Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Oh, there's a lot more going on in Ragged Claws songs than just words and notes and even those words and notes aren't just quick scribbles upon the backs of napkins, but calculated storylines and sweltering, beehive-like tension that breaks free like a cooked egg yolk, crookedly flooding the plate at the right moment of punctuation. And at other times, it just stands there, or hangs there, like a ripening cocoon of something fairly dooming or evil, or just perceived to be evil, which is often just as bad or better - if you will. The songs come off as dusty, wrinkled caterpillars, but they're really treacherous tales of death and depression, life's many little disasters, and they're laid out here behind the spare folk, grandpa instruments that will turn these various sorrows into the lilting and haunting poetry that is becoming for a black veil, a widow or a widower. It's music of great loss, or it's at least disguised as such, one big wet tear slipping down over a cheek and onto the dirt below. Chicago's Ragged Claws are the kind of a band that would play its songs in rooms with dirt floors, buildings with no indoor plumbing or running water and with only a wood-burning stove for all of the heating tasks. It's a place that would constantly smell of a pasture, a horse barn and a dry forest burning to the ground. And maybe bread baking or a piping hot fruit pie. Paul Karner and Kimberly Sutton cast a shadowy air over everything they sing and play, making it feel as if it's music from the grave - not necessarily music from someone already buried underneath the ground, but coming from someone visiting the gravesite or the marker where a loved one is now resting forever. They are songs coming from the mouth of someone clutching some lingering anger, lingering fear and disappointment and a bouquet of flowers that they'll leave behind on the cold and wet earth - a token for the late loved one to feel heavy on their decomposing chest as they lie there. Ragged Claws make the kind of folk music that isn't sung in the round, passed down through the generations as something comforting to coo lightly in times of need - it holds few strengthening, upholding powers - but it does lead us to those stuck together pages of photo albums, the members of the family that don't get talked about as much now and the various things that they did with their lives, forgotten as if they accomplished very little in their many decades. They bring us to the stories that have stopped being told or never were because they were either classified as deep and dark secrets or something even worse. Sometimes people don't talk about their fears enough and sometimes songwriters don't feel remorse for the wives of old sea captains and barbarians who ultimately were bad people, but still had families of their own and died in gristly, heinous ways. These are the stories that Ragged Claws would very much like you to bring into your home and entertain for a dimly lit evening.