Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Now available on Vinyl. Chuck has pressed this session onto 10" vinyl, and we have a few copies. While supplies last, order the lossless version of this session for $12, and we'll ship you the vinyl too! Once your order is complete go to our Contact Us page and send us your order number and shipping address.
You can chisel a man down to many different configurations. You can chop that man up and leave him lingering in pieces, separated out into their distinctive elements - the cream where it belongs, the enamel to the center and the skin on the floor of the measuring device, heavier than thou. You can leave them all muscles or all brains, or all of whatever they've gone through their marked up lives to value the most. You can leave them with all features and poses or as a lump covered over with fancy clothing and jewelry, not to mention a multi-colored ink blotch - all that remains from the tattoos that covered their arms, legs and backs. You can carve a man down to the barest of cores, whittling away and off the fat and the excess, all of the material that's just for show, for the small advantages it might bring when he least expects it. This could leave a man shivering, exposed for all to witness, showing as either a chicken shit, a proud man of impeccable moral standards or someone in between, a wishy-washy bundle of water, guns, gums, teeth, beady eyes, body odor and snickers. Chuck Ragan, the former leader of Hot Water Music, is a man who can be proficiently boiled down to his elements and to a soul that will leave you with few remaining questions about him and that's not an indictment that he's easily solved. It's actually an indication of the exact opposite because there are foyers of subtext and thin pages of fine print built into that compact thing that he'd fight a bullet for, that SOUL of his, writ large in the most capital of letters. I read an interesting quote from author Jonathan Ames in the newest issue of Fader magazine last night that addresses the way that we structure our lives to be nothing short of a cast of thousands, saying, "I think we all lead more than just double lives, actually. We'd need file folders to organize all of our lives. We find places and points on which to agree - like language - but even that is faulty. When people say things to you like, 'I feel like you don't even know me!' it's usually because you really don't." So many people are like this, certainly, and Ragan digs into the minds and guts of these people for a good chunk of his lyrical content, but should a mirror be thrust in front of him, you'd see an all-American man who can build things with his bare hands, who sets an alarm clock for early morning hours to get some fishing in before the sun's come up, and who knows that inevitably, all lives have a bad ending. It's this "when we're dead and gone" portion of thought that Ragan doesn't get dragged into, but rather drags himself into time and again, finding it the most fascinating and consistently intriguing consideration for any man to bother with. It's in thinking about the final chapter of gasps that brings one to a place where bullshit and flimsiness aren't welcome, where there needs to be a decision made on what's going to be stood for and what kind of a person you want to be when all eyes are locked on you. The fire overtakes Ragan on his newest album, "Gold Country," as it's done often over the years, as it seems to have branded his throat with a darkened coating of sin or an eye for it. He sings about making pacts with the devil and making up in the morning missing a tongue. He sings about the diesel fuel that he puts in his vehicles that are meant to bring him home at the end of long hauls, long time gone. He sings about being affected by loved ones from afar and he seems to do all of this as a man that is never going to need to act as if this is a dress rehearsal for anything other than a very black hole in the ground with little leg room and no air to breathe. Ragan's goal is to make something out of this life and this soul that isn't going to be diminished into invisible fumes when he's no longer present. He is destined to prove that he was worth his blood.