The Revival Tour 2013

The Revival Tour

Chuck Ragan (of Hot Water Music), Rocky Votolato, Jenny Owen Youngs and Dave Hause



Folk music was born from a rich tradition of giving and openness—and no one has done more to bring that original spirit back to the genre in recent years than Chuck Ragan has with The Revival Tour. "It's an age-old idea and the way that families and communities have shared music for hundreds of years," Ragan explains when asked where the inspiration for the Revival Tour came from. "At the end of most tours I went on, everyone would end up on stage together anyway so I thought why not communicate more before hand so we can share the old way collaboration onstage from the onset as the folks that came before us all did in the past?'"

Ragan—who is well-known as both a solo recording and touring artist as well as guitarist/vocalist for the legendary punk act Hot Water Music—conceptualized the idea for the Revival Tour in 2005 along with his wife Jill Ragan, however it didn't come to fruition until 2008 when Ragan hit the road with Avail's Tim Barry, Lucero's Ben Nichols and a cast of revolving guests—including Against Me!'s Tom Gabel—for the tour's inaugural year. "On the first tour we did 52 shows in 57 days. It was a long haul, took a lot of work and time to pull together but once we got on the road it was well worth it," Ragan reminisces from his Northern California home.

Ragan is also quick to stress that despite the caliber of the musicians traveling alongside him, the Revival Tour is a place where camaraderie overflows. "There's no hierarchy; it's about sharing music together and bringing it to people in an extremely honest and grassroots fashion," he explains, adding that the musicians on the tour all open the show together, join each other throughout the event and close it with a grand finale all together again. "It's apparent that simple songs of folk music has been rising in popularity and it's a joy to bring known artists that people already love but very important to us to expose lesser known artists to the world who play exemplary music and live by ethics we admire whether they're solo musicians, groups or a singer of a band."

In 2009 the second installment of the Revival Tour featuring Ragan, Barry, Jenny Owen Youngs, Kevin Seconds (7 Seconds), Jim Ward (Sparta), Audra Mae, Frank Turner and others was an even larger success and last year the tour traveled to Australia with the same success with many members of the Revival family for the tour's first International run. This year the tour will venture on into the U.K. and all over Europe where it will feature the Gaslight Anthem's Brian Fallon, the Loved Ones' Dave Hause, Chuck Ragan and the Alkaline Trio's Dan Andriano all accompanying each other along with Jon Gaunt on the fiddle and Joe Ginsberg on the upright bass. However as anyone who has attended the tour in the past knows, the line-up for each night of the Revival Tour is never truly set in stone. So unless you don't mind missing something or someone, you want to be there from the beginning to the end.

"There are always going to be surprises and artists that come out of the woodwork and happen to be in that town that night," Ragan responds when asked what a typical night with these troubadours entails. "That's the thing about the Revival Tour, though we do rehearse and have some ideas of our collaborations, you never really know what's going to happen," he continues. "We're sharing the music in the most stripped down honest way possible and sometimes there will be folks in town breezing through, so there's no telling who'll come up on that stage."

Since its inception folk music's popularity has always moved in waves and while Ragan rejoices at the fact that the genre seems to be going through another phase of popularity he also plans to keep the Revival Tour rolling when that isn't necessarily the case. "We are going to do everything in our power to keep this tour going for years to come because we believe in the music; we put our hearts, souls and energy into it and the ethics we live by aren't going anywhere," he continues. "We're still going to be here regardless of whether there are a lot of folks coming to the shows or it goes back underground where the majority of us come from. In the meantime, we've been documenting and archiving as many of the shows, artists and show goers as possible. We all feel we're sharing something special together and it's crucial to us to capture as much of that as possible with film, interviews, live recordings or backstage, back of the bus or parking lot hootenannies."

Staying true to that spirit, Ragan—who recently returned from a trip to Germany where he held an instrument donation drive at the Eine Welt Haus in Munich. A refugee house where he helped build up and support their music and art program—Aside from the cause of supporting children's music programs, Ragan is striving to make this year's Revival Tour more ecologically conscious by raising funds for re-forestation projects and appropriating money for impoverished communities. "If you don't take more time to support the people and the communities who've gotten you where you are and do what you can to take care of the world around you, sooner or later everything will disappear. It's very important for us to do what we can to involve causes we believe in as well as run a responsible and sustainable tour by reducing and offsetting our carbon footprint," Ragan explains, adding that in the past the tour has held guitar raffles to benefit various charities. "We have a lot of ideas in mind for these upcoming tours so that we can play the music we believe in and give back to the communities as well."

Let's face it; there really is no other experience like the Revival Tour and the intangible bond that ties all these artists together is evident at every show. "The most important part of the Revival Tour is the camaraderie and the way people are drawn to each other whether they're on or off of the stage," Ragan explains. "We live and breathe this music and I think it's just a natural instinct for people who believe and live music to want to share that with other like-minded musicians," he summarizes. "For those of us that have been traveling on the road for years it makes for a more interesting show not only for us involved but also for the folks who are spending their time and money to come see and support it. It truly is an unforgettable event."

Written by:

Jonah Bayer
www.jonahbayer.org

Chuck Ragan (of Hot Water Music)

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.

However nothing could prepare fans for Gold Country, an album that not only raises the bar for Ragan but for the singer-songwriter genre in general. Produced by Ragan in Northern California and performed alongside longtime collaborators like violinist Jon Gaunt and Hot Water Music drummer George Rebelo, Gold Country is a striking collection of songs that show how much Ragan has progressed since his 2007 solo debut Feast Or Famine. "Even though these songs were written in a short period of time, it's some of the most mature music that I've ever had a chance to take part in," Ragan acknowledges, adding that he spent more time on Gold Country than he has on any other recording in his career. "I'd say all in all I'm the most satisfied with this release than with anything I've ever done."

Seattle musician Rocky Votolato is a soft-spoken, very kind, very hard-working father of two, born in rural Texas and raised in the Pacific Northwest indie scene (where he fronted the acclaimed rock band Waxwing). In his decade-plus life as a songwriter and musician he has sought to articulate something essential about life, writing songs that seem to have been scratched into a boxcar wall by a worn-out and lonesome ghost. His gravelly, sandpaper smooth voice and introspective lyrics mark him as that most rare of punk-rocker-turned-acoustic-troubadours: Votolato writes graceful, understated, human, unpretentious songs, demonstrating that simplicity is still a viable option for accomplished songwriters.

His last two releases, Makers (2006, Barsuk) and The Brag & Cuss (2007, Barsuk), found him exploring and paying homage to the folk and country music that shaped his early life in Texas (Alternative Press described the former as "the disc Ryan Adams keeps threatening to make but never quite delivers," and Harp praised his "harmonies that would make Gram and Emmylou proud" on the latter). True Devotion, his new album, is a passionate, stripped down, and mostly acoustic reflection on moments from his current life; showing us where he is, where he has just come from, and where he's going.

Where he's going has to be better than where he's coming from: In the years following the release of The Brag & Cuss, Votolato's private lifelong battle with depression and anxiety started showing up in ways he could no longer hide from or disguise. Unable to write music or keep up the busy touring schedule that he's been known for, he cut himself off from almost all outside contact (at one point barely leaving his apartment for over a year). Spending his time reading, studying existential philosophy, history, physics, and theology, he gradually overcame his demons. He began writing again, and through the making of the new album (recorded almost entirely on his own, and then mixed with the help of longtime production collaborator Casey Foubert [Sufjan Stevens, David Bazan] and old friend John Goodmanson [The Blood Brothers, Sleater-Kinney]) found some long sought-after understanding and peace of mind.

Walking the line between autobiographical fact and fiction, True Devotion is deceptively simple, peppering impressionistic narratives with moments of lyrical wisdom that can knock the wind out of you. The first half of the album is full of dark psychology and social-critique themes that feel similar in approach to Votolato's 2003 release "Suicide Medicine".

"Sparklers" caps side A of the album by shifting away from darker themes as what seems like another bleak song of death reveals itself as a song of appreciation and acceptance of the transient nature of this existence; "Letting go is the best way to hold on / So watch the light dance in the dark until it's gone / Sparklers only burn / For so long."

The rest of the record shifts toward new ground, exploring a sense of enlightenment and a hopeful search for innocence and eternal truths, unexpectedly reminiscent of early Cat Stevens. On "Sun Devil," Votolato sings, "True devotion and true virtue / Will hold you at the center / As the waves crash over," lines that point to a turning point for him and a recognition of new priorities and a focus on what matters most in his life. The Gandhi-referential album-closer "Where We Started" drives this point home again with a philosophical upshot echoed by the sonic space that ends the track and also opens the album.

And if the future, creating its own echoes, waits with more bouts of inner torment for him or for his listeners, then Rocky Votolato has delivered on True Devotion a batch of intensely honest songs that may also act as a reminder and shadowy roadmap back toward peace.

Dave Hause (of The Loved Ones)

"I feel like these are the best songs I've written to date," says Hause of his solo debut. "I really had an incredible time making the record with the Empty Bottles Band (Hause's group of friends and backing band), so it'll be really fun to get that effort into people's hands." Hause, who cut his teeth in the punk world as a member of Paint It Black and vocalist/guitarist of The Loved Ones, has recorded a rock album with no genre restrictions and limitations that draws from singer/songwriters such as Jenny Lewis and Conor Oberst. While writing the last two Loved Ones releases (2008's Build & Burn and 2009's Distractions), Hause recalls "the songs I was writing at the time didn't really fit [The Loved Ones style] and seemed to be pulling in a different direction, so I figured I would see that through. When songs happen quickly and easily you just kind of have to ride the wave, and before I knew it I had a record's worth of good tunes that don't fully fit the Loved Ones paradigm. I think fans of my songwriting will definitely get what's going on and will be happy to hear it."

Recorded, produced, engineered and mixed by Pete Steinkopf (of The Bouncing Souls), Hause and the Empty Bottles Band recorded drums, bass, mandolin, pedal steel and some guitars at Brian McTernan's Salad Days studio in Baltimore, while the remaining guitars, organ, keyboard and percussion were recorded at Little Eden Studios in Asbury Park, NJ. While fans have lived with acoustic, stripped down demo versions of his solo material for over a year, Hause affirms "the versions on the album are the full deal, the way the song is supposed to sound all fleshed out, like it was in my head originally." Cuts such as the uplifting "C'mon Kid" and the somber "Melanin" take on a new life with the help of Hause's backing band, while fan favorite "Pray For Tucson" is still an acoustic number made even more beautiful with the assistance of a pedal steel guitar.

Since Hause started playing solo shows in 2009, he has shared the stage with a variety of artists such as Bob Mould, AFI, Brian Fallon (Gaslight Anthem), Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio), Frank Turner, Tim Barry (Avail), Jim Ward (At The Drive-In, Sparta) and Chuck Ragan. Only days after returning from a tour of New Zealand and Australia supporting Hot Water Music and The Bouncing Souls, Hause has announced a UK tour with Franz Nicolay (The Hold Steady) and Jack Terricloth (World Inferno Friendship Society).

Automechanic LP out Feb 5 in the USA. The Home EP is available on iTunes, Amazon, BandCamp and all digital stores via Manimal Vinyl Records. Visit: www.jennyo.com for news, tour, discography, and more.

$18.00 - $30.00

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The Revival Tour 2013 with Tim McIlrath (of Rise Against), Chuck Ragan (of Hot Water Music), Rocky Votolato, Dave Hause (of The...

Thursday, April 11 · Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM at Varsity Theater