Chuck Ragan/Cory Branan: Rough Trade 12 February 2016

There are a lot of southern alt-country/Americana/indie boys, who started in punk and sing with whiskey-soaked voices. I’ve seen several of them on The Revival Tour and I was really looking forward to this show. Cory Branan I’d seen a bunch of times and I adore him. He is a storyteller and uses words brilliantly. I’d seen Chuck Ragan at two Revival Tours, which he organizes. Ragan has described The Revival Tour, a mix of punk, bluegrass, and alt-country musicians, as “sharing music together” and “bringing it to people in an extremely honest and grassroots fashion.” This time he was traveling with his band, The Camaraderie. Ragan has a reputation of being the nicest guy ever. One writer tells the story of admiring Ragan’s new ($300) boots and (after confirming they’re the same size) Ragan takes the boots off and gives them to the writer. The internet is full of stories like that.

I also was looking forward to checking out Rough Trade in Williamsburg. I got there just before Branan took the stage. It gave me just a few minutes to check out the place while I was pushing my way towards the middle of the crowd. You walk through the record store to the back where the club is. There are bars on the side and there’s a balcony. The place gives me a Music Hall of Williamsburg vibe. The stage is taller and I think it’s a smaller room (although whenever I go to MHoW I’m always surprised at how small the room is). Sound is very good despite (as Branan said) the room being all metal.

Cory Branan quietly enters and picks up his guitar and it takes a moment for the audience to realize the show is beginning. Branan started with a new song and then went into “Tall Green Grass.” Then he played another new song, “Blacksburg.” Something led him to talk about how no one listens to the lyrics in songs. For instance Van Halen’s “Jump” is about suicide. He asked for requests and tried to keep it lighthearted by ignoring requests for sad or heavy songs. We heard “The Corner” because someone called out for “Survivor Blues.” Branan’s record company came out with an album of covers – other artists covering the songs of Bloodshot Records musicians. Chuck Ragan covered “Survivor Blues” and Branan said that Ragan did such a good job that now he feels like he’s covering Chuck. On the same album Frank Turner covered “The Corner.” Then he played “Sour Mash.” “The Only You” had a whole lot of foot-stomping and Branan said he had only four great lines and managed to build a song around them. It happens to be one of my favorite songs of Cory’s. Then he played “The Prettiest Waitress in Memphis,” which is probably one of his most popular songs and always elicits an enthusiastic reaction. There was a story about drinking with Lucero and how their songs are all about girls and drinking and Branan’s songs are about everything through the lens of girls and drinking. Next was “The Freefall” and “Summertime,” which is about a first love. Branan said that if a woman wants to drive a man crazy, she should put a scent of her choosing in her underwear drawer. Then after breaking up, every time he smells that scent he’s going to think of her. Branan talked about his $35 guitar picks and how he couldn’t throw them into the audience because then after the show he’d have to go and ask for the pick back. Branan played “Meantime Blues” and said good night. I was amazed once again by his plucking back and forth and running his finger along one string and making these incredible sounds. He gets all this emotion out of the guitar. Branan performs with his entire body and everything comes pouring out.


Chuck Ragan and The Camaraderie came out to a very enthusiastic audience. The crowd got bigger and more people were pushing towards the stage and I didn’t feel like I could stand much longer. I made my way to the back of the crowd behind the soundboard and leaned again the metal wall and watched the show from there. The band was performing the music from [i]The Flame in the Flood[/i]. The band is Todd Beene on pedal steel (Yay! It was great seeing Todd again), Jon Gaunt on fiddle, and Joe Ginsburg on upright bass. Ragan repeatedly introduced the band and talked about how great they were and thanked the sound guy. From my vantage point the sound guy was paying more attention to the woman with him then he was to the band but it sounded great anyway. The band is strong and loud and fun. It is folk punk that is the best in every sense of both words. I’m not familiar with Ragan’s music but the audience was and called out requests. Ragan did a solo set and started with Branan’s “Survivor Blues” since he felt he owed it to Branan because Branan had talked about the song. Cory came out from behind the merch table and stood behind the soundboard listening. When Ragan was done, Cory yelled out, “Thanks for making me cry!” Then Ragan played a song from his old group, Hot Water Music. Near the end someone in the balcony yelled out for “Meet Me in the Middle” and said they were from somewhere else (I didn’t hear from where). Ragan sang the song and told them, “Welcome to New York City!” Ragan does come across as one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. Setlist is here.



By Carene Lydia Lopez