Sound — 8
Chuck Ragan went solo soon after the break up of Hot Water Music in 2006 (they are back together now). Feast or Famine was released in 2007 on Side One Dummy Records. Fans of Hot Water Music will surely recognize Ragan's somewhat deep and gritty voice immediately. Instead of fast paced electric guitar Ragan opted for a more acoustic oriented sound for his solo work. You will hear acoustic guitar, violin, harmonica and banjo on this record. It has a folk music feel to it without going too far in that direction. There are also hints of americana, bluegrass, R&B, and punk spread throughout the albums 12 tracks. The production is really good on this album, and the instruments are well balanced on each track.
Lyrics — 9
Lyrics are where the album really excels, and Ragan's talents as a songwriter really shine through. Most of the songs are deeply personal and Ragan sings them with plenty of emotion and urgency. Lines such as, "I can't stand standing for nothing, when standing up is all I know," bring the album home. Lyrically some of my favorite songs are, 'The Boat,' 'California Burritos,' 'Between the Lines,' and 'Broken Ears.'
Overall Impression — 8
For Hot Water Music fans I think this album is, if not a must have, at least a must listen to. For anyone else I suggest giving it a try as well, especially if you like acoustic indie or folk music. I can honestly say I enjoy every song on Feast or Famine. When I listen to it I don't find myself skipping any of the tracks. The music is pretty simple yet engaging, and the lyrics are above average at the least.