Both wear their hearts on their sleeves, and have delivered some rather excellent solo albums during their careers. Indeed, earlier this year Votolato released the superb ‘Hospital Handshakes’, and as such it’s something of a surprise to see him release something so soon after that dropped.
Regardless, he’s remained at the top of his game on his three songs on ‘Kindred Spirit’. Raw and understated, he’s got a remarkable ability to make every lyric feel crushingly intense and personal. However, musically, there’s little pace or intensity. Instead the main attraction is Votolato’s plaintive, grounded songwriting and gorgeous, reedy vocals. It means his half of ‘Kindred Spirit’ feels slightly sombre and more downbeat compared to the rustic, bouncing folk-punk of Chuck Ragan, but that doesn’t mean it should be dismissed as boring. Instead, get lost in his wonderful storytelling and delve deeper into his back catalogue to see what Votolato is really about.>
The good thing about this split, for me at least, is Votolato and Ragan complement each other perfectly. While Votolato provides a considered first three songs, Ragan’s blustering folk-punk means this split never feels maudlin or morose. Instead, ‘Vagabond’ (which first appeared on last year’s ‘Till Midnight’) and ‘Justice and Fair Shake’ provide some much needed drive and showcase Ragan at his rabble-rousing best. Featuring Ben Nichols, Jon Snodgrass and Chad Price, Ragan’s half is certainly steeped in punk and folk cool and there’s a real confidence about the sound. Unfortunately, closing song ‘Before Dust’, is the weakest of the songs on offer, and certainly not up to the standards of his opening salvo.
Overall, it means ‘Kindred Spirit’ is a solid release. It’s definitely not the most exciting thing either artist has ever recorded, but it serves as a decent enough introduction to two exceptional talents.
‘Kindred Spirit’ by Rocky Votolato and Chuck Ragan is out now on SideOneDummy.
Words by Rob Mair (@BobNightMair)