For most of us the phrase Gold Country evokes memories of the 49ers who flocked to California by boat and covered wagon in order to seek fortune for themselves and their families. Chuck Ragan’s latest disc may be coming out a few lifetimes after the gold rush of the mid-nineteenth century, however there’s a timeless quality to the album that embodies the hope and hard work that helped define that period in the American consciousness. That has a lot to do with the fact that there’s nothing preconceived about Gold Country. It’s simply the sound of a talented songwriter doing what his kind has been doing for centuries: playing simple songs alongside a close group of friends not for hope of financial gains, but because he literally has no other choice.
“We recorded the record at Flying Whale Studio up on this six acre mining claim called Arrowhead Mines. It’s an old local mine that was pretty well known back in the day,” Ragan explains. “The record is just another page in the book and another chapter in life and it’s documenting where we are in that moment of time. Right now Gold Country is what I’ve lived for, everything I’ve worked to achieve and hold sacred and everything I strive to get home to.” Ragan knows a thing or two about paying his dues: since the early nineties he’s co-fronted the legendary punk act Hot Water Music and over the past few years he’s released a string of well-received solo acoustic efforts in the spirit of fellow folk troubadours like Steve Earle and Pete Seeger.
The revival of the four-square rock band continues apace. There's Mona, Brother, the Vaccines, and now Sharks, who are as revivalist as they come. Unlike Brother, though, who are more into bringing back the lad spirit of Britpop, Sharks want to embody the noble tradition of the honest and true blue-collar working man as identified by Messrs Springsteen and Strummer in the late 70s. Now, whether the working man as mythologised in Clash and Springsteen songs a) exists, or b) wants to be identified as such is moot, because Sharks are going to do it anyway. And "honest and true" will be their chosen method of communication, even though it has long since been proven that honesty and truthfulness are as much artificial constructs as anything else.
Americana-baked, ballroom swagger with a penchant for screaming describes Elephant Gun. Metal-influenced folk pop works too. Country-punk seems a bit of a generalization. World/Inferno Friendship Society meets Aganst Me! for Chicagoland's hippie punks. They're an eight-piece rock band with too many influences to name. If Jared invites one more dude or lady into the mix we'll kick his dick. No. Nevermind. It's fine. Because as all-over-the-map as they may be, they know how to craft full-on records just as well as they do orchestral basement-rock. For that we are proud of them. Jared may keep his goods safe. For now.
Maribelle is an indie band from Chicago. Maribelle has been playing as Maribelle since 2006, and released their first official LP in 2010. Maribelle is past future and current members of O'er the Waves, Weekend Nachos, Plan of Attack, Harm's Way, Spells, Food Fight, Cyclops, Encyclopedia Brown, and GSA.