Fans of the now-defunct Hot Water Music who haven’t been following co-lead vocalist Chuck Ragan’s solo career have a bit of a shock awaiting them. He has since swapped punk for acoustic folk, but the soul of the music has not faded at all.

Ragan’s style in his latest album, Gold Country, could be described favorably as infusing the sound of Celtic punk bands like Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly with an American country twang. The album does fall a bit on the country side of the fence, but the rock roots are still very strong. Whether you are a fan of country music or just willing to try something new, Gold Country offers a wide range of catchy tunes, including the raucous “Glory” and the simmering, working-man’s anger of “Cut Em Down.”

The album is driven by a racing acoustic guitar with some great violin work, but the smoky tones of Ragan’s voice are the real strength of Gold Country. Granted, there are points where his raspy voice becomes a bit of a double-edged sword by obscuring what seem to be obviously deep and emotional lyrics. That said, the overall album is an amazingly well crafted collection of rocking folk tunes.

Grade: B+

Gold Country is currently available.