Chuck Ragan - The Blueprint Sessions (Cover Artwork)

Chuck Ragan

The Blueprint Sessions (2007)

No Idea

"So calm down. We are all flesh and bone."

Chuck Ragan's 7" of the Month series started back in September 2006 and ended in June 2007. No Idea wasn't very liberal with the release of the records, and the name became a fallacy. However, even though it took so long to get the records into the consumer's hands, the consumer can be proud to own such an intimate release, containing seven total 7-inches of lo-fi folk. Not folk-punk. Just folk. The Blueprint Sessions (which decidedly is a "blueprint" for both Chuck's Los Feliz live album and Feast and Famine full-length) collects the entire series, and places it on a more accessible, computer-friendly format. It also includes two bonus tracks, "Hearts of Stone" and "Hold My Bed."

Right off the bat, it was clear that Chuck was going to be compared to peers Tim Barry of Avail and Dustin Kensrue of Thrice, who have similar acoustic folk projects. Another likely comparison is Lucero. The "just a post-punk man and his acoustic" category has become crowded (thank god Jason of None More Black and Nathan of Boysetsfire took different directions...), but Chuck is welcome to stay. Chuck's lyrics hold strong blue-collar convictions, very similar to Tim Barry's, and light religious undertones, very much like Kensrue's debut. "It's What You Will" is easily the best track on this disc, acting as a mission statement for Ragan's project.

Other highlights include the opener "The Boat," the harmonica-heavy "For Broken Ears," the blue-collar anthem "Do You Pray," the somber "The Grove," the happy and uplifting "Done and Done," the purely honest "Hearts of Stone," and the beautifully lo-fi "Hold My Bed," which features Austin Lucas. Also of note are two awesome covers--of Panthro UK United 13's "Sound of a Gun" and Leatherface's "Trenchfoot."

To be honest, there is absolutely nothing special about this release, besides the extreme honesty and great intimacy, but such elements are so prevalent that it makes this record great. It is a great companion to Chuck's Feast and Famine, showing the raw roots of those songs. There will always be someone who prefers the gloss of the full-length over these sessions, or vise versa, but I say love them both. This CD (or the records this CD represents) is worth tracking down if you love Lucero, Foundation, Tim Barry, Dustin Kensrue, acoustic Against Me! or similar folk-punk acts, or obviously Hot Water Music, or just beautifully honest singer-songwriter folk.