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RICH RAGANY AND THE DIGRESSIONS – ‘BEYOND NOSTALGIA & HEARTACHE’ REVIEW

Genre: Rock ‘n Roll

Label: Story Highway Records and Tapes

Released: Out Now 

Members:

Rich Ragany (Role Models) , Vocals, acoustic \ electric guitars

Gaff (Glitterati, Dedwardians, Desperate Measures, Hollywood Brats), 6 & 12 string electric guitars, vocals

Ricky McGuire (UK SUBS, The Men They Couldn’t Hang), bass

Simon Maxwell (Role Models, Yo Yos) , drums, percussion

Kit Swing (Mallory Knox, Seven Days And Doesn’t Die), electric guitar, vocals

Andy Brook (SHUSH), keyboards, accordion, additional guitar, vocals

Track Listing: 

1 – Sometimes We Can Hear The Voices
2 – Beyond Nostalgia And Heartache
3 – Heartbreakers Don’t Try
4 – It Was Lonely At The Time
5 – Fade In Blue
6 – Sleep
7 – Marionette
8 – The Man Who Couldn’t Give It Away
9 – Last Chance, Dear
10 – Blackout Til Tuesday
11 – A Long Way To Yesterday
12 – This Is How You Spell Tonight

After fronting, writing and putting out three albums in three years with Role Models , Rich Ragany formed Rich Ragany And The Digressions who released their debut album ‘Like We’ll Never Make It’ in April 2019.

Several packed out shows saw the band quickly gain momentum and with support slots alongside The Lemonheads, The Men They Couldn’t Hang, Whitfield Crane and Warrior Soul, the band were then confirmed as the main support for Status Quo’s 2020 Backbone UK Tour, before the pandemic put paid to that opportunity.

Thankfully the time has not been wasted and whilst touring might well be on hold at the moment, Rich and the band used lockdown to get creative and wrote a new batch of songs.

With producer and keyboardist Andy Brook at the helm, the end result is ‘Beyond Nostalgia and Heartache’, 12 new tracks that are set to make a huge splash as the world reawakens to music once again.

The album opens with keyboards run as a backward masked track. If you’re expecting to summon Satan however you’ll be disappointed as the tape flips around and the piano leads us into a glorious slice of pop rock. It contains so many harmonious layers to it, it’s rumoured Hummingbird Bakery is looking to licence it for a cake design.

Whilst the media seems heavily focussed on the new wave of classic rock or blues trios that seem to be ten a penny at the moment, there is a definite need for music like ‘Sometimes We Can Hear The Voices’ which serves to remind us that ‘Sometimes’ it’s the song that matters the most rather than a particular style or genre that’s currently in vogue.

The title track follows and it comes from a night over at guitarist Gaff’s house according to Rich. Kit Swing was sat cross legged on the floor, talking about an Aerosmith song she loved, the feeling it gave her “…it’s… it’s like… beyond nostalgia and heartbreak!” Inspired and changing heartbreak for heartache, the album title and second track was born. According to Rich, “It’s a song about yearning to be with someone… maybe feeling you lost contact… missing them and the frustration of that. But again, the feeling of the chorus melody and those harmonies lift you to a place that reassures you… you can still reach out… even to a memory… sometimes someone in your heart is all you have. But it can be lifesaving and special.”

As you listen to the song the sense of yearning is profound. There is a beautiful guitar solo, subtly placed underneath the music that lifts the spirit and allows the listener to focus on it as it reaches deep into your soul to remind you to to hang onto your loved ones wherever they may be.

There are hints of Dogs D’Amour on “It Was Lonely At The Time” with a track that, with your eyes closed, could easily have Tyla singing over the top of it all. It’s that ‘tight as a gnat’s chuff’ yet ‘loose as cousin Mary’s drawers’ approach that makes this album so enjoyable. There’s no doubting the quality of the musicians on the album, all of whom have honed their playing down to a fine art yet they all sound so chilled and relaxed whilst performing. It’s as if this album has become their sole purpose at the expense of everything around them. Lost in the moment, loving every minute, every song, every note.

“Fade In Blue” offers a nod towards Elvis Costello and again adds to the basic template Declan Patrick McManus has offered up. The glorious co-vocal work from Kit Swing adds a slice of Fleetwood Mac mixed with the B-52s proving that the band can take a song in any direction they desire to whilst maintaining a distinct Digressions sound that should have reviewers saying “It sounds like Rich Ragany and the Digressions at their best” in years to come.

“Sleep” takes it all down a pace before the tempo is definitely fired up once more on my personal album favourite “Marionette”. There are hints of Lords of The New Church in Rich’s vocals but again he adds to what initially feels familiar to me and conjures up a much faster, more energised track that literally has me bouncing off the walls. I long for this to be played live at a sweaty gig somewhere in London because this is the sort of song that great gigs are made of.

Rich Ragany has talked about the joy that shines through the tracks on the album not least on lead single “Heartbreakers Don’t Try” and that vibe continues throughout on songs like “The Man Who Couldn’t Give It Away”. It’s amazing how a wall of sound can sound great and then someone says “What we need is a little more piano”, and that wall of sound becomes so huge we start to wonder if ‘Winter is Coming’ and the arrival of the Night King is imminent. Perhaps we can expect a side project of Rich Ragany and the Night’s Watch in the not too distant future.

If you like your Americana, your pop rock, timeless anthems and songs that burrow so deeply into the brain they’re in danger of making you hear “the voices” Rich mentions in the opening track  for years to come then this album is for you. If you like your music dark, foreboding, knee deep in menace then I’d give it a miss unless you’re looking for a way of leaving the darkness behind and embracing the light.

This album is a joy to listen to, it’s full of light, hope and desire for a better place. Lord knows we need that sort of sound right now and if this is music for the 21st Century that sees the planet get itself back on track then more power to the band. Rich Ragany and the Digressions can spearhead this new movement with ease. There’s no posturing, no “image before music” as would have been the case in the old days, just 12 tracks of immense class that will stand the test of time and be the benchmark against which other bands will be measured in the future.

As they say on Strictly, “Fab – U – Luss”

Score: 9/10

Reviewed by Adrian Hextall

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