

As the frontman of Hot Water Music, you expect Chuck Ragan to be an angst-ridden misanthrope, but you’ll find a different man writing the tunes on his second solo album, Gold Country.  Chuck has called this work some of the most mature music he has created to date, and such a statement is quite visible upon repeated listens.

As you begin listening to this album, you get the feeling that a lot of the songs are left over from the period when Chuck wrote Feast or Famine, his first solo outing. “For Goodness Sake” features his throaty vocals that bare witness to his past.  Similarly, “Glory” has that old hoedown feeling, with a quick-step guitar strumming accompanied by an equally paced violin.  But, you can notice stark differences on this go round–even by listening to these two songs.  For one, both feature female backing vocals, adding a richer texture to the compositions, which makes them seem like more complete songs, as opposed to simple acoustic tracks. “Glory” also brings in a gang vocal of “al la las” near the end of the song.   It’s these slight steps up that give brith to the maturity of which Mr. Ragan has spoken.

Some of the songs on this album also appear to wear the influence of Chuck flexing his muscle on the road with the Revival Tour, a collection of punk troubadours gone punk.  Yes, Chuck already has an experience in this realm, but there are definite moments that recall Tom Gabel of Against Me, such as “Done and Done.”   This is by no means a knock, but it demonstrates how experience can bleed into our musical development.

Listening to a song like “10 West” you begin to realize that you sort of feel a strong connection to the Chuck Ragan.  He’s talking about some sort of roadtrip that recalls various memories, but the recording manner that involves multiple moments of gang vocals makes you feel as if you are at home with Chuck Ragan.   You can feel yourself sitting in the room with him as he writes this song for you and all your memories.

And in the end of it all, this is a Chuck Ragan.  The old screamer always seems to get personal when he picks up the acoustic, and his lyrics never seem to come off interesting.  Most people might not call it the most remarkable thing ever, but you can see that he’s been making steps to progress, and most (like me) don’t even think he needs to.  He’s included touches of piano, violin, femal backing vocals and other ornate details that add to the texture of this wonderful album.  Gold Country is definitely an example of a growing Chuck Ragan.

Chuck Ragan On Daytrotter

20030883-3738189This isn’t your usual Daytrotter post!  I swear!  So not only was Chuck Ragan on Daytrotter yesterday but he also played several new songs from his upcoming solo LP.  This track, “Cut Em Down” is one of the highlights and will appear on Gold Country which is due out September 1st on Side One Dummy RecordsCheck ’em all out now and let us know what you think of the new material.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/chuck-ragan-cut-em-down.mp3]

Download: Chuck Ragan – Cut Em Down (live) [MP3]

FT5: Songs with the Word Valentine

0213top5coverSeeing as the Hallmark Holiday is hours away, I thought I would browse through my collection and throw out my Top 5 Favorite Songs with the word “valentine” in the title. Sure, one would think that songwriters have better things to do than sing about a nonsensical holiday with little or no meaning, but then again, they are just love songs in the end, aren’t they? Some of these bands have made appearances on our lists before, and some you might not be aware of, until now that is. So here is to you and yours on this most sacred of holidays. I hope your Valentine’s Day is as good as these songs.

Read more