Drag the River


Fort Collins’ alt-country specialists Drag the River not about to run dry

Drag the River :: Aggie Theatre :: November 6 ::
:: Bluebird Theater :: November 7

By Cornelia Kane

It might seem to most folks like punk rock and country are sort of like oil and water: they don’t mix. Well, that ain’t necessarily true, as proved by Fort Collins’ own alt-country band, Drag the River.

Formed in 1996 by core members Jon Snodgrass (guitar, vocals), of Armchair Martian, and Chad Price (guitar, vocals), the band started as two guys messing around during off hours at a local recording studio. The Blasting Room — home to punk legends The Descendents and ALL.

“Chad and I had kind of met before, but when he gave me a Ted Hawkins’ recording in 1994 [maverick southern black soul-folk singer who moved to Venice Beach later in life and was ‘discovered’ by a major label just before his death], that’s when we really bro’ed down,” recalled Snodgrass in a recent interview with The Marquee.

“We talked about Missouri, where we’d both grown up less than an hour from each other. We’d been in a lot of the same places at the same time but not known each other — like at ALL shows before Chad joined the band, and also Bad Brains and many other punk shows at a place called the Outhouse in Lawrence, Kansas.”

Copies of these informal jam sessions that the two laid down at The Blasting Room began to appear and circulate as bootlegs, so the guys decided to put out their first official release, Hobo’s Demos, a collection of rough cuts, around 2000.

After putting a lineup together and doing some touring, the band released their first full-length studio album, 2002’s Closed, which, like the album before, came out on Upland/O&O Records, a label co-run by Joe Carducci (formerly of the now defunct label SST, which put out records by many legendary punk bands such as Black Flag, Hüsker Dü and the Minutemen). Punk rock roots run deep within the band, yet their sound and songs’ subjects remain decidedly “country and Mid-Western,” according to Snodgrass.

After a few more EPs, a vinyl pressing, and a live album (recorded at the Starlight in Fort Collins), the band has established themselves firmly within their genre, opening for bands such as North Mississippi Allstars as well as touring regularly as a headliner.

In the tradition of legendary ’70s country rock outlaws like Townes Van Zandt, David Allan Coe, Charlie Daniels and Steve Earle, there seems to be a fresh bumper crop of bands that sing songs about hard livin,’ hard lovin’ and hard-drinkin’. Many of these bands have actually been around for many years, and Drag the River can certainly be included in the list of “new old bands” that have recently come into popularity with the resurgence of interest in alt-country.

While all the bands have distinctions, some being more bluegrass-oriented, some more hardcore punk, Drag the River stands apart from the pack as the trailblazers of the modern whisky ballad. They make the kind of music that might make you want to cry into your beer or break a barstool over someone’s back, depending on how many drinks you’ve had.

While the lineup has recently changed, Snodgrass’s raspy, plaintive vocals, trading lead with Price, lyrics about love and loss, the twang of pedal steel, and a rock and roll drummer are still the staples of a Drag the River show. Taking a page from the legendary country rocker Graham Parsons, they make some of the rockingest sad music you’ve heard for a while.

The new lineup includes Casey Prestwood, of Hot Rod Circuit, on pedal steel, and drummer Dave Barker, who stepped in after former drummer Paul Rucker recently moved to California. Bassist J.J. Nobody, joined the band in 2002.

“Some shows are Jon and Chad duo shows, which is the way the band started. Our new steel player is in another band and sometimes is on tour with them. So now, we play either as a five piece or a two piece,” said Snodgrass of the recent changes.

The band will be touring nationally this fall and winter. “Next year, we’ll release two CDs. One with the new band and the other unreleased material featuring the old guys. We’re also putting out maybe three or four 7-inches, which will be of the music on one of the CDs, but the CD won’t come out until all the vinyl is gone. We’ll also be re-releasing Closed on super-limited vinyl,” said Snodgrass.

Drag the River :: Aggie Theatre :: November 6 ::

:: Bluebird Theater :: November 7

Spectate if you Gravitate:

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• Lucero

• Townes Van Zandt

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