Lou Ragland “I Travel Alone”
There are few better mailbox surprises than delivery of a new release from my yearly subscription to Numero Group, the wonderful, Chicago-based reissue label. Friday’s present was a I Travel Alone, three CD compilation of late 60s to mid 70s songs from Cleveland soul singer Lou Ragland. Like nearly every Numero release, the contents of this one were largely unheard by me until its arrival and play. And like nearly every Numero release, big chunks of I Travel Alone elicit the kind of “where has this been all of my life?” reaction that I hope all new “old” music will. The title track, which as the liner notes explain, might be better called “Travelin’ Man,” has the dusty patina of not-quite-state-of-the-art recording. It reminds me, in the best way possible, of a Leslie Kong production of late 60s Toots & the Maytals or Desmond Dekker. Whatever it lacks in polish, Lou more than makes up for it in feeling, with an exuberant lead vocal, and well-arranged horns and backing vocals. In a better world or on a bigger label or with a slicker recording it woulda coulda shoulda been a smash. But that’s okay, because it is with me right here right now anyway.