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Thursday, Jan. 21, 2010 06:00 am

Ragged Jack rolls on

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Ragged Jack

When Lyman Ellerman sings “life is a wheel, let it roll, let it roll, let it roll,” you know he means it in his heart and soul. The song is the title track from a new CD recorded in Nashville last fall by Ellerman’s group Ragged Jack, available to the public for the first time Saturday (Jan. 23, 8:30 p.m.) during a release party at the Fieldhouse. The record presents a cross-section of Southern rock sounds that represent the philosophy and style of Ragged Jack’s persona as a band.

“This is the kind of music Ragged Jack is going to keep making,” said Ellerman. “We are now where we’ve wanted to be for a long time and this is the spot we feel most comfortable at with our sound.”

Ellerman, a Riverton area native, moved to Nashville, Tenn., several years ago to pursue a commercial songwriting career within the country music industry prominent in Music City, USA. With hundreds of works crafted during his tenure in the business, the intense regimen of daily songwriting honed the tunesmith’s skills and led to a backlog of material. As every writer or person familiar with the “for hire” songwriter scene knows, coming up with an idea for someone or something else is a totally different experience than penning tunes for personal reasons. What is deemed a hit by the establishment is not usually a writer’s all-time favorite or a meaningful cut.

“This is Southern alternative rock and the music I want to play,” he said. “We’re not trying to hit the target of being commercial. It is definitely not Nashville, but there is a market for it.”

Ellerman, a bandleader as a singer and guitarist since his teens, hooked up with an East Tennessee band a few years ago at the encouragement of manager and music publisher Mike Kinnamon to make Ragged Jack. After the group evolved through several versions with different players from the Nashville area, Ellerman returned to his home turf in the Springfield area to find musicians. Teaming up with longtime cohort, bassist and vocalist Jerry Turley, and then adding lead guitarists David Lumsden and Joe Cooke, plus keyboardist Harry Lounsberry, with drummer Scott Mundstock as a constant, the band found a strong rhythm and clear dynamic to sustain the songs through the recording process. Lumsden, heard on eight recorded tracks, no longer performs consistently in concert with the band due to practical reasons, but the rest of the group consolidated well and gelled into a powerful combination of tasteful chops and solid playing.

Ellerman’s daughter, Jessica Stout, adds harmony vocals on six tracks to complete the lineup of music makers. Production credits fall to Ellerman and Kinnamon with the added inclusion of veteran music industry musician and producer Jamie LaRitz. The Nashville based guitar ace also worked on the latest disc by Bret Michaels of Poison, toured as a sideman with many famous and successful acts, and holds a fine track record as a demo producer in Nashville by working in his own Dog Ear Studios.

As for Ellerman, he’s already getting started on another record, this one representing his acoustic-oriented singer-songwriter side. As he states in one of my favorite tracks on Life is a Wheel, Ellerman got “the soles of his shoes out of the Sangamon mud” while maintaining a steady commitment to pursue and enact the lifelong dream of making music a reality.

Ragged Jack performs songs for the CD release of Life is a Wheel at 8:30pm, Sat., Jan. 23, at the Fieldhouse. The disc is available at the show and online at CD Baby, Amazon, www.raggedjack.com and www.myspace.com/raggedjack.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com

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