Ragged Union
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Ragged Union

Boulder, CO | Established. Jan 01, 2011 | SELF

Boulder, CO | SELF
Established on Jan, 2011
Band Country Bluegrass




"Turntable Tuesday on Wednesday (Album review)"

I first heard most of this album and the group, Ragged Union Bluegrass in full vocal experience through a performance via Concert Window. I was captured by the sense of sitting in on a finely tuned jam session on a front porch. Geoff Union and the rest of the group have a way of taking you back to a simpler life - the way good Bluegrass should. As I listen to the CD of Hard Row To Hoe, I still have the same etheral experience.

One of the things that makes this album unique for me is the pure, crystaline voice of Christina Union. There are very few female vocals with a traditional bluegrass sound that I enjoy. Christina's voice was made to sing bluegrass. Her voice is well-matched with that of her husband, Geoff's. Together they form the perfect union yet they bring that something extra. Band members Jordan Ramsey (mandolin, vocal), Chris Elliott (banjo), Pat Hoepper (fiddle) and Andrew Bonnis (upright bass) with the addition of the other band members sweeten the notes that make this recording top-notch.

(Note: As of this review, Andrew Bonnis and Pat Hoeper are no longer a part of Ragged Union Bluegrass. Those positions are now held by Justin Hoffenberg (fiddle) and Mike Sivcovich (upright bass) - both quality artists in their own right)

From the first notes of Simple Life through the final note of Ferris Wheel, all thirteen tracks left the music resonating through my mind as I went about my day. To say this is not your grandpa's bluegrass could not be farther from the truth. The lyrics are as prevelant now as ever and the roots are there with each pick, strum and well-executed tone. Hard Row To Hoe belongs in every bluegrass CD collection and should you have the opportunity to experience Ragged Union Bluegrass live, to quote one of their tracks, Run Rabbit Run. You are in for a treat! - Kelly's Country

"10.27.14 Interview"

Local bluegrass band Ragged Union Bluegrass, based in Golden, will be playing four local shows through Halloween and November, and more in December. Seems like as good a reason as any to have a chat with founder Geoff Union…

Yellow Scene: When did the band form?
Geoff Union: Ragged Union is kind of a new band. We got started about this time last year. I think we did our first show on the front range in November of 2013. I had been living in Austin, Texas, for almost 20 years and had just moved here about this time last year with my wife Christina. We took the leap and put some shows together, and came up here and started looking for some players. I’m currently based in Golden.
YS: Describe the sound. Are you guys pure bluegrass?
GU: We do a slightly more traditional version of bluegrass than some of the other bands around here, but what I like to do is an up-tempo, driving sound with a hard driving rhythm. We focus on the singing – my wife and I sing so we do a lot of duets and a lot of there-part harmony stuff. We do some traditional numbers, some bluegrass covers, but we try and look for ones that are off the beaten path – a little more obscure that maybe folks haven’t heard a million times. And then we do maybe 65-70 percent original material. I like to shoot for an outsider’s songwriting approach. Instead of writing songs about the standard country themes of love, loss, drinking and whatever, we’ll write about all kinds of weird stuff – weird, obscure history, other personal experiences that are not necessarily related to relationships, and so we try to take the traditional approach to bluegrass and doing our own thing with it, making it our own sound. We go for the high lonesome singing and we have really good players in the band, really good sidemen, and we try to do some unique songs, and take that genre and make it interesting, make it our own.
YS: Describe the Ragged Union live experience.
GU: Like I said, it’s a hard-driving, up-tempo sound. It’s exciting. You get a lot of singing, a lot of really powerful vocals. The cool thing about bluegrass the way we like to do it is you get everybody singing towards the top of their range really loud, and that’s what creates that really powerful vocal blend. The picking is all really high quality, so it’s really exciting as far as everyone’s instrumental prowess. It’s good for folks that are more into listening to the music, and folks that want to have a good time and maybe have a few drinks and party, dance a little bit. There plenty for them too. We keep it movin’ and groovin’.
YS: Do you have any plans for the four sets?
GU: At the Halloween show, we’re doing a costume contest. We’ll be giving away some prizes for best costume, sexiest costume, and we might even have one for the worst costume. The Fox Theatre show were excited about because that’ll give us a chance to perform for some of the younger crowd in Boulder that we don’t get to a whole lot. We may sneak out a surprise cover – turn people on to something they may be a little more familiar with. But we’ve been working on a new album, our debut album, in the month of September, and we’re in the process of finishing that but we have a bunch of new material so we’ll be focusing on performing some of that new stuff. To a lot of people out here, it’s all new because even the covers that we do are kind of obscure. The new original stuff is a lot of fun and unique. We’re gonna do our thing. Hit that powerful drive and those lonesome harmonies, and see if the people like it.
YS: What’s next, after these shows?
GU: We have another Denver show in December, and then we’ll be working on finishing the album and doing what we need to do to get it released. We’re going for a national release and radio. Here in Colorado, there’s a lot of jam-grass and whatever, but we’re a real bluegrass band so we’re going to pit this thing out on the east coast and send it to all the bluegrass radio stations. We have a lot of work to do to get that ready. February, we have some festivals coming up. The Mid Winter Bluegrass Festival, and some of the Bluegrass Society events. We’re just gonna look to put some shows together for the CD release, then playing some festivals in the summer. We just got back from a short trip to England, and we’d like to go back there. - YellowScene Magazine

"February 2015 Feature"

click the link above - pdf format.... - Pow'r Pick'n

"Ron Thomason (High Mountain Hay Fever Festival)"

Ragged Union’s Hard Row to Hoe has the distinction of its title being the only text on the project that pays homage to the bluegrass originals of yesteryear. But text is the operative word here. This is your grandfather’s bluegrass music but not his lyrics or subject matter. These tunes are “traditional” in their approach and in RU’s presentation, but the subject matter of the lyrics is wholly modern; that is, they deal with modern angst, problems, even fixations in both a literal and metaphorical way. And this is the crux: that’s entirely different than how bluegrass music has been “updated” to date. It is beyond appropriate; it is fresh and innovative while preserving through their instruments the things one likes about bluegrass music. I’m too old for this—which is how it should be. -

"Ken Seaman (MidWinter Bluegrass Festival)"

“Ragged Union is a powerful new group that has all the essential elements of a great band – top-notch musicians, original material, tight harmonies and blistering instrumentals! They put on an entertaining stage show and have the talent and versatility to please a wide variety of audiences. Professionally, they are dependable, courteous and a pleasure to work with. I would highly recommend them for any type musical venue!”
Ken Seaman
Mid-Winter Bluegrass Festival -

"Scott Morrill (Cervantes Masterpiece Theater)"

"Ragged Union always brings a top notch show musically and has the crowd dancing until the end. They will always be a favorite of mine." -- Scott Morrill, Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom -


Still working on that hot first release.



Ragged Union is:

Christina Union - vocal; Geoff Union - guitar/ vocal; Jordan Ramsey - mandolin, vocal; Chris Elliott - banjo; Justin Hoffenberg - fiddle; Mike Sivcovich - upright bass

Ragged Union has become a fixture in the Colorado ‘bluegrass’ scene during the last few years, earning fans amongst the younger and older audience sets, with an all-star lineup of some of Colorado’s finest pickers and the dynamic front duo of husband-and-wife, Geoff and Christina Union. The band’s sound is built around Geoff and Christina’s original songs, and combines the traditional elements of duet and trio singing, highly skilled performance, and Monroe’s ‘driving-time’ rhythm, with modern (not necessarily country) lyrics and arrangement ideas. An affinity for an older bluegrass feel, along with a blues influence and a connection to the Texas songwriting tradition (Geoff lived in Austin for many years as a member of the Two High String Band), have allowed Ragged Union to carve out its own increasingly recognized space in the crowded Colorado field.  

ETSU graduate and Rocky Grass mandolin champ, Jordan Ramsey lends his electrifying instrumental showmanship and baritone vocal to the sound, while the banjo is rather excitingly manned by Spring Creek Bluegrass co-founder (and Rocky Grass champion), Chris Elliott. Justin Hoffenberg, a renowned fiddler, teacher and band leader in his own right of ‘Long Road Home’ (which features Pete Wernick during Hot Rize hiatuses) joined Ragged Union in August 2015, and the ‘uptight bass’ gets plowed by the driving hands of one Mike Sivcovich, a St Louis native and recent Colorado transplant.

The band released its debut album, “Hard Row to Hoe” in May, 2015, featuring mostly up-tempo originals along with the traditional “Worry My Life Away”, Red Allen’s “Don’t Lie to Me”, and Neil Young’s “Bound for Glory”.  The album was released to Bluegrass Radio and aired on a number of programs. Several favorable reviews from domestic and international sources are available on the website at raggedunionbluegrass.com/press. A review will also appear in the March issue of the popular English publication, Songlines.

            The slightly more traditional or perhaps ‘straight-ahead’ songwriting on ‘Hard Row’ has given way to a more inventive variety on the newer numbers the band has been working up in recent performances. While the bluegrass undoubtedly remains, with Christina covering some Hazel Dickens songs (“Coal Tattoo”, “Only the Lonely”), and Geoff penning a new, fast duet (“If You Don’t Love Me”) more modern things are happening as well. The Union/ Harris co-write, “Rented Room”, kicks off with a guitar-and-vocal build up, and moves between bluegrass time and non-bluegrass rhythms throughout. Christina’s “Half Lit Parking Lot’ freight-trains along with a solid minor-keyed drive until it hits a ¾ time bridge, where the band gets to stretch out in the jam space at those hippy club gigs (!). ‘Time Captain”, another Geoff creation, utilizes the half-time mandolin chop for that ‘country-funk’ feel, all in all an expansion of style that remains tied together by the underlying bluegrass feel and traditional instrumentation. Recording has just begun on these new numbers, and the band is hoping to get one or two songs done each month, release some singles, and arrive at a new album by the end of the year.

            As far as touring goes, the band seems equally at home in the listening room/ concert setting, festival, or club-date party scene.  Ragged Union has been building markets in the Northwest (Seattle, Oregon), California (Bay Area, L.A.) and in the Mid West (Lawrence, Kansas, St Louis, Wisconsin, Iowa City) as well as Colorado, where they play a regular rotation of shows in Denver, Boulder, Ft Collins, and Mountain areas.

Band Members