Drag the River, You Can’t Live This Way
Drag the River sounds a lot like Son Volt. More precisely, imagine Jeff Tweedy breaking off to form Son Volt instead of Wilco — that’s what Drag the River sounds like, complete with poppier melodies and vaguer lyrics. The band centers on two guys who sing and write the songs; one of the guys, Chad Price, is a dead ringer for Jeff Tweedy, and the other guy, Jon Snodgrass, is more distinctive, gritty, and lonesome. Regardless of who’s singing, the songs on You Can’t Live This Way still sound as if they belong together, even more than Uncle Tupelo’s ever did.
They have similar senses of humor — Price’s “Death of the Life of the Party” is almost exactly the same kind of ironic country title as Snodgrass’ “Bad Side of a Good Time.” Their voices blend in a way that is simple but effective, and the harmonies are some of the the best parts of the songs. Their differences, however, also complement one other: Price has more of the catchier and more immediate melodies, while Snodgrass brings a broader range of styles to the album.
And the songs themselves are almost all keepers. “Death of the Life of the Party” is one of those beautiful sad ballads that still leaves you feeling good. “Rangement” is faster, but still melancholy, with an unusual chord progression and a horn section lifted from The Kinks’ “Alcohol.” “Bad Side of a Good Time” is a jaunty, amusing closer, complete with barroom piano, that you wish wouldn’t end. “Lost Angel Saloon” is another great ballad with witty pedal steel guitar lines.
Drag the River has been around for ten or eleven years, so the consistency of tone should be expected. But quality songs are never a given, and their songs are impressive. Their songs are reminiscent of Son Volt and early Wilco, but they’ve put their own twist on those bands. And the songs are good enough that it doesn’t matter anyway. They carry you away to their own world, and that’s what’s important.