I often think a strong introduction to an album can make a huge difference to the listening experience, if you can sum up the character and sound of the band within a few seconds of the first song, you’re doing something right. I guess it harks back to the saying “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression” and as first impressions go, with Ragged Union’s five-track EP, you’re in for a treat.
The opening rasp of guitar, joined by steady pounding drums, puts you in mind of such rock giants as AC/DC or Def Leppard, before you know it you’re in the midst of a catchy chorus and guitar breaks. This is a world of Jack Daniels, denim, leather, motorcycles and regrettable one-night stands that seems to go hand in hand with rock. But to bunch these guys from Bristol with the tag of ‘guitar rock’ or ‘alt-country’ is to do them a disservice, there is more to this band than guitar solos and attitude. The songs are well written and well produced, this is a group of men knowing where and when to let their music take flight and when to tone it back to allow the music to breath, on second track ‘Here For You’ the music takes on a different mood and acts as a bridge between track one and middle track ‘Days Like These’ which sounds like a homage to the sunshine-friendly indie rock anthems of the 90’s which Stereophonics, Dodgy and Reef did so well. A special mention to should go out to the harmonica playing on this track, it fits perfectly with the mood of the song and is another example of how well thought out this collection of songs is.
Just when you think you’ve got the band sussed and you’re comfortable watching the sunset with your ‘Hog’ parked up a few feet away you’re transported into country territory, but this isn’t the cinema-friendly, Technicolor country of John Wayne, this is the grease, grime and stubble of a Clint Eastwood saloon, complete with straw on the floor, mud in your spurs and rattle snake percussion. Take a seat for a chugging, growling bass and that pounding drumbeat and enjoy the ride. Backing vocals, reminiscent of The Eagles, and a melody that Jon Bon Jovi will somewhere be kicking himself over adds up to the strongest song on the EP and there is still the final song to go… and this one calls for your cigarette lighter.
Again that first impression is vital and the song opens with an acoustic guitar letting you know it’s time to relax, the ride is nearly over, but, things are rarely that simple, and this isn’t a song simply bolted-on the end of the EP for the sake of having five songs instead of four and it holds it’s own, particularly in the middle eight and guitar solo, the backing vocals make a welcomed return and, with a final guitar note, the experience is over.
But of course, you could always just start the EP again… like I just have.
Reviewed by T Bebedor