Chuck Ragan - Gold Country (Cover Artwork)

Chuck Ragan

Chuck Ragan: Gold CountryGold Country (2009)
Side One Dummy Records

Reviewer Rating: 4.5
User Rating:

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

It'll probably be considered heresy to say, but when I first heard Chuck Ragan's Feast or Famine -- specifically "The Boat" -- all I could think was "this is what he should have been doing all along." Don't get me wrong; I love Hot Water Music. I've followed them since No Division and I celebrate.
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It'll probably be considered heresy to say, but when I first heard Chuck Ragan's Feast or Famine -- specifically "The Boat" -- all I could think was "this is what he should have been doing all along."

Don't get me wrong; I love Hot Water Music. I've followed them since No Division and I celebrate their entire catalog. But something about Ragan's solo material is different. Something about it is truly special in a way that most other singer-songwriters can't even hope to understand. He feels so comfortable. So at home.

Ragan's gruff baritone is firmly rooted in the American heartland. And I know that "country music" is a dirty phrase to most, but Gold Country is just that. It's raw. It's earnest. It's moving and it's captivating and it's everything one could ask for in an album.

Ragan plays to his strengths immediately in the uplifting "Glory," a violin-and-percussion-assisted track that sounds every bit like it could have been written by Bruce Springsteen. That's not to say Ragan bites Spingsteen's style -- that's far from the case -- but the similarities are there in all the best possible ways. It's in the up-tempo acoustic strumming, in the strings courtesy of violinist Jon Gaunt and the gripping way in which Ragan sings.

When Ragan belts out "Our days are numbered surely, this breath will soon be passive / Just as the wind in the mountains, carries the dust of the wanted" and leads the song to its finish, there's no doubt that he's a man who puts every bit of heart and soul into his music. While the emotion is one of Ragan's major strengths, another is the variance in tempos and styles on the record.

"The Trench" is tailor-made for a southern barroom sing-along; Ragan strums at a deliberate pace and when the scruffy vocals aren't filling the space, Gaunt's busy violin playing keeps everything moving. There's just such a feel-good air about every one of the songs on the album, and each stands on its own as much as being one part of a fluid record. "10 West" picks up where "The Trench" let off, only this time the somber strings are contrasted by a full, rousing chorus that picks up steam with each subsequent verse.

It's not just the up-tempo jaunts that give this record life, though.

For every "10 West" there's a song like "Ole Diesel" -- a slow, drown-trodden effort that allows Ragan to show his most lyrical side. Amidst the haunting violin and delicate piano strokes, Ragan weaves his tale of love and loss:

When it rains, son, it pours, and heaven opens its doors to drop hell straight from the sky / The open road's gone and the darkness is calm, enough to take your dear life / Stay awake and breathe, and struggle to stay within the lines, down the lonesome road Ole Diesel, please take me home."
Singer-songwriters are a dime a dozen. But Chuck Ragan, well, he's something special.


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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.
NON_HEINOUS (February 20, 2011)

I wasnt too privy into HWM because every kid in the city was a little too hard on the dong, so when 'feast or famine' found its way into my hands, at first i want into it, but it really grew on me.

as for gold country, i feel as if this should have been the debut solo record from him, the songs are grittier, and just felt a whole lot more and gets a more passionate recording than the slicky done FOF.

both good records in all, chuck ragan is the ,am

PaddingtonBear (November 9, 2009)

one of the most soulful releases of 2009, I really like Chuck's voice, it's hypnotizes me)

Doctormistersir (November 8, 2009)


phelansegur (November 6, 2009)

Best album of October .. a good choice !!!

cheesetits (October 23, 2009)

I thought this was pretty boring, mildly disappointed.

phelansegur (October 22, 2009)

Yesterday I got my copy of "CHUCK PLAYS FRANKFURT" a limited to 300 hand numbered Double-Live-LP .. Saint Chuck has done it again .. awesome!

oskorei (October 20, 2009)

If you don't like this album or Chuck's solo material then GOOD. There will be more room at the front of the stage for me to sing and dance around.

telegraphrocks (October 18, 2009)

"see him live, the guy has so much enthusiasm and stage presence..."

Seeing him live, that is a fucking 10! The amount of heart and energy of him live... just... shit, I always get goosebumps when I see him.

phelansegur (October 18, 2009)

Thank you telegraphrocks

jaydischord (October 18, 2009)

Love Chucks music....great album but maybe not as good as 'Feast or Famine'......see him live, the guy has so much enthusiasm and stage presence...ive never seen an acoustic show that has the same energy as a hardcore show...well when i saw him play anyway....simply fantastic.

telegraphrocks (October 18, 2009)

"Just have a look at www.myspace.com/phelansegur ... then you get an idea why I love these guys from HWM so much, especially Chuck Ragan .. Salute"

Yup, you got some badass stuff on there, some causing a bit of jealousy on my behalf... Salute!

phelansegur (October 18, 2009)

I'm sorry for "so please shut up!". but the rest is still ok.
Yes, a fart is a fart. And I wouldn't sell a fart from Chuck as perfume.
I haven't seen/met Tim Barry yet, but I'm sure he a great guy too.
Just have a look at www.myspace.com/phelansegur ... then you get an idea why I love these guys from HWM so much, especially Chuck Ragan .. Salute

dev (October 17, 2009)

It's weird. I could not get into Feast or Famine at all, and not for lack of trying. Back then I was whining for HWM to get together and stay together, but now that Gold Country's out I could care less. Still album of the year. Score's still for Gold Country.

____Win_Win_Situation____ (October 17, 2009)


Thepopeofchili-town (October 17, 2009)

Feast or Famine was an incredible album on par with almost anything in the HWM catalog. This - not so much.

SKAtepunk (October 17, 2009)

I cannot get over how awesome Chuck is. I guess if you don't really get bhind the whol e"punk rockers turned to roots musicians" then you can't get into this. I cream my pants over any Frank Turner, Chuck Ragan or Tim Barry though.

danperrone (October 17, 2009)

"Singer-songwriters are a dime a dozen. But Chuck Ragan, well, heā??s something special."

SmallYellowChair (October 17, 2009)

What a fucking good record. Chuck does it again!

telegraphrocks (October 17, 2009)

"You don't find a second performer with such a true heart like Chuck Ragan .. Chuck is the greatest .. so please shut up!"

Really though, check out this user's account info... I guess one shouldn't expect a different view of Gold Country from something like that.
If Chuck recorded himself farting for 50 minutes and put it on record, it wouldn't be good... you'll say it's genius, and there are certain bands I would try to defend for blowing the same farts... but a farts a fart.
Farts are stinky.

This record sure ain't a fart... but... it's almost boring.

My overall point though, is that I (and many I know) prefer the stylings of one Timothy Barry, and that's the intention of this dick-ish post.

I do like Chuck...

m1tch (October 17, 2009)

One of my favorites of the year so far. Chuck is amazing.

billnye (October 16, 2009)

jesus christ. write a good review bro

phelansegur (October 16, 2009)

You don't find a second performer with such a true heart like Chuck Ragan .. Chuck is the greatest .. so please shut up!

14theroad (October 16, 2009)

Can't get into this one. I mean it's not terrible, there's just too much "I wish this was a Hot Water Music record" in the way to enjoy it.

welcome_to_1984 (October 16, 2009)

Best album of the year, easy. I disagree with the comment, "he sounds bored." I think this album sounds much closer to his stellar live show than Feast or Famine did. Chuck pretty much recorded the album himself, so I don't think it was that boring for him. Also having seen him live in Sept. in Cologne with a full band behind him I can safely say the tracks from the album translate perfectly to his live show, oh yeah he played two Rumbleseat songs too. Awesome night

DarrenMcLeod (October 16, 2009)

I've only listened to it 3-4 times, but so far I'm disappointed. Liked Feast or Famine a lot, this one just isn't resonating with me.

fishnchips (October 16, 2009)

Sorry Chuck, not this time.

miniblindbandit (October 16, 2009)

so much old-time in this. good stuff.

Blackjaw_ (October 16, 2009)

I forgot to mention the biggest problem with this album... his voice lacks sincerity and passion. When he sings it sounds like he's just going through the motions, there's no urgency or real meaning behind his voice, minus a few parts like where he shouts "Ol Diesel, pleast take me home". The reason those parts stand out isn't because they're amazing, it's because you can hear what you heard with HWM and parts of Feast Of Famine, and it's finally resonating with you again. I know that kind of criticism can't be objectively backed up as much as I'd like, but I just know I can hear a sense of boredom in his voice. Maybe live it would be different. I think the studio setting has a huge effect on some people... I mean how can you feel sincere bellowing out your words to an audience of a microphone and some guy working the levels? And then repeating it over and over until it sounds right must make you so bored you don't even mean it anymore, and... I don't know. I just know I can feel a sense of boredom/lack of urgency throughout almost the entire album, and it kills it completely.

Blackjaw_ (October 16, 2009)

I really wish it would just be Hot Water Music again. I loved Feast Or Famine once upon a time, but really only the non-country songs. Anything twangy just rubs me the total wrong way, I guess because I'm Canadian. I'm not going to listen to this just because it's Chuck Ragan, there needs to be more than that and it falls short. The last song on this record is fucking awful. The rest are just pretty mediocre, except Don't Say A Word which I like quite a bit. I like folk-influenced stuff and acoustic stuff, but country-influenced is just not for me at all. To me, any current (Rumbleseat, Blacktop Cadence and Crows ruled) project that isn't HWM is just a total waste of time.

eazyd2 (October 16, 2009)

I really think this album is a step backwards for human evolution

My review?

stephenharris (October 16, 2009)

I really think this album is a step down from Feast or Famine.

My review?

telegraphrocks (October 16, 2009)

My god, this dude-from-rockin-band-goes-solo folk/country thing has gotten stale.

Feast Or Famine is a beautiful record, still gets play constantly. I've tried listening to this a few times, and can't even listen to more than 3 songs in one sitting.

I want Hot Water Music back.

kidgotham (October 16, 2009)

Great Review. Gold Country will most certainly be in my top five of 09.

chrisafi (October 16, 2009)

Okay. I'll break the 'I still heart Hot Water Music so much and this is just as good if not better' circle jerking.

This is okay. 6, maybe 7 out of ten.

It is not album of the year.

It is not ingenius musicianship with a groundbreaking style and sound.

Chuck Reagan is not God so chill

Descendentmark (October 16, 2009)

Album of the year for me, beating out Lucero's new album. All the songs are great no 2 songs are alike. From For Goodness Sake, to Bring them all Home the album is Golden no filler. Can't wait for the Revival Tour.

dev (October 16, 2009)

Album of the year. Not a single weak track on this baby. I hope he can see to it to bring his live show across Canada someday.

phelansegur (October 16, 2009)

Rotterdam is one of the finest songs Chuck has written so far .. simply purrrfect .. I can't get it out of my ears since I've heard it live in February ...

MN_DrNick (October 16, 2009)

Top Five easily for me. Might beat Supporting Caste for top spot.

american_666_jesus (October 16, 2009)

The re-recorded Ole Diesel is worth it alone. Five minutes into my first listen, I knew this album was something special and it only gets better every time I listen.

inagreendase (October 16, 2009)

Score is for "For Goodness Sake."

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