6 String Drag: Top of the World

Long-lost Americana pioneers pick up the trail

Having disbanded in 1998, only a year after the release of their Steve Earle-produced (and recently reissued) second album, High Hat, these Americana pioneers went their separate ways for more than fifteen years. The group reunited in 2014 for live dates, and a 2015 album of new material, Roots Rock & Roll, showed their premature ending left plenty of juice for an encore. That encore has now extended to a second reunion album, with vocalist/songwriter Kenny Roby and bassist Rob Keller joined by multi-instrumentalist Luis Rodriguez and drummer Dan Davis. As good as the first reunion album sounded, this second is even more vital and energized.

Roby’s new material is filled with kaleidoscopic memories of younger, more daring days, but there are also songs streaked with troubled and failed relationships, and the wear of an adult’s daily grind. Much of the discord is camouflaged behind poetic lyrics and melodies that belie the personal gravity. As with the band’s original incarnation, the musical influences cast a wide net. There are Brill Building flourishes of baion beat and baritone guitar, vocal hooks that suggest Dwight Twilley and Tom Petty, pop punk, pub rock, and psych flavors in both the somnambulistic title track and the faded “Waste of Time.”

It was surprising that the reunited band could rekindle their chemistry, and it’s even more surprising to hear that DNA transplanted into a refreshed lineup. This album is neither a rehash, nor the long tail of what was once great, but a lively continuation of something that was interrupted. The time off hasn’t so much dimmed the flame as it has stoked the fire with new musical and life perspective. The dynamic between Roby and Keller is as strong as ever, and Rodriguez and Davis add new flavors to an already flavorful band. This is no longer a reunion, but a vital, on-going concern. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

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