Photo by Trevor Johnston

This week has been a busy one. Working overtime at my 9-5 all in preparation for a 15 minute meeting in Banff. So after 2 days of pretty much airplanes, airports and meeting rooms, I was happy to come home and do something that would balance this crazy week out. I had been a little stressed to say the least so Jordan surprised me with something he knew would make me happy – tickets to see Chuck Ragan!

I had heard of Chuck Ragan from being a lead singer in the band Hot Water Music, but didn’t think anymore of him when the band went separate ways in 2006. Skip to 2009 when my main squeeze and I painted our new home to the sounds of this gritty country rock record. Before the first song was over my obvious question was “who is this!?” It was Chuck Ragan – his solo stuff. Needless to say that record played through painting the bedroom, bathroom and living room.

Here is a very brief musical history of Chuck Ragan. Former lead singer of Hot Water Music from Florida. Had a folk inspired side project called Rumbleseat with fellow lead singer Chris Wollard and Bitchin’ frontwoman Samantha Jones. The side project formed in 1998, but didn’t release their first and only album until 2005. He started his solo effort in 2007 after HWM disbanded and has been touring extensively for the albums.


Ok, it’s 2am and I need to be at afformentioned job in 6 hours, but I just got home from Chuck Ragan’s show at The Casbah and these fingers couldn’t wait to hit the keyboard. I need to gush about this night before it’s lost in dreams.

Chuck Ragan just re-energized a girl who thought work was getting to her. Sharing songs of hard work, sacrifice, reward and loss. Ragan is the king of the working class – and living in a city where steel is our main industry and hardwork isn’t an option, it’s a way of life – you could say his songs struck a chord tonight.

He shared the stage with Joey Turner and Jer Widerman who definielty held their own, playing great acoustic sets. We missed most of Joey but caught the end of what I’m sure was an amazing set. Jer pleasured us with his brand of Hill-billy rock that could have been the soundtrack to a Wild West duel. Well done sir.

Next was Dave Hause who is a fellow punk rock veteran and has the pipes to prove it. His voice filled the Casbah like it was an empty church – so loud, yet so precise. I have to admit that I had never heard of Dave, but that didn’t stop my ears from taking notice. I liked what I heard and was waiting for more – I’ll have his new album Resolutions on repeat for sure.

But something that was just as entertaining as his music, was Dave himself. I think most of us know how intimidating a crowd can be. If you’ve ever had to give a speech, you know the look of a sea of blank stares, but Dave won their approval with funny anecdotes and crowd banter. Even the drunk guy who’s wife was about to have a baby was embraced by these guys and congratulated instead of mocked.

Dave Hause – Meet Me at The Lanes
Dave Hause – Meet Me At The Lanes

Then there was Chuck. Oh Chuck, our manly man with the whiskey soaked voice and bear-paw hands – you made us happy tonight.

While playing songs from his vast catalogue of songs written by himself and former band Hot Water Music (who is reuniting and playing Toronto this week) Chuck managed to cover songs from Alkaline Trio, Canadian treasure Northcote and even a song about the life of a coal miner, taught to him by Hazel Dickens.

Northcote – Worry
Northcote – Worry

Chuck was accompanied by Jon Gaunt on the fiddle and Joe Ginsburg on the stand up bass and they were such a treat to watch. With their beards, duster mustaches and plaid shirts, I felt like I was at a 1930s bonfire in an old train yard, after a hard days work and these guys were my co-workers and entertainment. It was that honest. These instruments were the perfect compliment to Chuck’s hard edge – proving his raspiness is capable of much more than his punk rock past.

This was my favourite kind of show. The ones where I am giddy off the talent of others and appreciate their abilites so much that I don’t care that I am at a loss for words because the experience is burned in my brain – and even though I can’t share what I keep locked in my memory, its my gift from an artist, and mine to keep.

Chuck is a guy that needs to be witnessed. I could blab all day long about the feeling I felt in my gut as my heart pounded and the burning in my eyes as he sang about missing his dear wife while she left on a train, but this is a guy who you need to experience in the flesh to truly appreciate.

Chuck Ragan – Rotterdam
Chuck Ragan – Rotterdam

A musician who will have beers with fans at the bar and play until it feels right to stop, even though its 1:30am on a Sunday is a treat and a rarity, so keep this in mind next time Chuck rolls through your town.

A big thanks to Chuck, Dave, Joe, Jon, Jer and Joey for putting on a show that felt as much like watching friends jam as it did witnessing greatness.

Fellow Canadians, if you missed Chuck in Hamilton, he is playing the El Mocambo in Toronto on June 15th for NXNE. Enough said. Good Night.

* If you are a member or manager of the above band and you would like your track removed, please contact us and we will swiftly oblige. Fans – new or old – please support these bands by using your coffee money to buy their records.