Album Review
Drag the River - You Can't Live This Way Album Cover

Drag the River - You Can't Live This Way

Reviewed by
Drag the River - You Can’t Live This Way
Record Label: Suburban Home Records
Release Date: January 22, 2008
Drag the River’s latest release You Can’t Live This Way is pure American heartland rock with spots of country, roots rock, and folk pop. The band has two distinct lead vocalists at the helm, Chad Price who has the husky voicing of Bob Seger and Jon Snodgrass whose voice has the rusty barbed coils of John Prine. Some tracks make for great melodies to listen to while driving, other songs are good to digest while you are sitting at the bar with buddies, and still others are tunes that your mind might summon when you are alone with your thoughts. Produced and recorded by Marc Benning, You Can’t Live This Way is a reminder that American heartland rock is very much alive and a source of comfort and excitement for people.

The haunting folk pop atmospherics of “Caleb’s Grave” is one of those tracks that stick in the mind with verses like, “I’ll have the last laugh / You bitter, your burn / Burned up and passed out, you’re the only one / Laid out and freezing, you’re breathing in earth… I haven’t been this scared in a lifetime / Roses die on the blood line down in Caleb’s grave / You’re haunted for life.” Along with the music, the lyrics have an extra pounce that grabs the listener by the shirt collar and shakes him/her to the core. Less intense are those tracks which are good to play on the jukebox at the bar like the country folk toned “Lost Angel Saloon,” “Bad Side of a Good Time,” and “Fleeting Porch of Tide.” They aren’t square dance, or if you are from Australia, bush dance material, but they will get you on the dance floor. The wind whipping heartland rock surges of “Brookfield,” “Br00tal,” and “Rangement” buckle in the listener for an exciting ride.

The band indulges in segments of jazz-contoured horns played by Keith Douglas on “Rangement” and the opening track “Death of the Life of the Party” with its trickles of jazz style piano played by Dave Swenson intercepting the verses. The pedal steel pines crafted by Spacey Casey fife “Defy the Moon” with some cool waves, and the country rock vibrations of “Lizzy” are spackled by invigorating guitar licks that plunge into wondrous eruptions. Drag the River’s attachment to folk pop/roots rock elements is evident throughout the album, but particularly in “Tobacco Fields” and “W.W. Too.” The contemplative strokes in the lyrics and reposing aura of these two songs are rooted in feelings for home. The final track “You Can’t Live This Way” is actually all fourteen previous tracks played one after the other, making a type of retrospective of the album for audiences. So if you want to hear the entire album, you just have to play the last song.

Drag the River give American heartland rock a modern gloss without damaging its roots rock, country, or folk heritages. Price and Snodgrass are credited for writing all of the songs, but also featured on the album are performances from their producer Marc Benning, J.J. Nobody on bass, Dave Barker on drums, “Spacey” Casey Prestwood on pedal steel, Keith Douglas on horns, and Dave Swenson and Rich Steff on piano. Drag the River are a jamband who call Colorado home and their latest album is a portrait of their homeland. If you've never been to Colorado, You Can’t Live This Way will let you feel like you are right there in the center of it all.

Recommended if You LikeJohn Prine, Bob Seger, Old 97’s

This review is a user submitted review from Susan Frances. You can see all of Susan Frances's submitted reviews here.
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