Put your feet up, crack open a cold one and let your heart break beautifully. That is the message from Drag The River.
Formed in the later ’90s, with members from punk bands like All, Armchair Martian, Hot Rod Circuit and Pinhead Circus, who wanted to go country, Drag The River is an alt-country band in the vein of Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt and Lucero.
Singers Jon Snodgrass, of Armchair Martian, and Chad Price, who fronted All for a while, are the main cogs in Drag The River. They each have solo albums out nowadays too. They craft songs about whiskey and girls, and the band produces a sound that makes you think of a depressed country hoe-down.
Bad at Breaking Up – released on Suburban Home Records – is 20 of those toe-tapping, chest-crushing tunes, compiled from various 7 inches and splits and b-sides. And, it is a bit scattered but quite a solid and beautiful release. Held together with soft melodies and gorgeous stories, with lovely lyrics, the songs on Bad at Breaking Up have a common theme. But, it’s the same theme as any Drag The River release: love and friendship gone crooked in the modern world.
Standout tracks on Bad at Breaking Up include the “Jeff Black Song,” “Re-Rangement,” “Caleb’s Grave,” “A Way With Women,” “Dirty Lips,” and “J.J.’s Driving.” Slide guitars dance in and out, drums rev up, then beat quietly, and the bass lines grip you and won’t let you float away as you nod your head to these sad, universal stories.
Aside from “Trainwreck,” which is about a boozing preacher who preaches, “Dirty Lips” is the most raucous offering on this release. Rambling, dancing and knee slapping, it is a fun little ditty that brings a smile to your used lips. A lot of the CD, however, is about frowning with melancholy and being “Beautiful & Damned.” Lyrics like, “He’s got a way with women and he just got away with mine/I know you’ve been down here, I don’t know who ain’t been, heard about your suicide that’s been a waste of time, can’t you just get over it/We’ll watch the stars come up, dance until sunrise…” carry the twisted carnival of used and abused characters through the CD.
I wish I could have gotten one of the 1000 custom Drag The River guitar picks that came out with this release in 2009, but I don’t have to wish I could have seen the band. They are playing a string of shows in California right now. Check dragtheriver.com for more information.