The Revival Tour 2012 with Chuck Ragan (Hot Water Music), Cory Branan, Tommy Gabel (of Against Me!), Nathaniel Rateliff

The Revival Tour 2012

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."

Chuck Ragan (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.”

Tommy Gabel (of Against Me!)

Tom Gabel is a vocalist, songwriter, and lead guitarist. He was born on November 8, 1980 at the U.S. Army School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia, where his father was stationed. Tom is the guitarist for punk rock band Against Me!, as well as a solo artist. The act has since become a quartet, and have released five full-length albums. Gabel's solo debut, entitled Heart Burns, was released October 28, 2008 on Sire Records.

Nathaniel Rateliff

The first things you notice are the voice and the space. That voice belongs to Nathaniel Rateliff, a man who’s earned the twang and hard-knock weariness that shines through on his Rounder debut. The space comes courtesy of producer Brian Deck (Califone, Iron & Wine, Modest Mouse), who helped transform 8-track bedroom demos into miniature epics of contrast, beauty, and yearning. In Memory of Loss is a stunning, heartbreaking sonic document from a singer-songwriter who’s made his way from a childhood in Bay, Missouri (pop. 60) to the national stage.

Rateliff grew up of modest means, the son of devout Southern churchgoers. The family sang together throughout his childhood. At age 7 Rateliff learned the drums. As a teenager, he stumbled across a cassette of Led Zeppelin’s IV abandoned in a local barn; he wore the tape out listening to it on headphones, drumming along with “When the Levee Breaks” and “Misty Mountain Hop.”

Rateliff’s youth in rural Missouri was quiet and rambling. He built skateboard ramps, explored caves, slept outdoors in the heat. “I loved growing up there,” he says. “It’s beautiful. There’s something really nice about there not being much to do; it really helped me be a creative person.” After his father passed away, when Rateliff was only 13, he picked up the guitar. His mother taught him three chords, a friend showed him a few more, and there was no need to bother with lessons; he started penning his own songs on an acoustic. He’d later go electric, gaining an appreciation for the freedom of effect pedals: “I was really into making feedback for hours at a time.” Both impulses are present on In Memory of Loss, with its shards of raw guitar rising beneath hushed, insistent melodies.

At eighteen Rateliff relocated to Denver. He scored a job with a trucking company, working on the dock and the yard. The money was good, but Rateliff kept falling asleep at the wheel. “I had a little stint of narcolepsy,” he says. “My limbs were going numb, the color was all weird in ‘em. My thyroid wasn’t working. Weird stuff that shouldn’t be happening when you’re in your 20s, but it was.” After a battery of tests Rateliff decided to take time off from the job. It was a period of rest and recovery, but also one of artistic growth and fresh challenges. Rateliff used the break to learn the piano, much as he had other instruments—by teaching himself. The first song he tackled was Leonard Cohen’s melancholy classic, “Hallelujah.” (That same mixture of the sacred and profane is recognizable on “We Never Win,” with its throwbacks to gospel vocal harmonies, Rateliff harkening to “an old time revival.”)

Meanwhile, Rateliff developed a dedicated following within the Denver music community and beyond. Spin praised his “massive, alluring” voice. Billboard dubbed the unsigned singer-songwriter a ‘must hear.’ This wave of acclaim lead to a live set on the popular indie site Daytrotter and a solo tour opening for the Fray. The New York Times praised Rateliff’s “stark, eloquent [Johnny] Cash echoes,” and he earned enthusiastic mentions from Time Out New York and the tastemaker music blog, Brooklyn Vegan. New York magazine pegged Rateliff as an “artist everyone should be listening to” during the pivotal CMJ Music Festival.

Rateliff began writing a different sort of song than he was used to: quieter, more introspective and patient. A friend turned him on to the bedroom recording potentials of the time-honored 8-track, and a new working method was born. “I just kind of went back to my roots,” he says. “It was a different sound, but it was still coming from the same place.”

While recording In Memory of Loss, Rateliff lived in Chicago, working with producer Brian Deck to craft the nuances: mournful harmonica on “You Should’ve Seen the Other Guy,” the ominous organ of “Longing and Losing,” propulsive bass drum on “Early Spring Till.” Rateliff’s Rounder debut is rooted in a bygone era. It’s both fresh and classic, imbued with a melancholy nostalgia, the rough candor of rock’n’roll’s past and the warmth and earnestness of folk storytellers. Rateliff has a personal connection to the sounds of the 60s and 70s. “It was more about songs, and not about an industry,” he says. “It was about a movement, not about making money. I think we’re moving back into that again. There’s still an importance in actually writing songs again. People are interested in hearing things that make sense.”

These thirteen tracks, with their soulful minimalism, certainly make sense. Hints of the music he grew up on – Van Morrison, Muddy Waters, the Beatles—shine through. (Album closer “Happy Just To Be,” with its pounding piano chords, is a close cousin to the Lennon-penned “Across the Universe.”) Yet Rateliff is also at home in what may be called, for lack of a better term, the neo-folk revival. His voice is so confident that you can occasionally imagine the music dropping out entirely, a song propelled solely by Rateliff’s a capella strengths—equal parts church spiritual and TV on the Radio riffing on the Pixies’ “Mr. Grieves.”

“The one thing that made me want to write and play music was trying to get the same feeling that it gave me when I listened to it,” Rateliff says. “Like having an anxiety attack—where you almost start to weep, at the same time feel a strange pressure in your chest.” This persistent troubadour has struggled and persevered to this point; now, the wider world is ready for Nathaniel Rateliff. “In Memory of Loss,” he says, “is for everyone who’s willing to listen.”

Honest, sometimes a little dark, and riddled with self-deprecating humor – traits that led themselves well to his songs. Songs that, like Cory, are original and unpredictable, prompting one music critic to note that "...he writes serious music without taking himself too seriously, without being afraid to smash a guitar, throw in a line about Miami Vice, or smack his audience in the head every once in awhile – figuratively, of course." "I never play a song the same way twice," says Cory. "It's the only way I've found for me to keep the music honest and immediate and, more importantly, to keep my self amused."

A young Branan played Death Metal before moving on to a Black Sabbath cover band, but it wasn't until someone handed him a John Prine album that things began to fall into place. Discovering songs with intelligence, humor and edge inspired Cory to strike out with his own unique songwriting style. Aside from "recreational destruction and the lamentations of the women," Cory's influences change daily, but could typically include "Henry Miller, Tom Waits, Federico Garcia Lorca, my little brother, Dark Lord Satan, the girl from last Thursday..."

With immeasurable talent and the freedom to follow his muse, Cory Branan is poised for greatness. His gift as a song-writer and performer made him a staple of the lauded Memphis music scene and brought him national recognition with the release of his debut album, The Hell You Say. A full page feature in Rolling Stone's Hot issue, a year's-top-ten-honor in Billboard magazine and an appearance on the late show with David Letterman represent just a sample of the attention this breakthrough record garnered. Despite the success of The Hell You Say, it took four years for Cory to release 2006's 12 Songs. Although, as Blender magazine noted, "Branan banked the praise and laid low...12 Songs justifies the sabbatical." In a music review of the newer album for Playboy, famed music critic and author of It Came From Memphis, Robert Gordon, said it best when he said of Cory, "A new voice emerges to run with the greats."

Adv tix $17.00 / Day of show $20.00

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The Revival Tour 2012 with Chuck Ragan (Hot Water Music), Cory Branan, Tommy Gabel (of Against Me!), Nathaniel Rateliff with Chuck Ragan (Hot Water Music), Tommy Gabel (of Against Me!), Nathaniel Rateliff, Cory Branan

Wednesday, April 18 · 8:00 PM at Troubadour

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