Drag the River

It's Crazy

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Perhaps knowing that the primary members of Drag the River came out of the pop-punk field helps explain how their country project keeps songs succinct, concise, and flab-free. Although this album is pieced together from various sessions and overdubs recorded from 2005-2006 (three basic tracks originated back in 2003), it hangs together remarkably well as a coherent set. Credit the founding duo of guitarists/vocalists/songwriters Chad Price and Jon Snodgrass for keeping the sound lean and the twangy folk- and country-rocking songs sharp enough to meld together despite the inconsistent recording circumstances. Think old Poco and the Flying Burrito Brothers as templates for this rootsy approach that meshes dark folk ("Beautiful & Damned"), classic honky tonk ballads ("Strange"), and more frisky Commander Cody-styled sizzlers ("Cousins"). It's a deceptively simple approach that connects due to the diverse vocal styles (smooth and gritty) of the two lead singers and a knack for concocting natural hooks. Spacey Casey's twisting pedal steel also brings a fresh breeze to the proceedings, bolstering the simplest tracks with clean steel and lead lines. Lyrics run to the depressing side, even as the sprightly melodies suggest otherwise. "Amazing G."'s female protagonist exotic dancer "worships at the altar of alcohol" as the singer/boyfriend, who she met in the men's room, holds her hair back when she throws up. It's obviously true love. But between the emotionally raw, unpretentious vocals of both lead singers and material as strong as "The Cause & the Cure," one of the album's most touching, thoughtful, and lovely tunes, the disc keeps delivering through the final track. Some songs segue into each other with no break between, which brings a relaxed flow with Casey's swinging lead and steel guitars providing additional focus. The final track is a 33-minute reprise of the entire disc that preceded it, certainly good value for the money in a jukebox, but otherwise needlessly repetitious.

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