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Blue Rags

Eat At Joe's – 1999 (Sub Pop)

Reviewed by Rachel Leibrock

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CDs by Blue Rags

Carrying on an American tradition, North Carolina's Blue Rags turn out a wealth of jolly ragtime, bluegrass and hillbilly tunes on its sophomore record. Although the songs possess certain '90's-era punk sheen - you'd expect nothing less from a band on SubPop - the music's strength lies in its devout mountain music sensibility.

Recorded live in a single day, this embodies a warm, spontaneous feeling that captures the vibrant, breathless essence of a live Blue Rags show. From the album's opening notes of "Movin' Up" you'll want to push back your chair and cut a rug. The musicianship here is potent and crisp; together guitarist Scott Sharpe, upright bassist/fiddler Bill Reynolds, drummer Mike Rhodes and acoustic flatpicker Woody craft an authentic sound rooted in the ideals of Bill Monroe, Leadbelly and the Carter Family. The real star of the show, however, is singer-songwriter Jake Hollifield positioned at the piano like a saloon maestro. Accompanied by the jubilant strikes of his piano keys, the warm, rich timbre of Hollifield's vocals add an emotional depth and a fervent spirit to such songs as "Jet Set" and "Can't Tie That Knot."