New ‘Ragwater’ CD Wrings Out the Rock ‘n’ Roll, Part One

I received a package in the mail the other day.

To my delight, it was the new CD from the Pagosa Springs band Ragwater. I immediately put it on the sound system and turned up the volume. And I assure you, kind reader, that these fine “local” musicians are no small town slouches, but giants in a field of mediocre pretenders; and I’m talkin’ nationwide. I’ve been wearing this CD out and can honestly say that this album of songs is choice, kick-ass Rock’n’Roll – world class!

First, The Review:

“Judgement Day” (Goss)
They started out by punching me in the gut just to get my attention. Instantly I actually felt like dancing – in fact, I got up and shook it several times during the sitting. A surge of energy washed over me that, regrettably, I haven’t felt in a long, long time. I was suddenly very alive without a care in the world. That’s the undeniable power of Rock’n’Roll, children! I knew that my Judgment Day was coming – but not so soon. Ragwater’s “Judgement Day,” like a shot of Jack, is the perfect song to get the party started.

“Be My Rider” (Rapp, Haas)
Who the hell is playing this righteous slide guitar? Could it be Chris Rapp? Damn. And Chris Haas’s voice shines like a highly polished barrel on a cocked .357 Magnum pointed right at the listener’s heart. I’ve known Haas for years and have heard him sing in several bands, but he has finally honed his gravelly voice into a sharp dagger. And he’s writing terrific lyrics these days. Bring it on my man! This number thumps along like a throaty Harley.

“Mountain Top” (Goss, Rapp, Haas & Riojas: Notice the double letters and rhymes?)
A lone mandolin (Glenn Goss) calls the mountain people to order high above the treeline. They chant “go sing it on the mountain top!” Great background vocals with a full cadre of Appalachian singers punching it out. When Miro’s solid drums kick in, the groove is established and never falters. Later in the tune the heady guitar lead fades down to reintroduce the airy mandolin strain over the drums. This is rocking tribal music that makes me want to be a part of the lusty and jubilant tribe. This song – like all the tunes on this hard-driving album – is chock-full of dynamics and musical substance. I’m impressed.

“Shiver” (Rapp, Haas)
From the mountain top down to the river, this CD continues its magical and gratifying sojourn through strange and sometimes awe inspiring territory. The cool guitar and keyboard leads by Chris Rapp take us on a grand tour of this soul-scape created by sophisticated composing and ‘star quality’ performing. I love the sprinkling of female background vocals (Gabriella Beckford & Jameelah Leaundra) like ground Cayenne Pepper spicing up a Hard Rock feast. Very tasty indeed.

“Out Of My Hands” (Goss, Rapp, Haas, Riojas)
Pro drummer Miro LaGioia and talented bassist Rick Riojas set-up a wicked 12/8 groove that is delightfully relentless. (By the way, Miro is the ‘drum tech’ for the world-touring band Morrissey, and is on the road a good part of the time.) The song threads its way through a labyrinth of tricky passages and finally, at the end of the adventure, gets you home safe and sound. Nice work, gentlemen.

“Lately Baby” (Rapp, Goss, Haas, Riojas, LaGioia)
The whole band had a hand in writing this straight-ahead rocker. I really like the choruses with the octaves on the harmony, reminiscent of many Stones songs, as well as the haunting melodies on verses. Solid and raw, this sexy tune rocks me back to the sixties – complete with a nice ‘freak out’ in the middle of the frenzy. I love it. Then there’s a funky break-down with a neat drum solo with trades. Go ahead. Dance your ass off!

“Distraction” (Rapp, Haas)
A nicely crafted song in a minor mode seemingly inspired by the mad ghost of Edgar Allan Poe. Rapp’s honky tonk piano sets a misty mood and prepares the listener for the black magic to come. And there go those sultry sirens singing beautiful arias from Rock’n’Roll heaven. Mr. Haas sings the listener into a weird trance. (Remind me never to drop acid with these guys…)

“That’ll Be Just Fine” (Rapp, Haas)
Rapp and Haas went down to the bones with this one. They’ve written a simple ‘1-4-5’ song with simple lyrics that is simply delicious. Lyrics inspired by the midnight specter of the late, great Jim Morrison. This song is one of my favorites. Its a rocker with clever words and strong, time-tested hooks. A fun song that makes you want to celebrate with lots of wine and women; and maybe – after the show – wreck a motel room.

“24 Years” (Rapp, Goss)
Some more of their novel “tribal music,” bluesy, folksy, and hip all at once. “How did they do that”? Pure, unadulterated genius. That’s how. This tune has a certain stateliness that Chaucer may have imagined, with mead halls and majesty. But nobody rocked like this back in jolly old England, that’s for sure.

“Red Ruby” (Rapp, Goss, Haas, Riojas, LaGioia)
Another favorite. The whole band of sorcerers concocted this little magic potion. But I’m not afraid to drink the Kool-Aid, dude. In fact, I chugged it! They ask, lyrically speaking: “Would you like to fly with me?” Man, I’m flyin’ high right now.

“Help Myself” (Rapp, Haas)
The last song is “right in your face.” Sexual in nature, demanding and raw, it makes me rise to the occasion. I want to dance with the sexiest woman in the place and lose myself in the moment. (Check out the great Hammond B-3 in the background on this tune and others. That’s my pal Ryan McCurry.)

The more one listens to this album of finely crafted tunes, the more one appreciates the intricacies and nuance displayed throughout the whole production. Kudos to engineer Scott “Scooter” Smith for a recording that is both crystal clear and punchy – quite listenable. (Speaking as a drummer myself, the drum mix is excellent!) It is truly a world class accomplishment.

The players of Ragwater are musical warriors with swords drawn, but they bare their hearts openly for all to know.

You can hear the 11 songs, and purchase them, here at iTunes.  The album is also available through CDBaby.

Read Part Two: ‘The Interview’…

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DC Duncan

DC has been a frustrated musician for over forty years, and now has decided to become a frustrated writer. Learn more at DCDuncan.com. He’ll keep you posted.