I know Im not the easiest lover, Drag the River admits in Jeff Black Song. That honest and simple line over a minimal acoustic track tells you as much as you need to know about Drag the River.
The alt-country band started as a side project, grew into a full-time band, and fell apart as band members went in different directions. At present, they may or may not be active in some form, following a 2008 break up that lasted all of a few months, hence the album title. The similarities to Lucero are more numerous than I want to get into. But, like Ben Nichols band, the singers are the driving force and recognizable face to the band. Drag the River comes across as Chad and Jons band, and while members may change, theyll keep at it as long as possible.
Drag the River is at their best in the melodic ballads, such as A Way with Women, Jeff Black Song, and J.J.s Drivin, which carry themes of broken relationships from a man with his guitar. This isnt a band of punks playing country music, they utilizes the traditional themes of loneliness and trouble with women while playing reflective and heartfelt songs. On the few songs where the tempo is increased, things get a little hokey for me. Crawling and Trainwreck both remind me of Lurleen Lumpkins fingerpicking songs on The Simpsons which, while amusing, doesnt really suit my fancy. The songs arent that hillbilly, but they still have a bit of Hee-Haw in them.
Where the record fails is in cohesion. After all, it is a collection of rarities and out of prints, so the recording quality varies while the songs cover a decade of band development. There are a handful of demo-quality tracks that will only appeal to the devout, and the record would have been better without them. At twenty songs and an hour of material, it drags at times. Still, the quality of the songwriting along with the honest approach has created a pretty good collection of compiled material.
If youre a fan of Lucero, but prefer more somber and less whiskey, this is perfect for you.
7.0 / 10
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