The first solo album from Role Models frontman Rich Ragany comes with a list of impressive help. For one thing there’s Gaff, once of The Glitterati (and how and why they never made it to be the biggest band in the world is beyond me!) and for another there’s Kris Rogers – who’s brilliant “Losing The Frequency” record made my top ten of last year and amongst the other band members is Simon Maxwell, who played drums in The Yo-Yo’s as well as The Role Models.
The band, then, is perfect if you want to create a digression – but in truth this album is more. It’s a full-on statement.
It begins in starkly gentle fashion compared to what you are used to from Ragany. “To The Sea” is a pop song, a shimmering, acoustic one, and one with an epic feel – but a pop song nonetheless. It is a fine introduction to the album, and the harmonies of Kit Swing are beautiful here, as they are throughout in truth.
“That World” is more akin to how you’d imagine a Ragany solo record to sound. More weatherbeaten perhaps, than his Role Models work, a little more personal, but by the time the loose-limbed solo hits, it is quite clear we are in the company of something special here.
“Your Distance” – and I’ve thought about this a lot – has a bit of a U2 flavour at the start, grandiose, without their pompousness, the title track is as uplifting as it is Stones-esque, it has a confidence, an inner belief – and here again the guitar work is something to behold.
“Lose With Me” is a prime example of the freedom Ragany has here to do what he likes. Country flavouring, but also with a jangly feel, it is reminiscent, perhaps, of the solo stuff of Paul Westerberg. Rogers keys take centre stage on The Faces-style romp of the highlight that is Scotty Thompson – and this one is going to sound mighty when the drinks flow on a Friday night at some gig somewhere.
It is interesting, in the context of the record that this one is about having no regrets and the follow-up of “Story Highway” underlines the vibe of the collection perfectly. “I’m here, I’ve arrived at the truth” he sings here, as if to underline that this is all as real as it could get.
“Hearts Souvenir” is the type of thing that gets called “Blue-Collar”, but rather more pertinently to this site is the fact that it gives me a chance to mention Ginger Wildheart’s solo stuff (Ragany has toured with Ginger, so it’s not much of a stretch) and the fact the organ work elevates this wonderfully
“Later Than It Is” – with its wonderfully catchy chorus – is probably the jewel in an already superb crown, with the last one, “Easy”, more or less bringing us full-circle. Occupying the same territory as the opener did, it is a study into the working man: “they give you a watch as they ask you to leave….” seems a key line and more, it proves there doesn’t always need to be light at the end of the tunnel.
“Like We’ll Never Make It” is a collection that, if it came from across the pond, would see the protagonist hailed as an Americana superstar, over here it is the work of a gifted songwriter and a fine band.