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Listening Report: Dragnet Delivers The Facts That NRBQ Is An American Musical Treasure

Mark Smotroff gives thanks to be able to cue up some fresh new Q…

I don’t know about you but I’ve been counting my musical blessings a lot lately, grateful for the many tremendous artists who have been delivering creative inspiration for us to enjoy all these years. While some of the brightest stars of our times have passed away in recent years  — making many of my music friends feel a bit on the bleak side — we should all collectively take a moment to pause and appreciate the greats who are still here with us, still making fine fine music for us to enjoy. 

I’m genuinely thankful!

Really folks. Especially with the world in such disarray, it is a hopeful sign that many of our longest lasting artists can still find the power to pull from within to create new music that is fresh and fun. 

Case in point: the legendary band NRBQ have a brand new album of brand new music which came out late last year on CD and streaming called Dragnet and it is a wonderful listening experience end to end. The vinyl only became available recently this year which is why I waited to write up my review.

Dragnet is NRBQ’s first collection of all new material in eight years, released by Omnivore Recordings. Still led by original founding member Terry Adams, the current incarnation of NRBQ is a well oiled, astoundingly accomplished group of musicians, singers, composers and performers. If you are a fan of the band this is no surprise, of course. But if you are new to the NRBQ universe be prepared to embrace a quartet of spectacular musical diversity and capability. 

Dragnet is a lot of fun and the new songs feel immediately comfortable and familiar. While most are written by Terry Adams, lead singer Scott Ligon turns in the catchy country-flavored pop love song “I Like Her So Much” as well as the jazzy ballad “That Makes Me A Fool.” Bassist and backing vocalist Casey McDonough offers up the beautiful “The Moon And Other Things”  which feels almost like it could fit on The Beach Boys’ Sunflower as a bonus track.

Speaking of “Sunflower,” the title to the poignant closing song on the album is a hauntingly beautiful mood piece that reminds me of no less than The Band at their early ‘70s peak. I love the gorgeous deconstructing sound of plucked strings— sort of Zither-like, an NRBQ fan-friend pointed out to me that it may be Terry’s Clavinet! When the whole band kicks in for that beautiful guitar solo, well, it may well bring a tear to your eyes (it did to mine!).

Another of my favorites is Terry’s “You Can’t Change People” with its unusual stop time structures and simple-but-sage lyrical wisdom. 

NRBQ’s Dragnet on Qobuz

I first received a CD of Dragnet last year which I’ve enjoyed. The album has been streaming in 16-bit, 44.1 kHz CD quality on Tidal (click here) and Qobuz (click here). But, before I could write this review I had to wait for a vinyl version to come in so I had a good point of comparison.  The CD itself sounds quite good all things considered — same for the CD quality streams — but the vinyl is a warmer listen.

The vinyl pressing on Dragnet is excellent — dark, quiet and well centered. Probably 180 grams thick, I haven’t weighed the disc but it feels heavier, almost like one of those super-sturdy 200 gram platters!  Most importantly, mastering is terrific so the recording sounds appropriately warm and welcoming.  The acoustic guitars on tunes like the country-pop of “I Like Her So Much” and “Memo Song” really showcase the benefit of that extra warmth.  

Really, at this point there main thing you should do is listen to Dragnet. And, get this folks: I just checked on Amazon and as of the time of this writing the album is on sale at 35-percent off! Click on the album title anywhere in this review and it will take you to that page. 

NRBQ’s Dragnet on Tidal

No excuses. Support this amazing band by purchasing their fine new album! 

That said, I can’t wait for things to get a little safer so I can hopefully get to see NRBQ play live again sometime soon.  Until then, listening to Dragnet is the next best thing. Get it. 

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