Band reunions can be joyful, fist-pumping celebrations or dismal funeral services for long deceased entities that should never have been exhumed.
If you’re scoring at home, Roots Rock ‘N’ Roll, the first new 6 String Drag album in 18 years, belongs deliriously in the celebratory category.
For those needing a refresher, 6 String Drag (a riff on The Stanley Brothers’ “Five String Drag”) was a variously populated North Carolina band in the mid-’90s, anchored by singer/songwriter/guitarist Kenny Roby and bassist/harmony vocalist Rob Keller. Generally a quartet with rotating musical guests, 6 String Drag led the first wave of raucous, decade-defining Americana acts alongside the likes of Whiskeytown and Son Volt. Steve Earle loved 6 String Drag’s self-titled debut, signed them to his newly minted E-Squared Records and produced 1997’s exquisite High Hat. Life/band pressures forced them to dissolve the following year. Roby subsequently produced four acclaimed solo albums, the latest being 2013’s Memories & Birds.
Roby uncovered a cache of old 6 String Drag demos, releasing the download-only The JAG Sessions to enthusiastic response. He then sent some solo tracks to musical friends for input, resulting in an organic 6 String Drag reunion. Perhaps that’s why Roots Rock ‘N’ Roll succeeds; there isn’t a calculated moment in the set.
“We didn’t want anybody to feel like we were doing a 6 String Drag record,” Roby recently told me in a phone interview. “We were just making a record of songs I wrote with old friends who used to play together. There had to be less pressure. It was like, ‘I don’t give a shit what we call this, let’s just go make some music together.’ So we got a couple extra guys and the main four from the last version of 6 String Drag and when we did it, it was like, ‘That’s 6 String Drag.’ It didn’t matter until it was done.”
Roby and Keller still harmonize with the Vulcan vocal meld that is typically the domain of siblings, while the band’s chemistry should be patented by DuPont. You don’t need to know that 6 String Drag was great back in the day to know that Roots Rock ‘N’ Roll is great right now.
6 STRING DRAG plays Southgate House Revival's Sanctuary room Thursday. Tickets/more info here .