Category Archives: North Carolina Music

A DETERMINED RETURN: 6 String Drag

“All you can do is bust your ass to make good music”: With new album Top of the World and a re-release of their Steve Earle-produced masterpiece, High Hat, this seminal Americana band from North Carolina marks another new beginning.

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

There’s a certain truth to the saying “timing is everything.” And there’s no more pertinent application to that adage than in the music biz. Being on top of trends, recognizing relevant topics, and tuning in to an audience’s interests and expectations are absolutely essential when it comes to maintaining a viable and prolific career.

Consequently, when North Carolina’s 6 String Drag made their bow and formed in 1993, it seemed an ideal time in terms of fertile possibilities. The boundaries between rock, pop, punk and country were breaking down, and bands like Uncle Tupelo in particular were opening the door in hopes of encouraging that slow but steady transition. 6 String Drag’s archival influences were obvious — Van Morrison, the Replacements, the Stones, the Kinks and George Jones all made the cut — but the rough-hewn sound they crafted was all inclusive, one that could appeal to anyone with a devil- may-care attitude as well as a taste for homegrown sensibilities.

All was well and good, but despite a razor-sharp sound, a contract with Steve Earle’s E-Squared Records, two strong seminal albums (their self-titled 1995 debut and its excellent successor, High Hat, which followed in ’97 and was co-produced by Earle), the band never got the traction they deserved. In late 1998 founders Kenny Roby and Rob Keller went their separate ways in pursuit of their individual careers and the other band members dispersed as well. Roby in particular went on to a prolific solo career, releasing five solo albums — Mercury Blues (1999), Black River Sides (1999), Rather Not Know (2002), The Mercy Filter (2006) and Memories & Birds (2013; reviewed HERE) — but though he garnered his fair share of critical kudos, the absence between albums served to stifle his momentum.

Indeed, timing is the one thing that 6 String Drag always seemed to lack. Although the elements seemed stacked in their favor, their early masterpiece High Hat failed to win them the attention that outside observers reckoned that they had coming.

“I felt like we were changing the world…making Sgt. Pepper,” Keller’s been quoted as saying. “High Hat was not received like Sgt. Pepper. It was critically acclaimed, yet it did not sell as well as was expected.”

Roby has his own reasons for the failure of the band to maintain its forward progress. “I can’t go out and scream ‘give me some love,’” he insists. “There’s no telling what people listen to or why they listen to something, or why things catch hold or don’t catch hold. Or for that matter, what things come together to sell a band. We kind of broke up as we were on the upward mobility slant or whatever you want to call it. By the time 6 String Drag had a gotten a little bit of press recognition and some radio, and the record had come out, we were opening for Son Volt. We were post- the Uncle Tupelo world, but pre- the 2000 Americana explosion, the Avett Brothers and all that. So we were kind of in a bit of a lull.

“Do I wish I could make a little more money doing music? Yeah, probably. And have a quote-unquote career? Yeah, I guess. But you can’t change just one part of your life, ya know.”

Could the fact that the band only put out a pair of albums before breaking up and reforming some 17 years later have had anything to do with it? Maybe, Roby says. “But 6 String Drag at the time wasn’t much of a ‘pop’ band. If you listen to High Hat, it doesn’t sound like total pop music. We could have gotten into a little niche probably. It wasn’t quite as poppy as a Whiskeytown kind of thing, and it wasn’t as super country twangy as a lot of the country bands were at that time. I guess if I had to come up with an answer, I’d have to say that it wasn’t country enough for country and it wasn’t twangy enough for Americana.”

He pauses to reflect on that.

“I thought we were like a Doug Sahm kind of band, although we didn’t sound like Doug Sahm or the Sir Douglas Quintet,” he continues. “We were like a bar band that liked to embrace all kinds of music and the contemporary music of the ‘80s and ‘90s as well. Like a NRBQ or the Band. We have just as much fun playing to an intimate crowd at a corner bar dive with a bunch of people who like our music and sing along as we do on a theater stage. We’d love $30 a head and 2,000 people, but we’re totally comfortable being a bar band, a pub band. That’s when we’re at our best, just being loose and having fun.”

Likewise, he has a hard time coming up with a precise definition of exactly where the band fit in musically at the time. The explanation eludes him even today.

“We were like a lot of bands around that time, bands that took their cues from the Replacements and the Stones and Neil Young and Crazy Horse, kind of on the rootsier side of rock,” he suggests. “A lot of us grew up listening to punk rock and then getting into country rock. It was very similar to bands like Uncle Tupelo. That’s the kind of thing that appealed to us. I go back and listen to it now and of course I still like it. It’s like that slogan ‘three chords and the truth,’ which helped define punk rock. It’s like three chords and the truth for country, or three chords and the truth for blues…although sometimes there’s four. Maybe that was it. It was all the same to us. I never got into the super sophistication of bluegrass. I was never into progressive rock. I was into the Clash and Black Flag and the Bad Brains and Buck Owens and George Jones. It was always pretty simple, but it was also easy enough for me to do. I didn’t know enough about guitars or songwriting to play more complicated music than that. We didn’t think we were doing anything groundbreaking. It’s just these different waves of whatever’s popular. In the 2000s, they came up with this Americana thing. I thought Americana was a description for furniture.”

“We listen to a lot of different kinds of music and of course that rubs off on us,” Keller notes. “We get on this wavelength where we will get into things all at the same time. Recently, it’s been on the pop rockier side, from ‘60s Kinks to ‘70s glam rock, to ‘80s punk, and power pop. We probably would’ve made more records had we stuck together all these years because we’ve always been into this type of music.”

The sound he’s describing comes full circle on the band’s new album, Top of the World, due for release this March on Schoolkids Records. (Full disclosure: Schoolkids is BLURT’s sister business.) It’s their first undertaking since their initial post-breakup reunion, releasing the Roots Rock ‘N’ Roll album in 2015 (reviewed HERE). It also finds Roby and Heller still at the helm, with recent recruits — guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Luis Rodriguez, drummer Dan Davis, and producer Jason Merritt — offering able assistance. The album, clearly the band’s most effusive and assertive offering in terms of a genuinely accessible sound, follows the label’s vinyl (limited edition white vinyl at that) recent re-release of High Hat.

Roby, for one, is clearly excited about the new record’s direction.

“We recorded a lot of it at the same studio where we recorded the last one,” he explains. “But it’s more of a rock and pop record than the last one was. Real quick, real simple, ‘50s and ‘60s style songs. We tracked the record in four days. There were very few overdubs. For the most part the record was done by the time we walked out of the studio, except for the horns and the live vocals. Oddly enough, that’s the way we recorded High Hat, but High Hat was more of a rock record. We did basic tracks just like a basic rock band in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but we spread out the recording a little longer back then to give us time to absorb the songs. Some of it is done the same way, but some things were done differently. It’s got elements of all of our records, but also the contributions that the new guys bring. I can’t always put my finger on what that is, as far as stylistically, but it does sound a little more layered. It’s a little more mature, although I don’t know if that’s necessarily a good thing for rock ‘n’ roll or Americana.”

As far as the re-release of High Hat is concerned, Keller sees that as a valuable additive that helps underscore the band’s re-emergence. “High Hat has been out of print, so we really needed it in our present catalog,” he says. “Also, it being 20 years makes it a good time to celebrate it. We always want to look forward in creating, so we just coincidentally have this new record at the same time.”

As Keller tells it, he and Roby have always kept in touch over the years, and have even occasionally played some shows together. Still, Roby suggests that the extent of the band’s ongoing efforts has a lot to do with practicality, saying, “We’ll play weekends. We’ve been playing on weekends for the last two years since the last record came out… actually, before the last record came out. We’ve even been doing some weeklong stints. Luis has been with us since we laid down the last album and Danny has been with us for the last year. So we’ve played a good amount of shows. We’ll start playing here and there and get out of the immediate area. But I don’t know how we could go out on the road all the time. With guys in their 40s… I don’t know.

Likewise, Roby is realistic when it comes to measuring the band’s prospects for success this time around. “We still have a lot of fun doing it and the carrot is just to get better at it,” he maintains. “As far as recognition is concerned, you just have to do the best you can as far as making records. You can only do so much. You can work your ass off and nothing will happen. Or you can do nothing, and something will happen. I don’t know what that ‘something’ is.” (Below, “something” happening for the band a couple of months ago.)

Ultimately, Roby remains pragmatic. “Hopefully you have good records,” he muses. “When someone turns around to look at you, hopefully you did your best and you have some good work for them to notice. With us, we haven’t sold a ton of records, so a lot of this resurgence is about looking back and maybe checking out one of the earlier albums or a record from my solo career or whatever. You always want to have good work, because you don’t want people to say, ‘What’s all that bullshit hype about?’

“All you can do is bust your ass to make good music. I’d rather make good music than have more fans. It would be nice to have more fans, but the carrot is still to make the next record the best you can make.”

Read our 2013 interview with Kenny Roby: “Rock, Roll & the Art of Discipline”

Video Premiere: “Boom Boom Boom” – NC Musicians’ Tribute to James Olin Oden

“i gotta confess”: Putting the “pow” back in “empowerment” – and supporting the home team when a fellow rocker can benefit from the collective energy of peers and friends. Everybody pogo!

By Fred Mills

Back in October we posted news about Raleigh, NC, musician James Olin Oden’s hospitalization and battle with a rare cancer — and of the immediate and loving response from the Triangle music community, which found a slew of Oden’s peers convening at his hospital room and performing an impromptu jam session. Oden and these guys are friends of all of us here at BLURT, and and is was doubly inspiring to learn that the musicians decided to take that energy and turn it into a recording and video session in tribute to Oden. I’d call it, support the home team. Who can argue with that?

Joining organizer Billy Warden, frontman for the Floating Children, at Michael Graziano’s Thread Audio studio in Raleigh to cut the “Boom Boom Boom (In The Emergency Room)” track  was an all-star cast: the Floating Children’s rhythm guitarist Jeffro Holshouser (also of Hank Sinatra), drummer Jody Maxwell (formerly of A Number of Things and The Sex Police), lead guitarist Sam ‘Sammy Doddy’ McDonald (also of Uglyography), bassist/key-tarist Matt Thomas (also of Uglyography), and go-go queen Tracey Brown. Also on hand were fellow locals guitarist/co-writer Sam Madison of Hank Sinatra and The Bleeding Hearts, guitarist Larry Burlison of Demon Eye, bassist Steve ‘Stevey-E’ Eisenstadt, saxophonist F.O. Finch of Sidecar Social Club, vocalist Rose Higgins of Back Stabbeth, singer/guitarist Caroline Mamoulides, singer Will Warden of Warehouse Bastards, bassist/graphic artist Jer Warren, and trombonist David ‘Pops’ Wright of Squirrel Nut Zippers and Countdown Quartet.

Now you can check out the all-star results – including a cameo from Oden near the end of the video:

Commented Warden, “The song is about putting the ‘pow’ in empowerment, about using the power of music, love and humor to hit back at whatever life hurls at you. That’s what James did. The key line is simple and true: ‘Music is the elixir / Love’s the ultimate fixer.’ It’s about living with the volume up when the chips are down.”

“Plus, you can dance to it — or at least pogo,” added Holshouser. “Everyone who was part of the recording grabbed onto the spirit of the song right away. The band laid down the basic track in the morning, and then guests started pouring in, whooping it up and casting their own brand of voodoo. Including James, of course.”  (Below: Warden and Holshouser of the Floating Children in full flight.)

The video itself was directed by David Iversen of BriteSpot Collaborative Studios.

And we’d remiss if we didn’t report some extremely good news: According to James, after intense chemotherapy and other treatments, his cancer is in remission. We got your back, good sir.j And we’ll never view a hospital stay in quite the same fashion after having this video for consultation…

 

Below: Rose Higgins, Jeffro Holshouser, James Olin Oden

Watch Short Film w/NC’s Jeffrey Dean Foster’s Music

Longtime BLURT fave and North Carolina indie rock scene mainstay also working on soundtrack for forthcoming executive-produced Scorcese film.

By Fred Mills

We’ve written about Winston-Salem artist Jeffrey Dean Foster often enough in the past (do the proverbial website search for recent and earlier coverage). Suffice to say he’s one of our North Carolina heroes, an indie rock/Americana mainstay whose work continues to inspire each time out.

Film director Alex A. Klein has served up a short film that features Foster’s music throughout that is particularly timely, and timeless. We hope you’ll take a look/listen. The description of Klein’s clip is as follows:

“A short film inspired by and containing Jeffrey Dean Foster’s songs “I Will Understand,” and “Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts,” from his album, “The Arrow.” A face-off and reconciliation of selves.

Starring Julianne Harper, who choreographed her own badass moves. Conceptualized, produced, directed and edited by Alex A Klein. Cinematography and overall awesomeness/patience by Mitch Perrin. Stedicam operation by Jonathan Pfundstein. Body double for Julianne by Mariah Perrin. First A.D. by Annie Dillon, who literally lent me the shirt off her back. Overall help and moral support on our Trade St shoot by Ella Klein. A big Thank You to the following downtown WS/NC establishments for lending us their space: The Wherehouse Art Hotel, Test Pattern, Mary’s Gourmet Diner and Dye Pretty. Filmed in Winston-Salem, NC.”


Foster’s not resting on his laurels, either. He informs us, “I’ve started compiling songs for a new record and spent last year writing and recording the entire sooundtrack for Abundant Acreage Available starring Amy Ryan and executive produced by Martin Scorcese.”

More details as they are revealed. Easily some of the most impressive news about the Tar Heel music scene in years, period. Check him out: http://www.jeffreydeanfoster.com/
https://www.facebook.com/jeffreydeanfostermusic/

Track Premiere: 6 String Drag “Waste of Time”

Ace tune by the gutsy North Carolina band taken from smokin’ new album, due out in early March. (Pictured above, L-R: Luis Rodriguez, Kenny Roby, Dan Davis, Rob Keller)

By Blurt Staff

Americana fans with long memories know well the name 6 String Drag: the hard-twanging Raleigh (NC)-by-way-of-Clemson (SC) outfit that helped usher in the golden era of alt-country in the early/mid ‘90s, predating both Ryan Adams’ Whiskeytown and scene bible No Depression. And although the members went their separate ways in 1998, 6 String Drag wound up reuniting in 2014 and released an acclaimed comeback album in early 2015.

Indeed, Roots Rock ‘N’ Roll (Royal Potato Family) was reviewed here at BLURT, our editor hailing the mix of power pop, rockabilly-esque twang, and bluesy soul: “It lives up to its title in every sense of the word—it’s rootsy as hell, and it’ll rock your ass off.. Maturity means you get to do a few things you didn’t quite have the skills or savvy to do 20 years earlier, and it also means you and the folks around you get to savor things because the moments of now tend to hover, deliciously, even while the memories of then continue to linger.” (Go HERE to listen to a track we premiered here in 2015.)

Resuming operations clearly gave the band a sense of momentum, and now they’ve got a smokin’ followup to RRNR due on digital, CD, and vinyl on March 9 via the Schoolkids Records label (formerly Second Motion and, full disclosure, our sister business). Titled Top of the World, it’s 11 tracks of pure 6SD, produced by – as was RRNR – Jason Merritt. By way of preview we are very proud to unveil the track “Waste of Time.” Check it out below; we guarantee it won’t be a waste of your time.

Guitarist/vocalist Kenny Roby—who is joined by co-founding bassist Rob Keller, plus guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Luis Rodriguez and drummer Dan Davis, plus guests John Ginty on keys and Matt Douglas on horns—notes that Top of the World “isn’t quite the almost live and somewhat frantic approach, like 1997’s [Steve Earle-produced] High Hat. And Roots Rock ’N’ Roll was really intentionally recorded like a ’50s and ’60s record. This record isn’t super layered but it isn’t always just a raw 4 piece approach. It just depended on the song — we just took it song by song in what we felt the song needed or wanted.”

Roby and Keller both acknowledge that the group has always been influenced by artists like The Band, Van Morrison, the Kinks, Rolling Stones, and Beatles, and that if one listens closely to the new album, traces of Rockpile, Thin Lizzy and Mott the Hoople might even be detected as well. As Keller explains, “We listen to a lot of different kinds of music, and of course that rubs off on us. We get on this wavelength where we will get into things at the same time. Recently, it’s been on the pop rockier side from ‘60s Kinks to ‘70s glam rock to ‘80s punk, power pop. We probably would’ve made more records like this had we stuck together all these years because we’ve always been into this type of music.”

But wait, as the saying goes, there’s more: The aforementioned High Hat, which was originally released on producer Earle’s E-Squared label, is getting a 20th anniversary reissue next month, on Jan. 11 (also via Schoolkids)—including as a limited/numbered white vinyl edition. So those Americana fans with long memories mentioned in the first paragraph will have even more reason to celebrate, as High Hat remains an acknowledged touchstone of the genre.

More details on the band and 2018 plans at their official website or at their Facebook page (where, incidentally, they recently announced being part of a special New Year’s Eve show in Raleigh).

Worth additional note: the above-referenced 6SD reunion came about after Roby invited Keller to play with him at a solo show promoting his 2013 solo album Memories & Birds (reviewed HERE), and they wound up doing some old 6SD faves. Around the same time BLURT published an in-depth interview with Roby, and you can read it HERE.

 

New David Childers Profile via Southern Songs & Stories Podcast

By Fred Mills

Since the BLURT braintrust hails from North Carolina we are partial to Tar Heel musicians – among them, the mighty David Childers (aka “the rock ‘n’ roll lawyer”). The gifted singer/songwriter, author, and visual artist is the subject of a new podcast episode from our friends at Southern Songs and Stories, who have been responsible for a number of superb audio and video profiles of our fellow Carolinians (recently on video: the Jon Stickley Trio).

Below is the link to the new podcast about Childers and his new Don Dixon-produced album, Run Skeleton Run. It’s described by SS&S thusly:

“In this episode, we explore the world of North Carolina singer songwriter, painter and former lawyer David Childers, showcasing his music and some of his influences, along with interviews of David, son Robert, label head Dolph Ramseur, producer Don Dixon, Avett Brother bassist Bob Crawford, and writer, musician and WNCW radio host Carol Rifkin.”

Link to: You Don’t Have To Say So Much: The David Childers Story

SS&S’s Joe Kendrick adds that coming up for them is a podcast that details “the history of Green Acres Music Hall, the little musical Shangri-La that could, which brought luminaries like David Grisman, John Hartford, Newgrass Revival, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Rodney Crowell and many more to a quiet corner of Rutherford County NC, from around 1979 to 1999.” We’ll be looking forward to that, Joe!

Check Out Jon Stickley Trio Interview with Southern Songs And Stories

North Carolina outfit combines folk, bluegrass, prog, psych, and gypsy jazz to create something unique and otherworldly.

By Fred Mills

A few months ago the Jon Stickley Trio, Asheville’s premiere prog-grass/blue-gressive (both my terms, take your pick), dropped their latest full-length, Maybe Believe, to across-the-board critical acclaim. Since then the guitar/violin/percussion group has been steadily touring—their jammy, fusion-rooted sound makes them a mainstay of the festival circuit—and along the way there have been a number of Stickley Trio-related interesting and catchy videos to pop up. Among my faves:

Maybe Believe teaser/trailer video, released just prior to the album’s official streeting.

“Microbruise,” a hilarious, faux-variety show clip directed by Andrew Vasco.

“Play People,” live in Denver 7/7/17 (w/guest Andy Thorn).

More recently, the ever-diligent music archivists of the Southern Songs And Stories documentary series, Joe Kendrick and Aaron Morell, have put together a Stickley Trio segment in which flatpicking virtuoso Stickley, violinist Lyndsay Pruett and drummer Patrick Armitage take a quick breather from their SpringSkunk Music Festival performances and talk with Kendrick and Morell about their career in music thus far. You can watch the 36-minute video here, or check out an excerpt via the 3-minute teaser, below; both include some dynamic performance segments. There will also be an extended podcast of the band interview available soon.

If the Stickley Trio comes anywhere near your town, run, don’t walk, to the box office and grab your tickets – I guarantee this is a band not to be missed in concert.

An Interrupted Conversation with The Jon Stickley Trio | Southern Songs and Stories | Grae Skye Creative from Aaron Morrell on Vimeo.

N.C. Musicians Record Tribute to Cancer-Stricken James Olin Oden

Schedule session for Oct. 29 at Raleigh studio.

By Fred Mills

With both BLURT and our two sister businesses (the Schoolkids Records chain and record label) based in the Triangle, NC, area, it’s a given that we feel pretty strongly about supporting the regional musicians and bands who we work and hang out with — and who make our lives all the more meaningful. So we were obviously saddened when the news arrived in May that Raleigh musician James Olin Oden had been hospitalized with a rare form of cancer known at Metastatic Synovial Sarcoma.

Troubadour Oden, incidentally, played Irish flute at BLURT/Schoolkids owner Stephen Judge’s wedding ceremony, and he’s also performed and recorded with the Floating Children (check out the tracks “Party Animal Cannibal” and “Valentine Unsent,” which showcased James on flute, and view a video here). The much-loved N.C. musician is well-versed in Scottish, Irish, and English songs, and has been a member of Friendly Fiddlers, the Gypsy Rovers, and the Irish Wolfhounds. His Deeper Dance album was released in 2016. (Below, listen to the title track, and also watch him perform “Friend of the Devil” in 2015.)

Oden’s musical community responded to his medical crisis immediately, as Billy Warden, of Floating Children fame, puts it, “by turning his room at Wake Medical Center into a love-fest and impromptu jam session.” Now Warden reports that the jam session will be transforming into a recording session next Sunday, Oct. 29. That’s when Floating Children and sundry friends will enter Raleigh’s Thread Audio with producer Michael Graziano to cut “a thunderous tribute” written for Oden, “Boom Boom Boom (In The Emergency Room).”

The recording will also be filmed for a video to accompany the release of the song, and upon release it will include details on supporting cancer patients and organizations working to find a cure for cancer.

Watch BLURT for updates on all this, including when the song and video are ready for the public.

Along with Warden, musicians slated to pitch in, schedules pending, are Jeffro Holshouser (also of Hank Sinatra), drummer Jody Maxwell (formerly of A Number of Things and The Sex Police), lead guitarist Sam ‘Sammy Doddy’ McDonald (Uglyography), bassist/key-tarist Matt Thomas (Uglyography), go-go dancer Tracey Brown, members of The Veldt and Hank Sinatra, Demon Eye’s Larry Burlison, horn players Peter Lamb and David Wright, John Howie Jr., Rose Higgins, and Caroline Mamoulides. (Pictured below: Warden and the Floating Children)

 

FLAT DUO JETS – Wild Wild Love

Album: Wild Wild Love

Artist: Flat Duo Jets

Label: Daniel 13

Release Date: October 20, 2017

www.daniel13.com

The Upshot: Dexter, Crow, and even Tone raving things up for your edification via an exhaustive exploration of the Jets’ earliest recordings.

BY FRED MILLS

For North Carolina indie music devotees—particularly the Chapel Hill contingent—it was an electrifying affirmation: the MTV Cutting Edge broadcast of a segment the video channel had filmed in February of 1985, featuring one Dexter Romweber, attired in cop hat and rebel-with-a-definite-cause leather jacket and slurping noisily (booze? tea? Diet Pepsi?) from a tin cup tethered to his jacket with a chain, giving the film crew a tour of his digs, at most a 10’ by 10’ storage shed located in the back yard of his mother’s Carrboro abode, but crammed with enough reclaimed furniture and record albums to qualify as a “pad.” That Romweber called it The Mausoleum wasn’t ironic. If, say, a homeless person stumbled in there after too much antifreeze, crawled under the makeshift bed, and expired, it wasn’t altogether inconceivable that the corpse wouldn’t be discovered until Dex or one of the pot-smoking pals who gathered there to spin obscure ‘50s and ‘60s rockabilly late into the night happened to be casting about for an errant platter or pillow.

Feel free to revisit the MTV segment at the YouTube link above; there are also plenty of live clips of Romweber’s Flat Duo Jets combo (both as a duo and as a three-piece) to seek out. Meanwhile, sonic origins arrive via Wild Wild Love, a two-CD version of that outrageously cool Wild Wild Love limited edition Flat Duo Jets vinyl box set (two LPs and a 10”) released for Record Store Day 2017. Included is the entire Mark Bingham-produced Flat Duo Jets LP that the Athens-based Dog Gone label originally released in 1989—Dog Gone was overseen by one Jefferson Holt, who now helms Daniel 13, a much-respected North Carolina books/music/film outfit—along with that album’s cassette EP precursor, Flat Duo Jets In Stereo (1985, Dolphin Records, recorded by Josh Grier and Steve Gronback), plus no less than a bakers-dozen outtakes from the ’89 LP.

Whattaya get? Well, of course there is “Wild, Wild Lover,” which they would also perform during a potentially career-making 1990 performance on Late Night With David Letterman, with FDJ fan Paul Shaffer happily sitting in. Moody tiki-surf twanger instrumental, “Madagasgar,” one of only two Dex originals on the Dog Gone album, is another obvious highlight, as is a revved-up instro take of Louis Prima’s “Sing Sing Sing,” wherein drummer Crow lays down a jungle beat as throbbin’ as any Saturday afternoon Tarzan flick soundtrack you’d care to mention. Plus, all six tracks from that In Stereo cassette are represented, from the riotous Lieber & Stoller classic “Riot In Cell Block #9” to a sunny (and, for Romweber, remarkably restrained) cover of Buddy Holly’s “Think It Over” to an early Romweber original, “Theme For Dick Fontaine,” a twangy instro thumper not unlike the above-mentioned Prima track (and a tune often used to warm up the crowd at gigs back in the day). Listening to these now, over three decades later, the visceral-to-the-point-of-unhinged FDJ energy remains palpable; if you close your eyes, it’s not hard to imagine being at one of the band’s still-legendary early shows.

All those, plus the Mark Bingham-selected outtakes—among them, surf raveup “Penetration 1,” so electrifying here it’s hard to understand why it didn’t make the final cut for the original LP; “Harlem Nocturne,” which Dex and Crow would revive for the second Jets album, 1991’s Go Go Harlem Baby; and another version of “Wild, Wild Lover”—make for more than just an early DexRom musical snapshot. Wild Wild Love is also a history lesson, one boasting key performances that influenced everyone from the White Stripes to the Black Keys, and many, many more.

Now, before all you wannabe speculators make a mad dash to eBay or Discogs to unload your RSD 2017 FDJ WWL, be alerted that the box set is, in the parlance, a package too cool to dump. Note that as an added bonus, the Wild Wild Love CD includes a link to download a 78-page digital PDF color booklet filled with vintage show flyers and photographs, plus liner-note essays by Mark Bingham, Josh Grier, and music critic David Menconi (whose exhaustive history of the band would be, if eventually expanded to include Dexter’s entire colorful/ongoing history, as book-worthy as Menconi’s earlier biography of lapsed Tar Heel Ryan Adams). But said booklet was also originally a gorgeous 12” x 12” centerpiece of the vinyl box that really deserves to be held and admired. Yours truly was actually present at several of the shows visually represented in the booklet, Dex ‘n’ Crow caught in full flight at Charlotte’s Milestone Club by ace photographer Kent Thompson. (BLURT contributor Marty Perez also has shots in the booklet.) So I can attest to the, um, for lack of a better term, candid nature of these FDJ gigs, which might include, on any given occasion, Romweber bull-dozing into the crowd, stripping down to his skivvies, or simply stretching his shirt around the top of his head to stanch the flow of sweat.

Think of both iterations of Wild Wild Love as loving testimonials and crucial documents; the 2CD also boasts impressionistic art by Phil Plank, exclusive to that version, further indication of the Daniel 13 team’s intention to present the Flat Duo Jets as one of North Carolina’s more unique musical origin stories. Something tells me that more than a couple of heads are already nodding at the notion of adding a special Romweber wing to the Tar Heel State’s official music archives…

DOWNLOAD: “Penetration 1” and “Bring It On Home” (outtakes); “Theme for Dick Fontaine” (In Stereo); “Sing Sing Sing,” “Wild, Wild Lover,” “Madagascar” (Flat Duo Jets)

NC’s 6 String Drag w/PledgeMusic Campaign for Reissue & New Album

North Carolina twangers prepping vinyl reissue of classic album while planning out a new studio record as well for a spring ’18 re;ease/ Above photo by Michael Traister.

By Fred Mills

Cutting to the chase: Raleigh, NC, combo 6 String Drag has long been a favorite throughout the BLURT diaspora, dating back to the hard-twanging Americana combo’s ‘90s heyday, which included a Steve Earle-produced gem from 1997, High Hat. Much more recently, the group resumed operations following a lengthy hiatus, resulting in a wave of terrific live notices as well as considerable praise for 2015 comeback album Roots Rock ‘n’ Roll (Royal Potato Family), which was stuffed to the gills with choice power pop, rockabilly, ‘50s-ish rock, and stately blues.

The group is soldiering on with a twinned campaign to get High Hat re-released for the first time on vinyl (a 20th anniversary, limited edition white wax at that) and to release a brand new studio effort in March. Over at the 6 String Drag PledgeMusic page you can view the specifics along with the various tiers of involvement for pledgers, ranging from springing from digital, CD, and vinyl versions of High Hat, to all manner of rare memorabilia and house concerts fans can avail themselves of.

Do yourself a favor and check out these guys—our friends—and consider jumping in. By way of full disclosure, the High Hat reissue will be appearing under the label name of our sister business, Schoolkids Records (formerly Second Motion). Hopefully that gives you a sense of what a kickass band we think 6 String Drag has always been, and continues to be. It’s clobberin’ time, kids.

HISS GOLDEN MESSENGER — Hallelujah Anyhow

Album: Hallelujah Anyhow

Artist: Hiss Golden Messenger

Label: Merge

Release Date: September 22, 2017

http://www.mergerecords.com

The Upshot: It’s all quite pleasant, nicely played and sung and recorded, but as the album title itself telegraphs, perhaps a little distant.

BY JENNIFER KELLY

MC Taylor’s low-key but soulful Americana outfit hits a particularly breezy stride in this seventh full length. Song titles like “Lost in the Darkness” and “Harder Rain,” hint at darker material, but the tone is resolutely positive, uplifted by sharp uptempo guitar work and rousing choruses. The 3 a.m. disconsolate-ness of early albums like Haw and the nearly-lost Bad Debt (which after all included a song called “Jesus Shot Me in the Head”) has dissipated and Taylor sounds unworried, if not downright happy.

Taylor works with mostly the same crew as before, the two Cook brothers from Megafaun and drummer Darren Jessee, forming the main band. Fellow Dead aficionado Josh Kaufman sits in on guitar this time, instead of Ryan Gustafson. Together they find worn-in, comfortable grooves that swing and swagger modestly, with a certain amount of decorum. Taylor himself is the focus, however, with his slippery, note-bending phrases that snake around the main melody with slides and bends and flourishes.

As is often the case, the strongest stuff comes near the album’s end, with blues-rocking “Domino (Time Will Tell” channeling gospel fervor and roadhouse horn lines in a celebration (sort of) of touring life. The guitar solo here is particularly fine. Slower and more contemplative, but just as good, is “Caledonia, My Love” where Taylor’s voice flickers like a flame in the night breeze, mournfully ruminating on life and lust and love.

It’s all quite pleasant, nicely played and sung and recorded, but perhaps a little distant. These tunes flow by like sunny afternoons and when they’re done you can’t remember much.

DOWNLOAD: “Domino (Time Will Tell)”, “Caledonia, My Love”