It’s been a long time coming. That’s not a phrase I’d normally use when talking about a new album from Rich Ragany, the Canadian singer/songwriter who between 2015 – 2017 released three superb records with his then band the Role Models before in 2019 releasing his debut solo record the also most excellent ‘…Like We’ll Never Make It’. A record which in turn helped pave the way to this, his latest band venture with The Digressions. Prolific really should be Rich’s middle name, and if he’d had his way 2020 probably would have seen the release of his first album written with his new band…but then a little something got in the way of things. So, as the world at large felt like it was grinding to halt, Rich seized the opportunity with both hands to make his most idiosyncratic record to date.
Just listen to what the man had to say when asked to describe the dozen tracks he and his bandmates have come up with for ‘Beyond Nostalgia & Heartache’ and you can hear the confidence he exudes right now…
“This album means so much to us … it’s about finding strength and celebrating life throughout heartbreak and loss. The cyclical renewal in life. The acceptance of love and joy, despite the bruises. The shards of sunlight cutting through the hangover drapes. Hope you like it… we loved making it. “
Normally when I’m chatting with Rich on social media it’s about our mutual love of obscure NWOBHM bands and what he does as a day job kind of takes a backseat, but here (for once) he’s only talking about the day job and how much he loves what he’s doing with the Digressions.
He’s got very good reason to love his band too, not only because with Gaff and Kit Swing on guitars, Simon Maxell on drums, Ricky McGuire on bass and (producer) Andy Brook on keyboards it’s probably the most diverse, yet cohesive, set of musicians Rich has ever worked with, but also because ‘Beyond Nostalgia & Heartache’ is without doubt his finest hour yet as a songwriter/storyteller. Yes, of course the punk rock influences of his past are still very much there at the bedrock of it all, but with ‘Beyond Nostalgia & Heartache’ Rich has transcended the bravado of those much-treasured Role Models albums, and the tenderness of his solo venture to come out the other side of the global pandemic sounding like he’s discovered himself as a writer all over again.
With that in mind, I’m actually not going to skip from track to track here, as ‘Beyond Nostalgia & Heartache’ is an album in the most traditional of senses, one that demands you listen to it from start to finish. From the soaring ‘Sometimes You Can Hear The Voices’ with its glorious mid song coda and Ronson-esque guitar work through the joyous lead single ‘Heartbreakers Don’t Cry’ to almost doo-wop vibe of ‘This Is How You Spell Tonight’ this record is Rich Ragany & the Digressions truly seizing their moment, and in turn releasing the definitive Canadicana record.
When RPM’s head honcho Dom Daley tempted a few of us old Uber Rockers out of retirement to once again write about new music, it was (for me at least) all about being able to enthuse about albums like this. Ones that come at you from slightly left of field and in the process leave you breathless. I mean I can probably count on one hand the albums I own with a banjo on them, but that number will be doubled once I get my pre-ordered red vinyl record of ‘Beyond Nostalgia & Heartache’ through the post in late August and you only have to hear the awesome ‘Fade In Blue’ once to fully understand what I’m on about here.
What makes ‘Beyond Nostalgia & Heartache’ such an essential record for yours truly is the strength in depth that comes with repeated listens (that’s why picking out single tracks feels like such a crime), and with the added vocals of Kit Swing Rich has finally found the perfect counterpoint from which to hang his superglue strength melodies. Once heard, never forgotten, ‘Beyond Nostalgia & Heartache’ is the definitive soundtrack to 2021 an album chock full of musical twists and turns that will live long after we have all left this planet, and that folks really is the mark of a truly great record.
Pre-orders for ‘Beyond Nostalgia & Heartache’ are open now via the link below, and as Shades Records once used to proudly say in all their ads…this one really is BUY OR FOAD!!!!
Author: Johnny Hayward