Will & James Ragar

The great folks at BBE Records have unearthed a 1980 gem by Will & James Ragar, a folk/jazz duo from Louisiana who played the Southern circuit playing everything from James Taylor to Jimi Hendrix before they entered the studio for their only album. The original private press LP is currently listed for around 1.000$ on Discogs but finally, BBE Music now presents the album in a gatefold version over 2 discs to guarantee a full, thick sound. Extensive liner notes are included here too.

Will & James Ragar

What we get is a highly enjoyable melange of folk, jazz, country, soul, and southern swamp with some echoes of Woodstock thrown in, especially regarding the beautiful harmony vocals. From the very first chords of the album opener “As The Day Grows Tired” (great title) until the last drop of the ode to the South on “Bayou Paradise”, this album is pure joy and satisfaction. The brothers are accompanied by John Smart on keys, Dave D’Aubin on bass, and Tommy Jefferson on drums, playing a higher than usual pitch on the snare. “My Shining” with its extra cool electric piano and the nonchalant vocals somehow remind me of some Return To Forever stuff with Flora Purim. Brilliant sophistication of the highest order. There is this special free-flowing swing with the vocals. “Don’t I Wish To Be Free” with its jazzy touch might as well be an early Michael Franks tune.

On “Needs”, (“I need money but I’m just a musician, and the world won’t even listen”), the brothers sum up the beauty of their musicianship in 3:21 minutes. Simple and sublime. “Louisiana Fall” makes you want to visit the South immediately. Its relaxing vibe is really infectious. “Just A Wanderer” has this vulnerable quality about it which hint at some of Joni Mitchell’s tunes, circa “The Hissing Of Summer Lawns”. “Melting Pot” and “Oregon” are two superb instrumentals, with guitar and keys on the former track harking back in sound to the glorious CTI days. The album is on higher than high rotation at the moment. Highly recommended.

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