Will & James Ragar

Will & James Ragar

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Texas duo Will & James Ragar's lone, self-titled album appeared in 1980, but instead of moving toward the big-production pop of the ‘80s, it feels very much like a product of the warmer, more organic ‘70s aesthetic. Initially, the album was released in a very limited edition on a tiny, private-press label, but the tireless, singer/songwriter-focused freaks at archivist boutique label Riverman Music have thankfully reissued it, so you don't have to fork out a couple of hundred bucks on eBay for one of the few extant vinyl copies. Good thing, too, because this is a gem of breezy, laid-back, ‘70s-style soft rock/pop with a gentle, folky feel and a hazy veneer of spacy, post-psychedelic open-endedness, lending the whole thing a cool, slightly stoned, Sunday-morning-after vibe.

Even if the Ragar brothers had released the album on a larger label and had a shot at more press attention and radio play, it seems unlikely that they would have made a much bigger splash; the soft rock market was starting to focus more on the blue-eyed soul flavor of Michael McDonald et al, eschewing the kind mellow, folk-derived sounds on offer here. Regardless, the Ragars' low-key vocal delivery, softly shuffling grooves, and folk/jazz/pop harmonic palette should hit a sweet spot for anyone with a weakness for the kind of sounds that acts like America, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and Bread made popular in the ‘70s. And two bonus tracks from a later session, with noticeably higher production values, prove that Will and James were more than just a one-shot act.

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