The Flame in the Flood
(Ten Four Records)
The latest release from Chuck Ragan is a soundtrack to a video game. It is far from the electronic beeps of Mario-core though. Instead, Ragan delivers exactly what you’d expect from him – brooding Southern Gothic tales set to dark Americana tunes. The songs are the perfect accompaniment to the game, which centers upon a journey through the Deep South, following a character who wanders through the Delta and bayou, faithful dog in tow.
Fans of Ragan’s work will be comfortable with this release, which is cohesive enough to serve as an official album in his discography. It does have slightly darker tones sprinkled throughout, but it follows themes familiar to his recording history, especially the idea of travelling. The title track is an upbeat song with plenty of fiddle in the forefront. On “Gathering Wood” he takes a more jaunty approach to the music, contrasting lyrics about being weak and weary with the bouncing music. The atmosphere is most effectively created on instrumental tracks, like “In the Eddy,” which meanders like a slow moving creek. On “Loup Garou” (French for werewolf), the gravel throated singer channels Appalachian folk, while “Spanish Moss” is an elegant waltz instrumental. On “Cover Me Gently” the howl of Todd Beene’s steel guitar complements the appearance of Jon Snodgrass, whose smooth voice perfectly contrasts Ragan’s.
The variation in tempo and inspiration adds an interesting depth to the album. Perhaps more than any previous Ragan release, this soundtrack pushes the boundaries, drawing from a wider range of influence. Like the game which inspired the music, the music paints a vivid picture of setting, establishing a southern travel epic. The instrumental pieces build upon the atmosphere, rather than weighing the collection down. While Ragan can be counted on to release great music time after time, this soundtrack is definitely one of the most interesting offerings in his solo discography.