Chuck Ragan

Chuck Ragan Biography

Good-intentioned philosophers may try to boil life down to one universal truth or “secret,” but they’re missing the point. Ultimately, life is composed of so many experiences, emotions and relationships that it’s impossible to break it down like a chemical compound. Chuck Ragan has always understood that dichotomy, whether he was screaming over buzzing guitars in Hot Water Music or pouring his heart out over a bed of acoustic instrumentation as he does these days. Ultimately, the one constant in Ragan’s music is the way it personifies life’s beauty and struggles with equal aplomb.

Recorded on February 19 in Los Feliz, California, Los Feliz captures a very spontaneous performance of songs in a setting that isn’t contrived or overly scrutinized. “We set up the show and played it a week later,” Ragan explains about the impromptu performance, which spans everything from traditional songs to a HWM track to previously unreleased solo material and even a few covers. “A lot of good friends came out and played and a lot of people showed up and showed their support,” he continues, “it was nothing but good fun.”

Although Ragan’s debut studio album will be out later this year, he’s always had a soft spot in his heart for live recordings. “I love the spontaneity of live performances and I always end up doing something differently, even after the song has been recorded.” Ragan explains. “Depending on the environment or the crowd, everything you’re faced with when you go out and play a show affects the way you sound,” he continues. “Plus, I love that rawness that you can’t really achieve in the studio.”

Ragan is occasionally accompanied by Ted Hutt on mandolin and Jon Gaunt on fiddle on Los Feliz, but for the most part it’s just him in the spotlight, armed with an acoustic guitar, harmonica and an instantly recognizable voice that recalls vintage Springsteen doused with Jameson. In fact, whether he’s delicately crooning on the eerie ballad “The Boat” or continuing the folk tradition of songwriters like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger on call-to-arms tracks like “For Broken Ears,” Ragan is as much a storyteller as he is a songwriter, setting life’s triumphs and failures to guitar chords and melodies.

“This is the most prolific I’ve felt in a long time,” Ragan explains when asked why he felt it was important to get this live record out to his fans who weren’t at the show. “I have this thing where if I write something I have to record it—and at that point I can kind of move on, you know what I mean?” Ragan spends most of his day cutting wood and doing contracting work, yet somehow “between getting off work and waiting for the chicken to cook,” he found time to write 30 songs for his forthcoming album, a handful of which are included on Los Feliz in their rawest and most stripped-down form.

“The recording came out well and there’s a really good energy in the room; you can hear everyone and they’re all happy and excited to be there,” he adds, palpably excited. “It sounds exactly like what I remember it to be.”

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