Fort Collins's alt-honky-tonkers Drag the River make music that's best served in a seedy boondocks barroom, the listener's beer firmly in hand. This spirit -- minus the smell of so many empty Bud bottles -- is fittingly captured on Live at the Starlight, the band's third release. The record is a touch more upbeat than Drag's previous studio outing, Closed (released earlier in 2002), but similarly organic. The collection of tunes about boozy brawls, lost loves and other Hank-like fare is rollicking, then heartfelt, rough around the edges but technically striking. The players' post-punk backgrounds aside, singers/songwriters/guitarists Chad Price and Jon Snodgrass (the respective frontmen for ALL and Armchair Martian) write country songs that fit a weathered soul like an old mesh-and-foam Caterpillar cap: gnarled, comfortable and honest. In the end, the sixteen tracks on Live at the Starlight bring to light Drag's heart in a way the studio simply can't. (Of course, there's nothing like a true live experience: Drag the River performs Thursday, November 7, at the Gothic Theatre, with Hank III and the Shak Shakers.)
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