Big news for Drag the River fans: Colorado's favorite "Country & Midwestern" band is coming back in a big way, with a new album — its first in five years — as well as a new label, and a tour kickoff date this Thursday at the Triple Nickel.
The new album is called Drag the River, which after 18 releases in 13 years, was bound to happen. It won't be released until Nov. 5, but you can pick up a copy directly from the band at the show.
The new label, meanwhile, is Xtra Mile Recordings, the rightfully respected British home to Against Me!, Frank Turner, Larry and His Flask and Sonic Boom Six.
You can go to tinyurl.com/DTRsoundcloud and preview the album's opener, "Wichita Skyline." Although not to be confused with Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman," the Drag the River track packs its own poignancy into three perfectly crafted minutes that stand up to repeated listens. I played it half a dozen times in a row, and I never do that.
Xtra Mile will also be doing a digital re-release of DTR's 2008 You Can't Live This Way, which was the band's last studio album, this coming Tuesday, as well as the long-awaited CD release of Buddies, a collaboration between reformed British punk Turner and Drag the River's Jon Snodgrass.
Originally released in 2010 as a 10-inch EP — on green vinyl, no less — Buddies was written in four hours and recorded in not much more. The results, including tracks like "Styx: The Man, the Band" and "Remember That Time We Wrote This Record?" are pretty wonderful.
And if you're a real Drag the River fan, there's also this: While visiting Suburban Home Records' website recently, I saw that they stumbled onto a forgotten stash of eight Drag the River flip-top lighters while moving to a new warehouse. Emblazoned with an illustration of a guy with a dozen heads and one top hat, it's the perfect collectible. Or, as owner Virgil Dickerson drolly put it when they were originally offered in 2006: "The lighters look great and make the perfect accessory for anyone who has a use for a lighter."
Meanwhile, Hopeful Heroines also have a new album waiting in the wings, this one recorded live. "It's something we wanted to do for a long time," says Xanthe Alexis of the album, which the Heroines will soon be posting on their Bandcamp site prior to its physical release. "After our performance at the Pikes Peak Arts Fest, the sound guy handed me a recording. It really captures our friendship and silliness, but also the magic that happens in live performance. If we had known we were being recorded, we would have been really stiff and awkward."
Alexis is also working on a solo album — she recently got hold of an old typewriter to use for percussion parts — and continues to teach an eight-week music program at the Little School on Vermijo, an alternative middle-school for gifted kids that was founded three years ago by Sue Spengler after she'd become dissatisfied with teaching in the public school system.
"This is my second year teaching, and these kids are so talented," says Alexis. "But I have had to bring down the hammer, because I know how good they can be." You can find out exactly how good this Thursday, when the students perform at the Black Box Theatre, the former Millibo Art Theater site at 1367 Pecan St.
And lastly, what Reverb column would be complete without some mention of Kate Smith, Irving Berlin and "God Bless America"? All of the above will be part of a talk being given this Thursday — yes, everything in this column takes place this Thursday — by author Sheryl Kaskowitz at CC's Packard Hall.
OK, I can't say I was all that excited about it either, until I read an excerpt of the musicologist's latest book on Slate. Turns out that "America's other national anthem" has a strange back story that involves anti-Semitism, Ronald Reagan and Woodie Guthrie. Guthrie's distaste for the song's sentiments inspired his own "This Land Is Your Land," which he'd originally titled "God Blessed America for Me." The talk is free and will also be streamed live at coloradocollege.edu/live.