20th October.Ragged Union Bluegrass in Concert.
Ragged Union’s hard-driving bluegrass, with a tinge of the traditional and a healthy dose of the blues, has become a favorite for quite a few music lovers since their inception a few years ago.
Not many folks have said it better than Ron Thomason of Dry Branch Fire Squad who said, “This IS your grandfather’s bluegrass music but NOT his lyrics or subject matter. These tunes are ‘traditional’ in their approach and in RU’s presentation, but the subject matter of the lyrics is wholly modern; that is, they deal with modern angst, problems, even fixations in both a literal and metaphorical way. And this is the crux: that’s entirely different than how bluegrass music has been ‘updated’ to date. It is beyond appropriate; it is fresh and innovative while preserving through their instruments the things one likes about bluegrass music.”
Some pretty powerful words for a band who is just now releasing their first album. The music coming from this six-piece Colorado based ensemble, lead by husband and wife Geoff and Christina Union, is memorable and provides a platform for players performing original tunes and off-the-beaten path standards, winning fans in the process.
There is an intimacy and tightness surrounding the vocals, with award-winning instrumental work, a powerful rhythmic drive, and up tempo arrangements giving way to the edgy, outsider songwriting that has become an earmark of their style.
Hard Row to Hoe was recorded in the fall/winter months of 2014 in Ft. Collins, Colorado. Former Rebecca Frazier/Hit and Run banjoist, and current player for Finnders and Youngberg, Aaron Youngberg, engineered and mixed the project consisting of thirteen tunes, eleven singers, two instrumentals, ten originals and three covers.
The album features upbeat, rhythmically charged originals with a dose of uncommon, outside the bluegrass box lyrics and modern adaptations of traditional numbers. The instrumental prowess of Ragged Union players is evident whether the band is joining in for fast tempo fun-ness on “Simple Life,” written by Christina Union and featuring a solid hook and bluesy female vocal or on a softer, sweeter ballad such as the waltz, “Two Tracks Coming,” written by Geoff and hauntingly sung by Christina, spotlighting the lonesome winter imagery so often experienced in the Colorado countryside.
Other songs include “Rake out the Nails,” a bluegrass ballad written by Steep Canyon Rangers Charles Humphrey and Sam Guthridge, bouncy shuffle “Midnight Train,” traditional Red Allen honoring “Don’t Lie to Me,” guitar based instrumental “High Line,” and many more.
Band members Christina Union (lead and tenor vocals), Jordan Ramsey (mandolin, vocal), Chris C-Bob Elliot (Banjo), Pat Hoeper (fiddle), and Michael Sivcovich (upright bass), have created a sound that is masterful in the hands of seasoned musicians and with an appeal that is infectious. Audiences are responding.
Banjo master Pete Wernick says, "Geoff and Christina can really blend their voices, and their band adds fresh and crisp support....well-played bluegrass!"
Their debut album, Hard Row to Hoe, introduces music lovers to a band whose leader, Geoff Union, moved with his wife Christina to Golden, Colorado from Austin, Texas, where they immediately dove into the Front Range bluegrass scene, from Oskar Blues to Avogadro’s Number, Cervantes Other Side, Swallow Hill, and the Golden Clear Creek Concert Series.
Ragged Union is now ready to take their music to larger audiences. As Charles Humphrey III of Steep Canyon Rangers said, "Ragged Union's Hard Row To Hoe is a fresh burst of bluegrass!"
Meet the Band:
Geoff Union (guitar, vocal; Fayetteville, North Carolina) has been performing in bluegrass bands for almost 20 years - most notably with the nationally touring Two High String Band (2002-2009). THSB played major festivals in the US including Rocky Grass, Merle Fest, Spring Fest, concert series and clubs all across the country. In 2012, Union released a solo bluegrass CD of original tunes entitled, "Cold as Steel", which aired on over 70 radio stations in the US, and a few overseas. Union is a powerful flat pick guitarist and singer, and writes in an "outsider" lyric style, eschewing standard country themes of love and loss for darker material including moonshinery, obscure history (mostly related to moonshine) and desperate fiction.
Christina Union (lead and tenor vocal; Eagle River, Alaska) has been singing all her life and was a member of several local Colorado bands when she and Geoff met in 2008. She has a powerful blues-flecked emotional delivery, a natural talent for harmony, and is a skilled lyricist and songwriter.
Jordan Ramsey (mandolin, vocal; Knoxville, Tennessee) is an accomplished and highly sought after mandolinist currently living in Boulder. He studied under Raymond McLain and Jack Tottle at East Tennesse State University, and after moving to Colorado, won the Rocky Grass mandolin competition in 2008. He has appeared in the finals at Winfield twice, and has shared the stage with the likes of Porter Wagoner, Ralph Stanley, Curley Seckler, Tater Tate, Alison Krauss, Dan Tyminski, Hunter Berry, and Adam Steffey. Jordan teaches mandolin as well, and compliments his McReynold’s influenced bluegrass style with a side passion for gypsy jazz and swing.
Chris “C-Bob” Elliot (banjo; Huffman, Texas) studied banjo at South Plains Community College with Alan Munde. He won the Rocky Grass banjo competition in 2007, and is well known for his work in the popular band Spring Creek Bluegrass, and more recently the Blue Canyon Boys. He has appeared on many national stages with those bands, and also teaches.
Justin Hoffenberg (fiddle, Boulder, Colorado) joined Ragged Union in August of 2015. He is well known for being the founder of Long Road Home, featuring Pete Wernick on banjo (when he's not out with that other band...). Justin is also a Rocky Grass Academy fiddle instructor and has appeared numerous times on eTown, backing up acts such as the Indigo Girls, Tim O’Brien, Big Al Anderson and the North Mississippi All Stars.
Michael Sivcovich (upright bass, St Louis, Mo) migrated to Colorado with his family in the spring of 2015. He performed in both bluegrass and jam bands on electric and upright in St Louis. His powerful forward drive fits perfectly with Ragged Union’s barn-burner style, and his experience with both bluegrass and non-grass music leaves the door open for added dimensions in the future.
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