BY FRED MILLS
Has it really been two decades since the heyday of the N.C. Americana (née alt-country) scene, the one that gave us such hard-twanging hellraisers as Whiskeytown and the Backsliders—and 6 String Drag, whose 1997 Steve Earle-produced record High Hat remains one of the key artifacts of the era? Well, it’s 2015 now; the term “Americana” seems to refer to anyone that doesn’t employ hip-hop beats, a DJ, Cookie Monster vocals or “whoa-OH-OH-oahhh” choruses; or claims to include every half-ass goober with an acoustic guitar who can rhyme “missing you” with “kissing you” and calls himself a singer/songwriter. Seriously folks—this is progress?
Here, not necessarily to save the day but at least give us all some relief from the current wave of strummy-sunny mediocrity is 6 String Drag and… waitaminnit, they’re back?!? Goddam right, they’re back, these Misters Kenny Roby, Rob Keller, Ray Duffey and Scotty Miller, who on Roots Rock ‘n’ Roll not only sound like they walked out one door then immediately back in the other but also manage to update their riotously infectious vibe for the craft beer crowd. Yeah, this is drinkin’ music, but not the sloppy, flopping-on-cement-floors kind of quaff-rock. Instead, think sinewy, bust-a-move-on-the-dance-patio stuff that’ll keep the phone lines hummin’ as some folks call to beg the babysitter to hang in there just another half hour while others get those hormones cookin’ in anticipation of making their own babies upon that early a.m. return home from the club.
They pretty much set the stage at the outset with “Drive Around Town,” a good-time slice of power pop (think Creedence meets The Cars, improbably enough) that throws down the gauntlet to the listener: “I just bought an old guitar/ I hope you brought your mama’s car/ All I wanna do is drive around town/ Make some rock ‘n’ roll…” From there it’s raveup time, 6SD style, from the horns-a-honkin’ ‘50s R&B-styled rock of “OOOEEOOOEEOOO” (say it out loud) and the pounding, part-celebratory/part-rueful “Kingdom of Gettin’ It Wrong” to a harmonious, rockabilly-infused number that could’ve been an Eddie Cochran hit (“Happier Times,” which is wayyy more cynical than even the title suggests; sample lyric: “Woman, you’re a walkin’ lie”) and the uncommonly elegant “Hard Times, High Times,” a stately slice of Band-style blues that celebrates resilience and resolve—particularly if you’re a couple of long-time partners with “hard hearts still beatin’” and “memories softly fleetin’”.
Yeah, it’s one of those mature rekkirds. But you know what? 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. 6 String Drag finds that perfect balance. Mix in a few choice beers along with those memories, and you’ve got the best brew on the block. it’s downright sexy, in fact.
The guys in 6 String Drag quietly began plotting their comeback (term used loosely; the members don’t all live close to one another, so live shows—and recording sessions—have to be sketched out meticulously) a year or so ago, not long after Roby had finished up his 2013 solo gem Memories & Birds (read the BLURT review HERE; also check out a Roby interview HERE). The feedback was encouraging, to the point that High Hat got re-released along with a companion archival CD The Jag Sessions: Rare & Unreleased 1996-1998. This resulting new set lives up to its title in every sense of the word—it’s rootsy as hell, and it’ll rock your ass off. My suggestion? Roll with it!
DOWNLOAD: “Drive Around Town,” “I Miss the Drive-In,” “Happier Times,” “Choppin’ Block”
BLURT premiered 6 String Drag’s “I Miss the Drive-In” not long ago and you can hear it with just a click of this link…