By James Calemine

The concept for Ragged and Right originated from inspiration surrounding the Mordicai Jones/Link Wray 3 Track Shack sessions. Released in 2010, Ragged and Right counts as one of Virginia guitarist Jack Rose’s final recordings before he died in December of 2009 at the age of 38.

Rose proved to be a versatile 6-string, 12-string and lap steel player. Rose’s finger-picking style amazed even the most deft pickers such as the Six Organs of Admittance member  Ben Chasney. Rose began collaborating with Atlanta-born D. Charles Shuford (aka Speer) in 2008, and this EP emerged from that collaboration.

The group’s affinity for ‘old time’ music sounds obvious. Rose’s pedal steel playing fits perfectly with Speer & the Helix’s country foundation. The first song, “Prison Song”, opens with a beautiful piano intro that might serve as the backbone for any pop song, but once the mandolin, pedal steel and guitar appear…it’s country soul at its finest.

Speer’s voice exists somewhere between Johnny Cash and Mike Cooley of the Drive By Truckers. “Prison Song” tells a tale of how a beautiful ‘black-haired, blue-eyed girl’ inspired the storyteller to rob a bank, which lands him in prison. Amazing tune…

The instrumental “Linden Avenue Stomp” contains some fantastic six-string tangled sounds that transcend time. “The Longer You Wait” reminds me of the Flying Burrito Brothers, Chris Darrow and Clarence White, but they streamline this number into a classic country tune that stands on its own.

The final track, “In The Pines”, is a swirling, wide-open homage to the Louvin Brothers. Ragged and Right…indeed.