A singer and songwriter out of Conway, Arkansas, Jim Mize falls into the Southern gothic outlaw school of songwriting, drawling out well-crafted honky tonk songs of loss, heartbreak, lonely evenings, even lonelier mornings, endless whiskeys, and that cruel sort of hard luck that always seems to stand in the way of any kind of long-lasting personal redemption. Mize isn't much of a singer, and he speaks/drawls his vocals as much as he sings them, but the narratives he spins, and the utter whiskey-soaked earnestness of them, are his real focus. Dragon Lounge is not an uplifting record, and only the romping "Need Me Some Jesus," which comes next to last in the sequence, has any dancefloor bounce to it. The rest of these tracks sound like that guy late at night at the end of the bar quietly telling his story to anyone who'll listen. Songs like the opener, "Rabbit Hole," the bleak bar ballad "Drunk Moon Falling, the moody (and ultimately quite beautiful) "Eminence Kentucky," and the sad, desperate "Empty Rooms" that closes things out are all drawn on the kind of desperate hopes and probably impossible dreams that drove a record like Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska. Bleak, moody, downbeat, and very, very serious, Dragon Lounge plays somewhere between Merle Haggard and Leonard Cohen, filled with the kind of music one hears after the levee breaks and everything we know and count on has been swept away.