I miss the heyday of the Red Clay Ramblers, but Mike Craver can still write a hook as good as anybody, and better than most. Not every song's going to be a winner, and there are a few on Wagoner's Lad that don't quite work for me. For much of the recording, the zany, up-tempo, high-end humor that made Craver's earlier work stand out is lacking. Yet after a first listen, I found myself with the title track melody stuck firmly in my mind. That's good songwriting. Both "Little Brown Bat" ("Little brown bat in the amethyst light/Zigzags all the August night/Boys are beating on the old bass drum/Ghost of the past, and the ghost to come") and "Down at the Crossroads" ("The shelves are stocked with Gravy Train/And potted meat and White Rain") deserve a listen. When he throws in "In the Bottom of the Leadville Mine," you know his talents are intact. Craver by himself is good, but it's easy to imagine how some bandmates would have improved the sound and success of Wagoner's Lad. - Richard Dorsett
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