Damaged lives often use one of two (or both) tools to cope with existence; depression and anger. The more common way to delineate between the two is fairly simple; depression is turned inward, while anger is dispelled outward. But both states tend to stem from the same underlying emotions. Emotions that Fort Collins, Colorado’s Drag The River have come to know intimately and hold tightly onto.
On the band’s latest release, ‘You Can’t Live This Way,’ DTR’s principal song writers Jon Snodgrass and Chad Price don’t necessarily make a public acknowledgment of lives influenced and affected by anger or depression, despite the overwhelming presence of these underlying emotions throughout the record. Loneliness, depression, subdued anger and disillusionment; they’re all in there. But rarely do their lyrics focus on the self. Rather, the duo tends to paint portraits of the many lives they’ve come in contact with. The ones that have taken wrong turns, made bad decisions, dealt with the unthinkable and somehow lived to tell about it. It’s easy to imagine Snodgrass or Price playing the role of bar stool psychologist, listening intently to a no-name at one in the morning and internalizing the tale long enough to write about it the next day amid hangover. It seems that the duo has found a healthy outlet for the anger and depression they’ve encountered along the way. And the album’s assertion is right, you can’t live this way.
‘You Can’t Live This Way,’ arrived to the public about nine months after the band officially parted ways. There were a few reunion shows this past January to celebrate the release, but by and large, the band was already done and dusted before ‘You Can’t Live This Way’ would ever attract new fans. And though that’s a shame to hear Drag The River spoken about in the past tense, I’m glad that Suburban Home Records went ahead with the final album’s release.
Musically, ‘You Can’t Live This Way’ borrows from the classical country textbook of back road references and beer-soaked harmonies, adding touches of piano, accordion, trumpet and organ to create the band’s most diverse album to date. In the past, DTR has tended to balance their records between tender heartfelt crooning and more upbeat, whiskey bent alt-country. But on ‘You Can’t Live This Way,’ the tempos are slower, the delivery is more hushed, and all things considered, the nights are a hell of a lot longer. There have been glimpses into this darker side of Drag The River on past records, but they’ve often been book-ended between more optimistic takes on roots-based piano or guitar jams. Evidently, times had taken darker turns for Snodgrass and Price before the demise of Drag The River. And one is left speculating whether or not these darker themes ultimately led to the band’s end.
But in the end, Drag The River’s swan song takes painstaking effort to excise the demons of depression and anger they’ve encountered along the way. That the band didn’t survive ‘You Can’t Live This Way’s’ therapy isn’t a surprise. Emotional exorcisms are rarely pleasant. That they walk away from the experience with such an emboldened take on dealing with the many tragedies of life is what matters. And ‘You Can’t Live This Way’ is the recorded proof.
Buy it here
Listen to the title track here