On their second album the band's ragtime bounce is still intact, but country blues share the billing, all presented with a cleaner mix that shows just how impressive the band's instrumental chops are. Pete Bernhard's songwriting moves in a more serious, more insightful direction here. Drinking and hard times still figure heavily in the songs, but mindless indulgence has been replaced with a consciousness that puts the behavior in a broader social context. The good time music is tempered by sober lyrics rooted in the usual social concerns of a singer/songwriter. "North Carolina" is a country blues with some impressive guitar picking from Cooper McBean, a starkly traditional "she done me wrong song" delivered in a straightforward manner that intensifies the hurt Bernhard sings about. "Man Tap" is a tale of hard times and drinking, but this time Bernhard treats the subject with a more solemn attitude, acknowledging that while booze may provide temporary relief, in the long run life's just going to keep piling up troubles on your doorstep. "Sweeping" is a classic protest song marked by energetic picking, and a scathing lyric that contrasts the lives of the privileged with those of the working people who make their leisure possible. "Bangor Mash" harks back to the first album's jaunty odes to death; it's a salute to the end of life with a carefree lyric and a breathless double-time bridge that accentuates the tune's happy-go-lucky vibe. "Judgment Day" is a Jimmie Rodgers' style blues with some nice resonator guitar work from McBean. "Black Irish" has a Celtic feel with McBean's clattering rhythm work on banjo, and a dark lyric about living life to its fullest despite the fear that can grind you down. McBean's musical saw gives "River Deep," one of his own tunes, an eerie vibe intensified by his sinister Lee Hazlewood style vocal. It's a perfect blend of ominous urban poetry and country sunshine. "Long Boots Johnson," the album's only instrumental, is another country blues that shows off McBean's splendid guitar and banjo work and Lucia Turino's rock-solid standup bass, the sound that provides the anchor on every track.
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AllMusic Review by AllMusic