Chuck Ragan

Los Feliz

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Even though Chuck Ragan put Hot Water Music on hold in 2005 to spend more time with family (effectively ending the band a year later), he couldn't stay away from music long and soon began writing his own material. Occasional shows got played, including an intimate one in front of "friends and neighbors" on February 19, 2007 at Tangiers in Los Feliz, California, which got recorded and released as Ragan's first proper solo album, Los Feliz. Manning himself with just an acoustic guitar and harmonica, Ragan easily showcases his talents as both a compelling songwriter and singer. Everything he has goes into this music and simple tracks like "Do You Pray," "Open Up and Wail" and the Hot Water Music cover "God Deciding" overflow with passion and sincere conviction. Especially with Los Feliz being a live album, listeners can't help but be drawn into Ragan's words, his distinctly gravel-coated voice hoarse with raw emotion and rough tenderness as he pours out songs so obviously close to his heart. Just like the solo material of Avail's Tim Barry, this is down-home fare that owes a lot to blue collar America and relies on the strength of Ragan's delivery much more so than the songs themselves. But that's not to say the songs can't stand alone because they easily can. And they're even occasionally given a slightly fuller sound thanks to the sporadic accompaniment on-stage by Ted Hutt (mandolin) and Jon Gaunt (fiddle). Ragan is having a great time -- you can hear him smiling through his words and feeding off the audience's energy -- but more so than his just being an engaging singer, Los Feliz shows Ragan simply as someone who plays music because that's what he loves to do and can't live without doing.

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