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HomeMusicRich Ragany | You Can Get Dark With Me | Album review

Rich Ragany | You Can Get Dark With Me | Album review


Rich Ragany: You Can Get Dark With Me

(Via Barrel and Squidger Records)

CD | DL

Out 14th June 2024

PRE-ORDER HERE

As the dust finally settles on the Digressions, a band who produced three great albums as they rode the crest of an underground rock’n’roll wave, ring leader Rich Ragany now focuses on a new solo career with debut album You Can Get Dark With Me. It’s a collection of songs which are up close, personal and thought-provoking in equal measures as vibrant rhythms and uplifting melodies take us on a captivating and soul-searching journey into darker times and hopefully brighter skies ahead.

Following the announcement in March 2024 that Rich Ragany and the Digressions were finally turning their amps off after three magnificent albums and a whole series of incendiary live shows, all of which paid due respect to some of the finest influences you may ever wish to hear, it appeared that the next chapter had already been written with Rich taking that bold step into a new solo career. And so it proved as the Canadian born front man and singer songwriter now releases his debut solo album, You Can Get Dark With Me.

As Rich forged his own path from his early roots in Calgary, then finding his rock’n’roll mantra in New York before heading over to London where he has now resided for a considerable period of time, he has long since been regarded as one of rock’n’roll’s trailblazers, with his songwriting for the likes of The Role Models, The Loyalties and the Digressions always drawing on classic, yet often eclectic, influences. Throughout this time, he has developed some serious rock’n’roll credentials whilst always having a  focus on soaring melodies and anthemic choruses within songs which have a real heart and soul at their core. And this fine legacy most definitely continues as he starts this new chapter through this emotive, soul-searching and more stripped-down collection of songs.

Rich has long been held in the very highest esteem within rock’n’roll circles and, as he has consistently fused together a magnificent blend of influences from his punk roots, through power-pop, rock’n’roll and all things Americana, it is this collective wealth of experience from those around Rich that always ensure a stellar output. As he now goes forward in this solo capacity, attention is very much focused on himself and his more acoustically based arrangements. However, he is ably supported by Simon Maxwell on drums and percussion, Ricky McGuire on bass and a whole load of other contributions from producers Andy Brook and Russell Broom together with Maddie Lee and former Digression Kit Swing. And what this album proves is that it is the quality of his songwriting which shines through once again to deliver a classic harmony infused rock’n’roll statement.

Rich explains the background to the album as follows, “After the big dramatic production of The Digressions’ albums I wanted to create something more personal, a world of its own, so I decided to deconstruct to reconstruct. Every song is a mix of home recording, from the first day of writing each song, and proper studio stuff, to keep a real personal ‘straight from the moment of inspiration’ feel but have a sonically and emotionally expanded spirit as well.”

Empty And Free opens up the album with a pulsing bass and a vocal style which harnesses that classic Stiv Bators drawl, all of which nod heavily back to the likes of Lords of the New Church who sound-tracked my life through the 1980’s. It’s also a song which highlights the sonic shift from the hard driving rock’n’roll pitch towards a lighter feel to the music, with an even stronger focus on the melody. This is guitar-based pop at its finest and a song which immediately makes you feel uplifted. This in itself seems to align with its underlying narrative of how living with trauma can actually create a sense of freedom for you to go out there and express yourself in the best way that you can.

A Pleasant Fiction was the first single to be lifted from the album and features the guitarist from The Bronx and long-term friend, Ken Mochikoshi-Horne. It’s a song with a more gritty and edgy feel about it, focusing on the dark subject of addiction but still drawing out an anthemic chorus line which feels more like a pathway to hope and survival. As Rich explains, “It’s a song about addiction and where it leaves the person struggling through it. Where it leaves that person’s loved ones. How emotionally both parts of the experience are very close in the emotional landscape. The attempts of chasing the horrors away, while struggling to embrace the foundations desperately needed, while maybe being chased away by others. The musical backdrop gives a strut and hope, with an uplifting and tough melody to embrace the idea that sometimes singing or sharing your life, reaching out, can give one the strength to stand again. There’s hope.”

Title track You Can Get Dark With Me provides a strong centre point for the album having been inspired by a late night conversation with a friend focused very much on life’s ongoing challenges. Starting off with a bright and airy feel leading onto some beautiful vocal harmonies with Maddie Lee, it’s a gorgeous yet melancholy ballad whose sound belies the harsh realities set within the narrative, whilst still emerging at the end of it all with a sense of positivity about the future if you have the right people around you to provide much needed support. Notably, the song has since been included in a feature film titled “How We Ended Us” that has been showcased in International Film Festivals from Canada to Berlin.

Sierra Bonita has a more reflective feel, being a song born out of admiration for a friend’s strength in the face of extreme adversity in a relationship. Driven by a metronomic beat its vibe takes a sidestep almost into the world of electronica whilst still featuring a guitar solo which so easily lifts your spirits. The sense of self-reflection and nostalgia continues through Tragic Celebration and Reach Out with the endearing and heart-wrenching vocals in the latter at least offering some hope through trying to focus on “something to believe in.”

The Great Nothing has a more vibrant and stirring melody and wrapped up with another rousing chorus which is nonetheless symptomatic of a troubled mind as Rich sings “can you feel the darkness in the light” and “I can see the void in our universe tonight.” Another moving and inspiring tale recognising that even when surrounded by darkness, there is still a chance that some positive light may emerge. Meanwhile, the grand and almost operatic opening of Shine Around Me has a distinctly Ian Hunter style vibe and as “tears shine around me”, it’s clear there is still a desperate search to find a brighter and more meaningful way forward in life.

Rich Ragany - pic by Louise Phillips
Photo credit: Louise Phillips

The piano led intro to We’re Alive Anyway gives it an almost country style feel before the songs reverts more to type. At least Rich here has a more positive outlook on the future which shines through the uplifting chorus line. Worth proves a powerful and almost autobiographical close to the album as it seems to plunder the ups and downs thrown at us through life, whilst trying to fashion a more positive outlook on what we have achieved through having more belief in yourself and living right in the moment and not always in the past. The obvious analogy here is how tough life can be in a band but at the end of the day, and certainly in the case of Rich, writing and performing is something he loves to do. Through this song he really does offer some perspective which is something that should be fashioned by yourself through a strong sense of self-worth and not through other people who really do not understand.

As a songwriter who has always worn his heart on his sleeve, Rich once again plunders some dark and emotional depths through this album with narratives that will certainly resonate with those in need of some degree of support, friendship or reassurance. But whilst it focuses on sombre and thought-provoking messages, the rich melodies which course through the veins of each of the songs give the album such an uplifting feel, leaving you with an album that you will want to return to over and over again.

As each song passes, you get a real sense that you are getting to know a little more about the man behind the microphone and guitar, his struggles in life and also those around him that he both loves and admires. It’s an up close and personal deep dive into his psyche to get some understanding as to what drives him forward, thereby making it all the more powerful and captivating.

As Rich so aptly put it when he announced the demise of the Digressions, “it was a beautiful, gorgeous thing.” And now with the release of You Can Get Dark With Me, the legacy continues to build with this outstanding solo album which has the ability to transport you to places in your mind you never even knew existed. Truly an album of deep emotive feelings and wonderful uplifting melodies which will always hold a special place in my heart. As well as being Louder Than War’s ALBUM Of THE WEEK, this is already a strong contender as one of my albums of the year.

To coincide with the release of the album, Rich Ragany has a couple of album release parties lined up as follows:
March 3rd – Huddersfield, The Parish (tickets here)
March 4th – London, The Black Heart (tickets here)

You can pre-order the album here.

You can find Rich Ragany on Facebook.

~

All words by Ian Corbridge. You can find more of his writing at his author profile here.

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