Whammo! Look who’s back with a new shiny spinning disc of musical meanderings for your perusal. If you read the hallowed pages of Uber Rock back in the day, you’ll probably be aware of the name Rich Ragany. Affectionally known as Rags to all and sundry, you may remember him from such class acts as The Loyalties and The Role Models, and more recently with his band The Digressions. Well, the Calgary born and New York bred singer/songwriter, who has lived in London for enough years now to be considered a local, has cast aside his trusty telecaster, strapped on an acoustic guitar and he’s riding that steel horse into town all on his lonesome.

Don’t worry, Rags hasn’t gone all Bon Jovi on us just yet, but his debut solo album ‘You Can Get Dark With Me’ is a more stripped-back, singer/songwriter affair than his previous works. On offer we have 10 tracks recorded in various settings, including his own bathroom! Produced by Andy Brooke and Russell Broom and featuring Ken Mochikoshi-Horne of The Bronx playing guitar on first single ‘A Pleasant Fiction’, as well as fellow digression Kit Swing providing backing vocals.

Opener ‘Empty and Free’ sets the scene nicely. This is the sounds of The Lords Of The New Church and The Replacements jamming out in some forgotten Tarantino spaghetti western. The vibes are anthemic and upbeat from the off, with a trademark Rags melody that will embed itself right in the brain. Guitar lines jangle and intertwine before the dulcet vocals reverberate through the speakers.

First single ‘A Pleasant Fiction’ follows. Featuring the guitar talents of The Bronx man Ken Mochikoshi-Horne, it’s an album highlight for sure. The verse creates a certain drama, again the alternative 80’s are strong with this one, I’m getting early Hanoi meets Japan vibes, are you with me?

The title track came about after a 3 a.m. heart-to-heart with longtime friend and former Amen/Wildhearts bassist Scott Sorry. This is classic balladmongery, with Rags enticing the listener with heartfelt melodies, the juxtaposition of Kit’s vocal accompaniment then gives a silken, dreamy edge to the raspiness. A blood-on-blood tale that gives a sense of longing and vulnerability that we have not seen from this artist before. ‘Sierra Bonita’ is the surprise twist of the album. With pulsing electronica and skulking verses, it has early 80’s new wave vibes, coming on like Billy Idol or prime, drug-ravaged Depeche Mode at their best.

Elsewhere the likes of ‘Reach Out’ and We’re Alive Anyway’ break out the tinkling ivories where the singer is full of nostalgia and hope. And ‘The Great Nothing’ continues the dark and foreboding Lords alternative 80’s theme.

He’s had his ups and downs the past few years, but Rags is still aiming for that guitar shaped swimming pool with ‘You Can Get Dark With Me’. It harks back to the days of those Role Models albums, there seems to me a whole heap of nostalgia and soul searching going on here, and if you were dragged up on a diet of Hanoi, The Lords and The Dogs, then you will fall in love with the sonic tapestries created within this album.

There’s a diverse and rich set of tunes that somehow sound familiar after just a few listens, which is always a good indicator of a top-ten album contender come the end of the year.

Rich Ragany has laid his heart on his sleeve and poured his soul out on ‘You Can Get Dark With Me’, so the least you can do is return the favour and pick up a cheap alternative to that Replacements box set you’ll never afford.

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Author: Ben Hughes