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Pitchfork.com review after the break…
Ragged and Right is short, only four songs and 17 minutes long, but it has something that makes it stand out from Jack Rose’s other records: electricity. That wasn’t always the case. During his tenure in the Appalachian-drone outfit Pelt during the early 1990s, Rose– who passed away late last year– made occasional, and often unorthodox, use of electric guitar. But during the last decade he devoted himself to acoustic instruments– writing deeply meditative finger-style ragas in the spirit of neo-primitive pickers like John Fahey and Peter Walker. Ragged and Right, among Rose’s final unreleased studio recordings, finds the guitarist plugging back in.
During a 2008 tour of the Midwest with D. Charles Speer and the Helix, Rose became smitten with Link Wray's Mordicai Jones album and Three Track Shack sessions, which were getting heavy rotation on the drives between gigs. To commemorate the trip, Rose recruited his tour mates for a session at Black Dirt Studio where they knocked off a few whiskey-soaked Wray covers, a Merle Haggard tune, and an original with Rose performing on lap steel and electric guitar.
The ringing and ominous drones he produced in Pelt are nowhere to be found here, though. Rather, Rose plays the traditional sideman– dropping slick leads and solos into faithfully arranged country and western material. He had the licks to pull it off, too. His lap-steel work on the group’s cover of Merle Haggard’s “The Longer You Wait” is a reminder that Rose was a man of diverse chops– a guy whose honky-tonk riffs were as inspired as his third-eye-popping ragas.
It’s still weird, though. In his post-Pelt work, Rose seemed fascinated with the strangeness of pre-WWII blues and ragtime recordings– their wobbling rhythms and foreign-sounding sense of melody. The group’s Wray-inspired arrangement of “In the Pines”, with its “papa-ooh-mow-mow” intro and unhinged vocals, stays true to that spirit. As a solo artist Rose never did much rock'n'roll– not even on the EP I Do Play Rock and Roll– but Wray’s brand of weirdness might have made a good jumping-off point for him.
Not that the other guys are invisible. D. Charles Speer and the Helix fill out the session with drums and piano, and the group’s leader, No-Neck Blues Band’s Dave Shuford, provides lead vocals on three tracks. It’s a group effort, for sure, and like Rose’s upbeat Dr. Ragtime and His Pals LP, Ragged draws energy from the freewheeling collaborative spirit. Rose was a serious musician, but he had a lighter side, too. His sprawling ragas and solo compositions were frequently transcendent. On Ragged and Right, so is his bar-rock.
— Aaron Leitko, Pitchfork, July 8, 2010