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Chuck Ragan - Los Feliz (Cover Artwork)

Chuck Ragan

Chuck Ragan: Los FelizLos Feliz (2007)
Side One Dummy Records

Reviewer Rating: 4.5
User Rating:


Contributed by: baptist_generalbaptist_general
(others by this writer | submit your own)

Hot Water Music was and probably always will be a big part of my life. Their records and live shows were stunning displays of musical creativity, world-weary honesty and raw, unaffected passion. They also had an album to suit every mood. They had the joyous, uplifting No Division, the quiet desperat.
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Hot Water Music was and probably always will be a big part of my life. Their records and live shows were stunning displays of musical creativity, world-weary honesty and raw, unaffected passion. They also had an album to suit every mood. They had the joyous, uplifting No Division, the quiet desperation of A Flight and a Crash and the seemingly care-free, road-ready feeling of Fuel for the Hate Game. Each album, in its own way, had the ability to communicate with the listener on levels most bands could only dream of.

One of the driving forces behind HWM's conviction when it came to their emotional power was co-vocalist/guitarist Chuck Ragan, a man with a voice drenched in love, loss, regret, and hope, a voice that delivered suckerpunches of emotion through songwriting of the highest calibre. The day Chuck decided to step away from Hot Water Music to pursue other interests (eventually leading to HWM disbanding), was a sad one for many people because with the news came the realization that one of the most sincere and rewarding bands of the last 15 years was no more.

Luckily for us one of these interests was playing his acoustic guitar whilst sipping a beer after a long day's of carpentry, playing stripped down, blue-collar folk. Chuck flitted between his own compositions and covers of old traditional numbers, and it wasn't long before he was playing some of these songs in front of friends and family and (spurred on by his wife Jill), eventually the paying public. Not shy to stripping the sound down on stage thanks to his Rumbleseat days, Chuck seemed to find his feet quickly and, if the bootlegs that have been doings the rounds are anything to go by, the early shows were joyous, positive occasions that were looking forward rather than back.

Thankfully, the energy felt on those early bootlegs is here tenfold and one of the things that make this live debut such a brilliant and engaging listen. At no point on the record's 43 minutes are the crowd nothing less than into it 100%, hooting 'n hollering, singing, clapping, laughing and appreciating the moment for what it is. And if this record does nothing else, it makes you, at least twice during each track, want to be there at the front, sharing that moment, smiling manically with everyone else.

Opener "Open Up and Wail" is one of the two tracks on this 'debut' I have yet to have heard. It's a perfect example of Chuck at his best. It's just man and guitar -- it's open, honest, uplifting, subtle in its aggressive delivery and a perfect way to get things going. Next comes what already seems like an old favourite: "The Boat," a mid-tempo song of hope (or frustration maybe?), and it's delivered with a striking sense of calmness and sincerity. The foot-stomping "Do You Pray" picks up the pace while "Valentine" is a love song in the truest sense and the addition of the violin, along with Chuck's harmonica, add a warm depth which in turn only helps display the passion of its performance.

"Congratulations Joe" is a reflective, poignant 'thank you' to loved ones, his father-in-law in particular, that is played with a smile and an open heart. Next up comes what may be the highlight of the album for many people as Chuck takes on his former band's "God Deciding." After dedicating it to his former bandmates in the Draft, Chuck delivers a masterful reworking of the track that brings the lyrics to the forefront for everyone to hear. It's harrowingly apt for our world today and it's delivered with such raw emotion that it will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. "Fixin' to Die" is a driving, grit-soaked run through the blues which is a stark contrast to "Symmetry," which sees Chuck dedicate it to his wife and deliver a relaxed, violin-backed, harmonica-fuelled country ballad that could (after a bath full of whiskey maybe?), make grown men cry.

Another highlight is the traditional "Dream of a Miners Child" which brings in some banjo adding to the overall hillbilly sound of the song. It gets the entire crowd clapping along and is just a lot of a fun. "It's What You Will" is a slow-burning, porch-fried jam with a simple message delivered clearly: "Mind the world that's dying / it isn't yours to kill." "For Broken Ears" follows at pretty much the same tempo and seems like it shouldn't be there, and although it's a good song it was one of the first I heard a few months ago so I may have just overplayed it, but with a great clap-along halfway through it soon redeems itself.

Closing with old favourite "California Burritos," the show comes to an end the way it started all of 43 minutes ago. It's greeted like an old friend by the crowd and the addition of the violin breathes new life into the song, it all ending with a mass sing-along and some sincere thanks from Chuck. But really, it should be us thanking Chuck.

[Los Feliz is due out May 8, 2007.]

 

 
People who liked this also liked:
The Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!Hot Water Music - No DivisionAgainst Me! - is Reinventing Axl RoseThe Loved Ones - Keep Your HeartJawbreaker - Dear YouAlkaline Trio - GoddamnitThe Lawrence Arms - The Greatest Story Ever ToldChuck Ragan - Feast or FamineHot Water Music - A Flight and a CrashAgainst Me! - As The Eternal Cowboy

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
NotPatriotic (April 21, 2008)

"For Broken Ears" is a great song. Score is for the album

jt (August 3, 2007)

Wow, this is as good maybe better than some of Hot Water Music's stuff.

T-Rock (June 28, 2007)

This album is amazing. Awesome mix of folk with a punk flare. The fact that its recorded live makes it even better, which I didn't expect.

bigwig1022 (May 22, 2007)

last nite i just saw chuck play not only "California Burritos" and "Cursing Concrete", but BLEEDER.... one of the best fucking performances ive ever seen

BrendanW (May 14, 2007)

I was at the show. Very good times. Didn't realize so many hot girls loved Chuck.

Anonymous (May 6, 2007)

Yeah, Chuck did play with Tim in Richmond a few months ago. Foundation (Rob from Ann Beretta) played too. They need a full tour though.

mpc (May 4, 2007)

The world needs a full Chuck Ragan / Tim Barry tour. With William Elliott Whitmore as an opener. I'd drive hours to see that.

Anonymous (May 2, 2007)

The "Miners" song is a mandolin rather than a banjo. Also for people who comment about the funny saying on the records, most indie records have this. Sorry for the ball busting.

baptist_general (May 2, 2007)

i'm only in 8th grade so i will take that as a compliment!

Anonymous (May 2, 2007)

great album, but this review reads like a 10th grade paper.

Anonymous (May 2, 2007)

To the guy below me: Thats just no idea records. Nearly all of their vinyl releases have weird/funny/stupid inscriptions on them.

thedude (May 2, 2007)

i just received the 4th installment of the chuck ragan singles club in the mail today and noticed an interesting inscription on the record.

"keep on" on side A
"keepin' on" on side B

then i looked back at my other 3 chuck records and found equally witty inscriptions on all of these as well.

what a guy!

Anonymous (May 1, 2007)

great album

nocomply (May 1, 2007)

I just got chuck's latest 7" in the mail yesterday. That makes 4 records received. I think there's either 6 or 7 in total, but I forget. I'm just trusting they'll get to me eventually.

teebor (May 1, 2007)

Amazing album...the perfect opener track too!

mclz (May 1, 2007)

i can't wait for this to come in the mail. i'm excited for the 7" that comes with it as well.

Anonymous (May 1, 2007)

My neighbor was just telling me about how he saw Hot Water Music and GWAR in concert.

...together.

Whoa.

-benz

baptist_general (May 1, 2007)

"this is so damn good...the end of "open up and wail" is like WHOAAAA"

i agree! makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up that bit...

mustard (May 1, 2007)

I actually havent heard any of chucks stuff yet but god deciding is one of my favorite hwm songs so ill definitely have to check this out now

Anonymous (May 1, 2007)

7' asshole

Anonymous (May 1, 2007)

7"

Big_Guy (May 1, 2007)

I like The Boat the best, but I think that might be because it could have been a HWM song.

Chuck Regan > The Draft

danperrone (May 1, 2007)

this is so damn good...the end of "open up and wail" is like WHOAAAA

Anonymous (May 1, 2007)

this is "real " punk rock. live it. thanks chuck. long live hot water.

Anonymous (May 1, 2007)

Pretty good I guess. Confirms what we already knew: Chuck has some great vocal chords. But none of those songs are sticking with me

baptist_general (May 1, 2007)

i think the studio album will be good but in a different sense to this one!

where as this one is fun and uplifting i think the studio one will be a more sombre affair

maverick (May 1, 2007)

this is a hell of a live record. I've been listening to it all the time at work, it makes the day pass by in an instant. Really captured what this guy's all about.

I'm sort of worried the actual studio album won't be as enjoyable.

-Scott

bryne (May 1, 2007)

Nevermind, I just saw the last sentence. I just woke up.

bryne (May 1, 2007)

I could have swore this was coming out next week.

colin (May 1, 2007)

ridiculously powerful rendition of god deciding

baptist_general (May 1, 2007)

i emailed no idea the other day about the rest of the 7's...they said they had just shipped them out

cash_money_hustla (May 1, 2007)

Has anyone gotten the rest of their Chuck Ragan 7's? s

hvmyselfabear (May 1, 2007)

This is a really great CD, I hope his studio album is just as good!

northenden (May 1, 2007)

is this a diary entry?

kenjamin (May 1, 2007)

When did Punknews start running reviews before the release date? Just curious.

Anonymous (May 1, 2007)

Adverb adjective cliche cliche adjective

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