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On GN Chicago’s Ratboys show the unquestionable connection between emo and country

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In April I was caught off guard when the New York Times previewed a Pinegrove show by saying, “On paper, this six-piece New Jersey band shouldn’t work, but its blend of country and emo somehow does.” That straw man is predicated on the idea that two genres built on guitars and deep subversive histories have nothing in common, but a brisk sweep of emo’s recent past easily brings up great examples of the two sounds meeting—hear the slide guitar ringing out on Small Brown Bike’s “A Lesson to Remember,” or maybe listen to Lucero’s entire discography. The best examples make the combination feel wholly natural—which has long been the MO for Chicago’s Ratboys, who tonight celebrate the release of their second album, GN (Topshelf). The band’s guiding forces, guitarist-singer Julia Steiner and guitarist David Sagan, treat genre as nothing more than a force to be bent at the behest of the mood and story, as when the looping emo chords and delicate slide guitar on “Elvis Is in the Freezer” help Steiner fill in the gaps in a multidimensional tale about her dead cat.   v

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