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Dag is darn good

When you hear modern rock or punk musicians described as "funky," it usually means they've mentioned Sly Stone a lot in their interviews, discovered a digital sampler a decade late or thanked a rapper in their album liner notes.

That makes better copy than music, which often features semi-competent riffing in search of a purpose. Knowing how to drop the right names doesn't mean you can play; it usually means you're just another group of undergrads needing less discourse and more practice.

Dag's rhythm-mongering debut album, Righteous, is a welcome break from form. It's hardly new stuff _ as a matter of fact, it's downright derivative of Earth Wind & Fire or Rufus. But considering how few bands of its generation know what to do with a 4/4 beat, Dag's performances of Plow, As, Sweet Little Lass and Lovely Jane are a major head rush. These trance-inducing grooves make you forget not only the legions of alternative/punk/funk pretenders, but respected groovers like the Brand New Heavies. Not to mention most of the retread tracks coming out of the West Coast rap scene.

You can hear snatches of classic influences throughout Righteous, yet this group hints at its influences rather than ripping them off. Brian Dennis' guitar hunts and pecks like Wah Wah Watson, while keyboardist Doug Jervey evokes everyone from Billy Preston to Bernie Worrell. And when vocalist/bassist Bobby Patterson slips into his Curtis Mayfield bag (Righteous) or growls like Sly (Candy), you're rocking too hard to even call him on it.

Next album, the guys in Dag might want to step out beyond their obvious reference points, but then again, another album of this stuff would be cool, as long as they don't disturb that groove.



Righteous (Columbia) ++++