Festival favorites Ragged Union have acquired a stellar reputation courtesy of ongoing appearances throughout the US and as far afield as China and the UK. Three albums on, they’ve reaped recognition on both celestial and satellite radio, while making their mark on the various streaming services as well.
Now ten years into their career, with a new album, Round Feet, Chrome Smile on Shining Castle Music, they’ve expanded their original sound to put a greater emphasis on their songwriting skills and arrangements, a change in tack which finds them focusing on sharing enticing melodies as opposed to merely retracing a traditional template. That’s a credit to each of the three principals — Geoff Union (guitar, vocal), Elio Schiavo (mandolin, vocal), and Rebekah Durham (fiddle, vocal) — and their ability to work in tandem in order to create a robust sound that’s both energized and exuberant. The title track and Mirror Lake kick off the proceedings with a steady rolling sound that’s both earnest and engaging. Lazy Ol’ Daddy is a carefree country ramble given an old-time, folk-like finesse. The playful picking expresses a joyful attitude that’s consistently infectious, while at the same time giving earnest emotion in every note and nuance. Ragged Union have an obvious commitment to their cause, and each of these songs ring and resonate with a similarly upbeat attitude.
That’s especially apparent on the playful and punchy, How Tall Does My Bluegrass Grow, a song that finds added input from Chris Elliott on mandolin. Bassist Eric Thorin helps anchor the proceedings throughout, and on the instrumental, Way Up There, and the expressive, Down Along the River, the rhythms allow the momentum to fully remain intact.
Elsewhere, Sweet Annie slows the pace courtesy of the song’s tender trappings, and an exacting performance from all concerned. Somebody Call the Doctor and a cover of John Hartford’s Hooter Thunkit keeps that infectious enthusiasm spinning at full throttle, maintaining a delivery that’s credible and consistent.
Ultimately then, Round Feet, Chrome Smile makes it clear that Ragged Union is on a steady ascent, assuring their standing as an up-and-coming band that’s gaining bluegrass greater prominence and appreciation. It’s a fine showing from an outfit that excels simply by proving their prowess.