“One minute he’s shouting his songs at the heavens, and the next he’s serenading the listener with soft and sweet ballads.”
If there was one man I could live my life vicariously though, it would be Chuck Ragan. I mean, the guy’s awesome: He tours the world relentlessly, he’s built houses and has a voice that can charm the birds from the trees. Thankfully, there needs to be no voodoo nonsense involved for me to achieve my dream. All I have to do is throw on one of his albums and I’m there, chopping down trees and beating up bad guys.* This trend continues with Covering Ground, with one slight difference, it’s better than anything else he’s put out.
That’s not to say his past releases haven’t been good either. Feast Or Famine helped to establish Chuck’s signature style, Gold Country improved on the formula yet again, and Covering Ground does the same again. These incremental improvements have helped to create an album that rivals any other release this year. However, it still remains consistent with the rest of the Chuck’s back catalog and, from the opening chord of the opening song, there’s no doubt that this record is one of his. If that doesn’t let you know, then I think his voice might just give it away.
Chuck’s gruff, yet soulful, voice is better than ever. His gravelly vocal style never fails to impress me, especially as there’s so much range on each of his records. That’s especially prevalent on Covering Ground. One minute he’s shouting his songs at the heavens, and the next he’s serenading the listener with soft and sweet ballads. You don’t often get that kind of range on a record. Chuck’s also managed to compliment his vocals with those of his friends. Frank Turner and Audra Mae help to provide backing vocals, as does Brian Fallon. The Gaslight Anthem frontman plays a prominent role on ‘Meet You In The Middle’ – one of my favorite tracks from the album – his and Chuck’s vocals working really well together.
As always Chuck is joined by a plethora of instrumentalists, all of whom help to make this album what it is. Though all of those featured play an important part, Jon Gaunt is especially impressive here, his fiddle work adding that distinctive ‘country’ element to Chuck’s work that’s been a feature of each of his solo releases. His solo on ‘Nomad By Fate’ is infections and has me jigging as soon as I hear it. It’s clear that everyone plays an integral part on this record and, honestly, it wouldn’t be half as good without them.
Anyone who says you can’t be passionate with an acoustic guitar needs to take a listen to this record: Albums like this are the definition of the word. Chuck has outdone himself again. Covering Ground holds some of his best work, and there’s no doubt that this release is his best to date. If you’re a Chuck Ragan fan, it’s nothing new. Regardless, you won’t walk away disappointed.
*It’s unproven whether Chuck has actually beaten up bad guys but, let’s face it, he probably has. I know he’s chopped down a tree though.