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Dragnet Review

by Mark Deming

Terry Adams has literally spent more than half-a-century as a member of NRBQ, and by this time he could probably deliver a sound that would fit the band's personality with any musicians he cared to bring along. In a very real sense, that's what he's been doing since 2011's Keep This Love Goin'. The group quietly split in 2004, and when keyboardist, songwriter, and frequent vocalist Adams chose to re-form the band seven years later, he was the only holdover from the Q's previous iteration. Despite that, Keep This Love Goin', 2014's Brass Tacks, and 2021's We Travel the Spaceways, have re-created the sound and feel of classic-era NRBQ with impressive accuracy. Now that Adams and his new bandmates -- Scott Ligon on guitar, Casey McDonough on bass, and John Perrin on drums -- have had about a decade to get used to one another, the latter three are having a greater impact on the group's music, and 2021's Dragnet reflects that. While their eclecticism, playfulness, and solid musicianship are front and center, as always, Ligon wrote two songs (and co-wrote a third with Adams), and McDonough and Perrin penned one each. As in the group's previous incarnations, NRBQ has more than one worthy composer in the ranks, but this results in an album that's more somber than usual, and occasionally downright moody. The numbers from Adams' accompanists are rooted in more traditional melodic structures than those of the freewheeling Adams, that rare rock & roll bandleader who cites Sun Ra and Thelonious Monk as key influences. Ligon seems to have become NRBQ's new Joey Spampinato, with "I Like Her So Much" and "That Makes Me a Fool" object lessons in pop classicism with just a touch of sorrow under the surface, while Perrin's "Memo Song" is a purposefully simple anthem of self-care and "The Moon and Other Things," from McDonough's pen, is a sweetly romantic midtempo pop tune. With the other guys making nice, Adams welcomes the opportunity to embrace his eccentricities, especially on the amelodic and self-pitying "L-O-N-E Lone-LY," the downbeat folk-rock of "You Can't Change People," and the skeletal "Sunflower." (He also arranged the cover of the Dragnet theme that makes it sound like a Link Wray outtake.) A decade after introducing a different NRBQ, Adams has given us a different NRBQ album, and from a group that's always prized adventure and experimentation, that's as it should be. It's not the only way for a band to stay lively after more than 50 years, but it's one of the best, and it's working for these guys.

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