Nothing makes you feel like you have been around the block more than a couple times than hearing a band you knew in your college days referred to as “Americana pioneers.”
That very term was used to describe 6 String Drag, a roots rock outfit out of North Carolina who, along with artists like Uncle Tupelo, Grant Lee Buffalo, Jason & The Scorchers, and Whiskeytown, established the alt-country sound at the heart of the Americana movement in the late 80s and early 90s.
Despite a fifteen year break and some changes in personnel, 6 String Drag is still writing and playing as well as they ever have. This has been an especially eventful couple of months for the band, as January saw them celebrate the twentieth anniversary of their seminal album High Hat by releasing it on vinyl, and the band’s newest record, Top Of The World, drops March 9th.
I recently caught up with singer Kenny Roby to chat about the new record, paranormal experiences, putting out music the way it was intended to be, and “Jennifer Wren & The Crow I Know,” a song from the band’s new record that Trail Mix is happy to premiere this week.
BRO – In the span of a couple months, you experienced both the re-release of a twenty year old record and the release of a brand new record. I think that offers a pretty cool perspective on where you have been and where you are heading, yes?
KR – Yeah, I think so, too. It’s been interesting to look at High Hat after all of these of these years. I really appreciate the energy of it and I think most of the songs hold up pretty well, too. It is very different in some ways from the new record, but there are some similarities, too. You pick up a lot on the side of the road after twenty years of hunting road kill.
BRO – What’s the secret to maintaining the spirit of a band through a fifteen year hiatus and line up changes?
KR – It can be tough, since most of us live in different towns, and we are older now and have families. So we’ve more set in our ways as individuals than when we were in our twenties, of course. The line up changes can actually keep things fresh and focused on the present and the future. We also try to make sure we have a good time recording, playing live, and hanging out with each other. Everyone seems like they want to be there. You would that think that would be a given, but it isn’t always the case. I think humor is also key. If you can’t laugh at yourself and each other after years of pushing rocks up hills, you might actually feel it when they roll back over you. Rock pushing is a tough business to be in. Being immature helps immensely, too.
BRO – Trail Mix features “Ghost,” off of High Hat, this month. Ever had an experience with the paranormal?
KR – Well, there was this one time when I was a teenager and we were lying on a rock on the side of the mountain in Cashiers, North Carolina, listening to Black Sabbath really loud on a jam box. I think I saw some paranormal activity in the sky circling above us, but I’ll just leave it at that. Most of the paranormal activity has been in my head. Ghosts of Christmases past, etc. . . . . . .
BRO – We are premiering “Jennifer Wren & The Crow I Know” on this week’s blog post. What’s the story behind the song?
KR – The lyrics are based on the nursery rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence.” My mom used to sing it to me when I was little. I did a little reading on it and discovered it was a rhyme about peasants and their relationship to the king in 18th century England. So I used some of the images for my take on things that are happening sociopolitically in our lives these days and the growing pains of being in the middle of some of these changes as a society. I didn’t know this when I started to write it. It was actually about something else, from what I can tell. It just morphed into this over a short period of time and some of the images started to pull me towards “Sing a Song of Sixpence” and I just shaped it here and there.
BRO – High Hat sounds like a record that should have always been on vinyl. Cool to see it pressed for the first time twenty years after you released it?
KR – For sure. Even the cover always seemed like it should be on an LP to me. A larger piece of art compared to a CD cover. We always had letter press and screen printed posters back in the 90s. Our drummer, Ray Duffey, worked in print making and was also a visual artist, so we were always conscious of how we presented things on posters and covers. He did the High Hat cover based on a poster he made previously. So it feels right to have it on a larger format. And, musically, we always wanted it on vinyl, but almost nobody was putting out vinyl in 1997. Hell, I didn’t have a CD player until I was nineteen in 1990 or so, and I didn’t record digitally until 2004, so everything for me is usually through an analog filter. I love different aspects of the CD format, but vinyl and cassettes are what I grew up with, so it’s really cool when things come out on vinyl, too.
And now, for the first time ever, here’s you chance to take that first listen to “Jennifer Wren & The Crow I Know.”
You can celebrate the release of Top Of The World with 6 String Drag on Friday at The Pour House Music Hall in Raleigh, North Carolina. The band will also be in Washington, D.C. and Charlottesville later this month. For more dates and to find out how you can grab the new record, head on over to the band’s website.
Be sure to check out “Ghost,” along with new tracks from Parsonsfield, Courtney Marie Andrews, The Barons, and more on this month’s Trail Mix.