The 15-year musical partnership of Chris Haas and Chris Rapp has been a creative exploration of country-punk to swamp-blues, aggressive roots-rock to the subtle and psychedelic, all under the rock ’n’ roll umbrella. Vocalist Haas and guitar player Rapp have been members of Dixie Wrecked, Ebeniezer, the Crooked Hookers, and now Ragwater, all Pagosa Springs-based bands that have been proud fliers of a rock ’n’ roll flag in Archuleta County.
The five-piece, which also features Glenn Goss on rhythm guitar and mandolin, Rick Riojas on bass, and Jason Dockter on drums, will perform Friday, Dec. 8, at the Balcony Backstage.
The band just released its self-titled debut, and like this band’s predecessors, features Haas’s deep, aggressive croon along with Rapp’s guitar playing, a dude whose lessons were loaded with punk, blues, metal, and traditional rock ’n’ roll.
“Haas and I have been writing and playing songs together in many different projects for the last 15 years,” said Rapp. “...We’ve covered a lot of territory. This latest project brings us back to our basic roots of writing and playing basic rock ’n’ roll and blues-influenced rock music.”
Blues-influenced rock music is the catalyst for thousands of American kids who picked up a guitar – no different for Rapp. He’s a player but also a bona-fide rock fan whose guitar playing kicked down the classic-rock and punk-rock path.
“I started playing guitar when I was 12, a suburban Ohio kid surrounded by ’70s and ’80s rock and punk rock,” said Rapp. “The first tune I learned on guitar was Zeppelin’s ‘Bring it on Home.’ It’s still a favorite of mine to this day. By age 15, I was stoked to be playing in local bars in a punk band called Unfortunate Children. That was 1985 – a great experience for a kid. I have always played in original music projects since those days.”
Ragwater’s debut is 11 tracks that meander from harder blues-rock songs to tunes that will stretch out into the world of heavier psych- rock. Subtle use of a mandolin on a track reveals an aggressive take on Americana via a dirty folk song, and the guitar playing of Rapp gives the record a stoner rock sound. Big choruses, breaks with aggressive grooves, and great backing vocals are all a tasty homage to some of the rock bands of the 1970s. There’s dark guitar solos that live amongst riffs that chug and boogie along that, showing Ragwater has a love of stadium rock, punk rock, and lives with a do-it-yourself mentality. Those influences are all part of their big, fun package of rock music: ZZ Top, “Fair Warning”-era Van Halen, and a Nebula or Fu Manchu record all must live amongst band members’ record collections.
“This album was heavily influenced by the past; rock, rock ’n’ roll, blues-rock, and hard-rock music, the type of tunes that all of us dudes grew up listening to,” said Rapp. “I guess it’s weird that coming from Pagosa, most people wouldn’t expect the styles of music we play to come out of there. But what we play is just who we are, it’s just what we do; it’s what we’ve always done, and what we’ll always do. We feel we’re on a solid path to becoming rock stars by the time we’re 85.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. email@example.com.