First off, folk is not my thing, but I do have a soft spot for singers singing their voices raw in a song. Music is about passion and nothing conveys that more than strained vocals. Chuck Ragan’s most recent album, Covering Ground, is a beautiful album, guided by his unmistakable raw voice, yet is very separate from his career in Hot Water Music. Ragan has stated that the songs on were written on the road and are about being on the road. That solitary reflective feeling of long stretches of highway driving from one show to the next at all hours of the night is conveyed in the undertone in each track. That intimate feeling that is evoked makes Covering Ground well suited for small venue where an intimate experience can be created for both the performer and audience.
Covering Ground is a testament to what an artist can do with an acoustic guitar and some heart. Though each song is carefully crafted, they all sound natural, as though it were created with jamming or on a late night in the van with his guitar. There are predominately three types of songs on Covering Ground , the acoustic rock of Nothing Left to Prove, Meet You in the Middle, and You Get What You Give; the folky Named By Fate and Come Around; and the quiet almost lullaby-esq Right as Rain and Lost Found. Each style having its own distinct merits, but most importantly it is the raw emotion that is the driving force behind the entire album.
Nothing Left to Prove is the first track on Covering Ground, and its moving cadence brings the audience right into not only the track but to the album. It is a calm track full of a simmering passion. Ragan pairs his gruff voice with a delicate string section, and adds backing vocals at precise moments to heighten the emotions in the song.
The third track, You Get What You Give, is the strongest on the album. It starts off with solid chords and provoking lyrics, “I shake when I walk” that instantly crawl into your body. There are beautiful moments of melody in the track, but its power lies in its build up. With each verse, the track continues to build within itself to a passionate crescendo of strained vocals that fills every inch of space around the listener. The emotion refuses to be constrained and the listener feel everything that Ragan put into writing it.
Ragan is one of those individuals who needs to create, he is an indeed an artist. Each of these tracks has its own elements that are in perfect balance with everything else that is going on in the track. From his voice, to cadence, to the rhyme scheme, to which instrument is in the foreground and which are in the background, it is all perfectly planned to give each element its own voice and give Covering Ground, a varied yet solidified sound.
Covering Ground may not be for fans of Hot Water Music, but Ragan’s solo career has fans of its own, ones who appreciate a more stripped down style music and do not feel constrained by conventional punk categories. For those fans, you will not be disappointed.