Although I never met my grandfather, after inheriting a couple of boxes full of his old LPs it’s clear that a steady diet of Chet Atkins, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Merle Haggard, and the like kept that hard drinking, hand-rolled cigarette smoking, coalmine working-man alive. While all you assholes in Nashville who gave birth to “new country” are disgracing you’re so-called musical heritage, local boys from Ft. Collins, Drag the River, and a handful of other punk rock/alternative types have picked up steel guitars and put slides in their hands and are taking back what is rightfully ours (see Son Volt, Uncle Tupelo, Supersuckers).
Drag the River is Jon Snodgrass (guitars/vocals) and Paul Rucker (drums) from another Ft. Collins band, Armchair Martian, plus Chad Price from ALL (guitar/vocals) and J.J. Nobody, their 7th (or is it 12th?) bass player. Last but not least, the man on of steel, pedal that is, is Zach Boddicker from Leghorn, another Ft. Collins band.
I picked up a copy of “Closed” when I saw these guys at the 15th St Tavern not too long ago, based solely on glowing recommendations. Drag the River does not sound exactly like my grandfather’s country, but rather an updated style with the same soul as the greats. Other than “Embrace the Sound,” a countried up rendition of one of my Armchair Martian favorites, the DTR stands on their own aside from their other band’s influences.
It’s clear the song writing duties were divided down the middle between Chad and Jon. Not only do they trade off vocal duties (and why not, they both kick ass) but also the lyrics in one group are straight up like a shot of whiskey, while “Jon Songs” are a little more enigmatic. I attribute the latter to Jon’s style based on the lyrical content in many Armchair songs.
And it works. The right balance of simple honesty and gritty poetry strikes an accord. I have my favorite tracks for sure, but I like it all. From the barnburners to the heartbreakers, Drag the River teaches us that – drinking, regret, love, drinking, redemption and drinking still make for good music; that it’s going to take punk rock to take back the real spirit of a truly American music style; that Jon and Chad may soon suffer liver failure.
To quote a line from one of our cultural icons, the Simpsons, “Ah alcohol, the cause of and solution to most of life’s problems.” And what better way to enjoy misery and merriment than with a tall glass of River.