~ A national mandolin champion (Jordan Ramsey), a cult-hero songwriter (Benny ‘Burle’ Galloway), an award-winning banjo player (Chris Elliott), a highly respected fiddler (Justin Hoffenberg), and a creative and driven bandleader/songwriter/singer and flatpicker (Geoff Union).
Formed in the winter of 2013, on the Front Range of Colorado, Ragged Union has made a name for itself at renowned festivals and events in the US and the UK, as an ‘updated-traditional’ original bluegrass band. The music sounds of a piece with the bluegrass tradition, with modern and varied songwriting, lyrics, and arrangements that allow it a comfortable co-existence in the trad., progressive, and jam grass worlds. The band has appeared at IBMA Wide Open Bluegrass, Northwest String Summit, John Hartford Memorial Festival, Darrington Bluegrass Festival, Topanga Festival, and major UK festivals including Shrewsbury, Musicport, Didmarton and Purbeck Valley Festival.
Their second album, Time Captain, released in October, 2017. The effort features eleven original numbers, and an update of Joe Val’s version of the cowboy classic, Diamond Joe. Time Captain reached #7 nationally on the Roots Music Americana radio chart, with songs covering the range from blazing-fast bluegrass romps (‘Diamond Joe’, ‘If You Don’t Love Me’), to medium stomps (‘Bridge on Fire’), a hard-driving waltz (Leaving Town), some veritable jam grass (Half Lit Parking Lot) and even some old-time melodic songs (‘Moonshine Boogie’ and (‘Leaving Louisville’). Maybe not something for everyone, but definitely a multi-dimensional sound that has the salt to please both young and old, listeners and dancers alike, and one that has earned critical praise for its respect of the roots and its willingness to branch out.
The band has been through some personnel changes, none perhaps more profound than the most recent. Longtime lead vocalist, Christina Union, played her last show with Ragged Union in November 2017 (Geoff and Christina are married, and both parents touring had become too hard on their young daughter). In January 2018, the band began working with Benny ‘Burle’ Galloway on upright bass and vocal. Burle has been one of the best-kept musical secrets in the country, with songwriting credits on albums by Yonder Mountain String Band, The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, and Drew Emmitt. His songs, both complex and simple, sound like they are a hundred years old, yet connect with the listener on a level that few songwriters achieve. With songs so powerful, Yonder Mountain String Band, after putting at least one of Burle's songs on every one of their albums to date, chose to make an album with Burle, consisting only of tunes by Burle, with special guests like Tim O’Brien, Jerry Douglas, Sally Van Meter, Darol Anger, Casey Dreisen and Dirk Powell. This album, billed as “Yonder Mountain String Band and Benny Galloway”, “Old Hands”, debuted at #5 on the Billboard Bluegrass Charts and is one of Yonder Mountain String Bands best selling albums to date.
2018 tours will take them to NC, TN, GA, WA, OR, UT, ID, CO, and back to the UK. This collaboration is brand new - the group has just had time to perform two shows in Colorado - but it already feels like a unit that has been playing together forever. Burle has a long performance history with Ramsey, Elliott, and Hoffenberg, and with the songwriting affinity between Galloway and Union, and a little bit of contrast, Ragged Union has opened a door for itself into a musical world that is even richer and wiser than the one it was already inhabiting.
“Geoff Union's "Moonshine Boogie," witty and irresistible, is another kind of classic bluegrass, and among the most impressive new old-sounding songs I've heard in a while.”
- Jerome Clark, rambles.net
“A contender for the title of Colorado’s next great bluegrass band” - Elevation Outdoors
“…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.” - Ron Thomason, Dry Branch Fire Squad
Geoff Union (guitar, vocal; Fayetteville, North Carolina) has been performing in bluegrass bands for almost 20 years - most notably with the nationally touring Two High String Band (2002-2009). THSB played major festivals in the US including Rocky Grass, Merle Fest, Spring Fest, concert series and clubs all across the country. Union is a powerful flat pick guitarist and singer, and writes in an "outsider" lyric style, eschewing standard country themes of love and loss for darker material including moonshinery, obscure history (mostly related to moonshine) and desperate fiction.
Jordan Ramsey (mandolin, vocal; Knoxville, Tennessee) 2016 Walnut Valley National Mandolin Champion and 2008 Rockygrass Mandolin Champion. He studied under Raymond McLain and Jack Tottle at East Tennesse State University, and has shared the stage with the likes of David Grisman, Porter Wagoner, Ralph Stanley, Curley Seckler, Tater Tate, Alison Krauss, Dan Tyminski, Hunter Berry, and Adam Steffey.
Chris Elliott (banjo; Huffman, Texas) studied banjo at South Plains Community College with Alan Munde. He won the Rocky Grass banjo competition in 2007, and is well known for his work in the popular band Spring Creek Bluegrass, and more recently the Blue Canyon Boys. He has appeared on many national stages with those bands, and also teaches.
Justin Hoffenberg (fiddle, Boulder, Colorado) has been a mainstay of the Colorado bluegrass scene for over a decade. His previous project, Long Road Home, had included Gene Libbea on bass and Pete Wernick on banjo before his return to Hot Rize. Justin is also a resident instructor at the Rocky Grass Academy.
Benny “Burle” Galloway has been one of the best-kept musical secrets in the country. His songs sound like they are a hundred years old, yet connect with the listener on a level that few songwriters achieve. Burle writes songs that are both complex and simple, songs so powerful that the Yonder Mountain String Band, after putting at least one of Burle's songs on every one of their albums to date, chose to make an album with Burle, consisting only of tunes by Burle, with special guests like Tim O’Brien, Jerry Douglas, Sally Van Meter, Darol Anger, Casey Dreisen and Dirk Powell. This album, billed as “Yonder Mountain String Band and Benny Galloway”, “Old Hands”, debuted at #5 on the Billboard Bluegrass Charts and is one of Yonder Mountain String Bands best selling albums to date. As a performer, Burle puts everything he has into his soulful singing and playing, whether he is on the upright bass electric bass or guitar. Since then he has become quite sought after, both as a performer and a songwriter, with some of the biggest jam and blue grass acts (Drew Emmit, Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass) taking a keen interest in his critically acclaimed skills.