At age 59, singer/songwriter Bob Rea is releasing only his second album with Ragged Choir, following his debut with Black Highway. His life experience makes it unsurprising that he does not come off as an earnest newcomer, but rather as an experienced veteran. Rea sings in a craggy baritone with a touch of the sardonic, which is appropriate to his lyrics to story songs full of reflections on hard lives lived by the down and out in a country going to hell in a handcart. There is a political element in some of Rea's songs, such as "Platinum Dream," which treats the 2008 economic meltdown, among other things, and "Dirty Dzzez," another lament about what this country's coming to: "No more amber waves of grain/Just internet violence and video games." Except for the occasional reference to the Christian religion, Rea doesn't offer much of a way out of the world's troubles or those of his often stoned or inebriated characters, except perhaps to hit the road, although where one might escape to isn't clear. Producer Tim Lorsch surrounds Rea's dire pronouncements with attractive folk/country arrangements featuring the standup bass/drums rhythm section of Dave Francis and Mickey Grimm, augmented with acoustic string instruments including banjo, dobro, fiddle, and steel guitar, with fingerpicked acoustic guitars supplied by Blue Miller and George Bradfute. The backup musicians assure that even if things are as bad as Rea supposes, there is some pleasure to be had in listening to songs that elucidate the crisis.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann