“I’m so thrilled to get to see 6 String Drag again. They’re as great as ever. Like reconnecting with a long lost friend.” – Patterson Hood (Drive-By Truckers)
After 18 years in hibernation, 6 String Drag is back with Roots Rock ‘N’ Roll. Cut mostly live to tape, the effort is equal parts slap-back swagger and openhearted honesty—a triumphant return that celebrates rock’s first golden age by virtue of the grace, wit and insight found in front-man Kenny Roby’s songwriting. Their new LP is an exhilarating reminder of all things real, pure, old school rock ‘n’ roll: Roy Orbison, The Everly Brothers, Little Richard, Muddy Waters and Gene Vincent among its unabashed influences.
“The songs I was writing in the months leading up to the recording session were about being teenagers, about hanging out and passing time in small towns. It was the result of revisiting some of my earliest rock ‘n’ roll influences. We all love The Beatles, The Stones, the psychedelic movement, but I was going back to the roots before that and soaking it all in heavily. I became a super-fan again, studying what made some of my favorites tick, both musically and lyrically,” says Roby. “We like to think this record was made in the spirit of one of our heroes, Doug Sahm. He did so many kinds of music that influenced him and wasn’t afraid to try to touch on the music that he loved.”
In the mid to late ’90s, the Raleigh, North Carolina-based 6 String Drag stood out as pioneers of the nascent alt-country movement, grinding it out in the clubs alongside Whiskeytown, Drive-By Truckers and Son Volt. The band’s Steve Earle-produced album, High Hat, remains an undisputed classic of its era. Battle-scarred and road-wizened, today’s 6 String Drag is the sound of four kindred souls reunited, letting their own histories as human beings mingle freely around their shared love of classic sounds. Kenny Roby and Rob Keller weld their trademark harmonies to surging rhythms. Ray Duffey’s swinging drums and Keller’s upright bass are the foundation, embroidered by Roby’s rhythm guitar and guitarist Scott Miller’s pointed leads and thickened by a Stax-versed horn section.
Recorded live off the studio floor to tape in just four days with minimal overdubs, the immediacy of Roots Rock ‘N’ Roll translates beautifully to record, elevating everything from the plaintive desperation of “Hard Times, High Times” to the self-effacing word play rave-up “Kingdom of Gettin’ It Wrong”; the rousing slide guitar snarl of “Sylvia” to the New Orleans meets Chuck Berry groove of “Oooeeoooeeooo” and even the teen rock anthem “Drive Around Town.” A knife’s edge intensity is matched by a wooly, woody sound. Instruments bleed into vocal mics. Imperfection is celebrated, rather than avoided.
“We wanted to capture that classic vibe of guys recording in a room together,” explains Roby. “When it came time to record, we showed up on Thursday and left on Monday. I didn’t know if we’d be able to cut four songs in four days, let alone capture the 11 tracks that became the album.”
In the past decade and a half since 6 String Drag parted ways, all of its members have continued to play music in one form or another. Roby’s solo output has been particularly consistent and strong. However, the band getting back together represents a long-awaited completion of the circle.
“I’ve played with so many different people over the last 18 years,” Roby says. “But reuniting with these guys sure felt like being home again. Back in the day, Rob, Scott, Ray, and I were never at a loss for ideas, and it was deeply satisfying to find that’s still the same. When we undertook this record, we all hoped there would be chemistry. It turned out that there was way more than any of us expected.”
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