Ragged Union released their new album Round Feet, Chrome Smile recently. It has nine tracks, mostly written by Geoff Union. The band are from Boulder County, Colorado, formed about ten years ago. I need to make this point pedantically for UK readers to highlight that it would otherwise be easy to find yourself looking at/listening to the Bristol band of the same name who were formed about the same time. (This is not hypothetical).
To the job in hand. Round Feet, Chrome Smile is a cheery mix of an album. I suspect it’s never been scientifically tested, but you can’t be down when you’re listening to bluegrass. The title track opens the album and is a lively traditional bluegrass song, as is the wonderfully named ‘How Tall Does My Bluegrass Grow’. There are also a couple contemporary bluegrass tracks, ‘Lazy Ol’ Daddy’ and ‘Way Up Here’ – both instrumentals – the latter written by the fiddler Rebekah Durham and musician/producer Elio Schiavo. There’s limited supporting information with the album, but both of these appear to be central to the wider band.
The set of songs on the album is much richer, though, than a pure bluegrass collection. I think my favourites are the ones the band describe as “Progressive/Jam”: the rolling melody of ‘Mirror Lake’; the tale and the playing of ‘Somebody Call the Doctor’; and, especially, ‘Down Along the River’, which opens like a classical piece aligned to something CS&N might have inspired, before it progresses into a steadily developing Americana-ish track, which keeps returning to these early musical themes. Lovely writing and playing.
The other tracks on the album are a country folkish track, ‘Sweet Annie’ and a John Hartford cover, ‘Hooter Thunkit’ (say it out loud). The whole makes Round Feet, Chrome Smile an album which feels like it may have grown out of a bluegrass tradition but is rather more than that.
You see the tightness of playing on the official video of ‘Somebody Call The Doctor’ below – and as an added bonus you get to see the glories of the Colorado countryside.
Artist’s website: https://raggedunionbluegrass.com
‘Somebody Call The Doctor’ – official video: