ALBUM | Redirecting energy from his punk band Hot Water Music, frontman Chuck Ragan has now released four albums of foot-stomping folk Americana music. His latest effort Till Midnight brings together a tight group of friends for another 10 songs of hard work, heartache and long roads. As always, Ragan brings his guttural howl to bear on swinging rockers and lonely ballads. The new album is cleaner and more radio-ready than his previous work. Expect hard-driving drums, soaring organ and slippery slide guitar. Polished harmonies have replaced the desperate lyrics and rough-hewn authenticity of his first solo tracks. Some may long for the old Ragan, while others will embrace a new selection of catchy tunes from an old favorite.
STORY | Low-key and elusive, author Denis Johnson admits he tends to work slowly. Some of his books can take more than a decade to come together. But for the first time in years, Johnson has released a new short story, "The Largesse of the Sea Maiden" in the March 3 issue of The New Yorker. Through the eyes of a middle-aged advertising executive, Johnson strings together common moments in unsettling ways. Within several short chapters, the character comes across bizarre strangers, even stranger friends, intimate dinner parties, an artist's funeral and his own dwindling future. Johnson uses routine observations to subtlety unlock mystery and mortality. He tells The New Yorker it took him more than seven years to craft the story, but fear not — he also has a new novel scheduled for this fall.
BEER | Laughing Dog Brewing in Sandpoint maintains a strong stable of beers, ranging from their light Huckleberry Cream Ale to their dark and hearty The Dogfather. But for pure refreshment and drinkability, it's tough to beat the brewery's Purebred Citra, a single-hop American Pale Ale. With a modest weight and alcohol content, Purebred gives all the attention to its citra hops — a sharp, fruit-echoing hop variety that brings a citrusy crispness to the beer. As the weather turns warmer, Purebred Citra makes for a clean and vibrant beer to replace the rich stouts of the long winter months. Laughing Dog calls it their first in an expanding series of single-hop brews to come, so look for additional hop showcases down the road.