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6 String Drag

Roots Rock 'N' Roll – 2015 (Royal Potato Family)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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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, make sure you place "Roots Rock 'N' Roll," the first new 6 String Drag album in 18 years, solidly and deliriously in the first category.

For those who need a refresher, 6 String Drag (the name was 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 a rotating cast of musical guests, 6SD was among the first wave of raucous Americana acts to define the '90s, along with the likes of Whiskeytown and Son Volt; their eponymous debut so impressed Steve Earle that he made them the first signing to his newly minted E-Squared label and produced their sophomore album, 1997's exquisite "High Hat." Life and band pressures formed them to dissolve the following year.

Roby's solo career has produced 4 acclaimed albums since 1999, the latest being 2013's "Memories & Birds." Roby uncovered a cache of old 6SD/solo demos and sent them to musical friends for input, which resulted in an organic 6SD reunion.

And that may be the reason "Roots Rock 'N' Roll" is so successful; there isn't a calculated or focus-grouped moment in the set. From the chugging Everly Brothers swing of "Drive Around Town" to the Buddy Holly/Bobby Fuller rave-up of "Kingdom of Gettin' It Wrong" to the Harry Nilsson-goes-country slink-and-slide of "Sylvia" to the Fats Domino swagger of "OOOEEOOOEEOOO," "Roots Rock 'N' Roll" glides from strength to strength without a hint of 6SD's nearly 20-year hiatus as they access influences predating their longstanding Beatles/Stones obsession.

Roby and Keller still harmonize with the kind of Vulcan vocal meld that is typically the realm of siblings, and the band's chemistry should be patented by DuPont. You don't need to have known 6 String Drag back in the day to know that "Roots Rock 'N' Roll" is great music now.