Timing is, as we know, everything and it is something that I’m sure Kenny Roby has contemplated more than a few times over the years. Picture the scene: it’s the mid-90’s, the musical elements, sounds and bands that would eventually come to be the alt-country genre are swirling about and gradually coalescing into a new scene starting and are to blip on the radars of keen-eyed journalists and a new movement is in the making. Kenny Roby and his 6 String Drag posse’s blend of country, rootsy rock and roll,* Americana and brassy bravado are perfectly placed to be key sonic authors of the next chapter in the great American music story. It’s all there for the taking but this Carolina’s quartet instead opt for a less predictable move and essentially call it a day.
Had they stayed around they would undoubtedly be spoken about in the same way that the likes of Steve Earle, Wilco and Ryan Adams, artists who used this new movement as a springboard onto extremely successful careers, are but it was not to be. A string of solo releases kept the main man busy before 2015 saw their comeback album, Roots Rock & Roll,** excite fans and critics alike. Top of the World, being their fourth album to date followed and this renewed activity has created a lot of interest in the earlier part of their career. It makes sense, therefore, that this album of rare and unreleased material is going to be up for grabs for Record Store Day, limited to only 500 copies on red vinyl.
Whether you were a fan first time around, aware of Roby’s solo work or newly arrived at the bands music, this slice of musical history is a worthy addition to your record collection and, unlike many “collectable” releases, it begs the question as to why songs of this calibre are only now seeing the light of day. It kicks off with Brasstown, a perfect starter which blends their deft country grooves and rootsy rock guitar with some brilliantly wonky, New Orleans infused jazz salvos, perhaps referencing that city as well as the NC town of the title.
Songs such as The Changeup show off their more rock credentials, Blues Too Blues To Mention is reminiscent of Elvis Costello – had he stumbled upon and explored a collection of old bluegrass records – Gasoline Maybeline is a funky, southern rock boogie and the final offering, Trouble on the Jackson Farm, is what happens when country music is made away from the glare of media, industry and Music City.
There are many reasons to buy this record. Maybe it plugs a gap in your existing record collection, maybe it offers a nostalgic recollection, maybe its opens up a new band to explore. Mainly though, you should buy it because the songs are just great. Make that really great.
* you see what I did there, right?
** now you see!