One listen to Feast Or Famine, and it is undeniable that the deep, gruff voice that once screamed powerful punk anthems belongs to none other than Chuck Ragan. The former Hot Water Music frontman has become a musical troubadour, writing stripped-down acoustic songs that retain the same passion evident in his punk rock career. Feast or Famine, his debut studio album for SideOneDummy, beautifully captures the sound of a gifted singer/songwriter as he journeys into the next chapter of his musical life, with an acoustic guitar in hand.
"I think this is the most mature material that I've ever been able to do," says Ragan. "I've gotten a little older and while I had a blast with all the yelling and the sweating and falling off the stage, this is who I am right now."
Teaming up with producer Ted Hutt (Bouncing Souls, Flogging Molly), the laid-back recording process took place with close friends including Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio), Jolie Holland, Jon Gaunt, Matt Hensley, Tim Barry (Avail), Nathan Maxwell (Flogging Molly) and James Fearnley (The Pogues). The album also displays Ragan's remarkable musical talents with him playing the harmonica, lap steel and both acoustic and electric guitars.
"I had fun playing all sorts of old instruments on the record and I think we achieved a pretty full sound from the trashcan to the pipe wrench," Ragan says with a laugh, "I was also very blessed to have some really awesome people contribute to this record."
Feast or Famine at its core is a folk record in the most traditional sense of the term. Each song stands alone and yet molds together to take the listener on a melodic journey. The violin-driven "Do You Pray" is startlingly reminiscent to Bruce Springsteen's tribute to Pete Seeger in We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions; "Don't Cry," evokes the spirit of Hot Water Music in a new context that recalls Uncle Tupopo; and the austere "Symmetry" makes you feel as if you are in the studio with Ragan.
"I love the fact that the record is such a ride," says Ragan, "it goes from bluesy, kicking-up-dust kind of porch music to slower more intimate love songs."
On Feast or Famine Ragan returns to music's roots and captures a time when creating an album was not about Pro Tools and modifications, but instead about songwriting and talent. As the next chapter in his musical career begins, Ragan could not be more excited about his endeavors.