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Drag the River

Closed – 2002 (Upland)

Reviewed by Eli Messinger

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CDs by Drag the River

The second album from this Ft. Collins, Colorado aggregation sounds less like a side-project for its punk-rock membership (Chad Price of All, Jon Snodgrass and Paul Rucker of Armchair Martian) and more like a solid alt.-country songwriting partnership and band. Though heavy on the electric guitars, there's plenty of melodically careening steel (courtesy of Zach Boddicker), drawled vocals and down-in-the-mouth lyrics.

Price sings with a gruff bluesiness similar to Jon Dee Graham. He and Snodgrass write of the emotional triggers leading to a cozy relationship with the bottle and the dead-end life of such self-medication. Their songs slide from emotional catastrophes ("So Lonely," "Song for Robin Reichhardt," "Calloused Heart #2," "Lost Weekend") into a downward spiral of drink, drugs and co-dependence ("Forgiveness," "Barroom Bliss," "Booze 'n' Pills," "Get Drunk," "Smokefinger," "Medicine"), with only a brief pitstop at the junction of introspection and hope ("Embrace the Sound," "Life of Ruin").

One might take these songs literally (and, thus, be on the lookout for news of the band's sextuple liver transplant) if their lyrical detail didn't suggest an extended bout of lucidity. Fact, fiction, or somewhere in between, these stories of tormented hearts provide an edginess that's stripped of tear-in-your-beer romance. For maximum commiseration, set your CD player to "repeat."