6 String Drag Merges Punk & Honky Tonk on ‘Top of the World’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

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When North Carolina’s 6 String Drag made their bow in 1993, all the doors seemed wide open. Boundaries were being broken between rock, pop, punk and country, and bands like Uncle Tupelo, the Jayhawks and Son Volt were leading the way as far as eagerly affecting that transition. At the same time, 6 String Drag had its own set of influences — Van Morrison, the Replacements and The Stones, among them — and yet their devil-may-care attitude also made it clear they were content to blaze their own course forward.

Sadly though, despite an impressive early output and an association with Steve Earle’s E-Squared Records, the band failed to gain the acclaim their like-minded brethren achieved. Ultimately the band members went their separate ways, with leader and founder Kenny Roby striking out with his own impressive solo career. Happily, though, there’s recently been a belated acknowledgment of sorts, with North Carolina’s Schoolkids Records opting to re-release their early masterpiece High Hat and simultaneously offer up a new outing, Top of the World, the band’s first new effort since a belated reunion three years ago.

While many bands struggle to regain early momentum, 6 String Drag seems to have no trouble finding fresh impetus. Top of the World could be considered the band’s most effusive and assertive offering overall, with songs such as “Never Turn My Back on You Again,” “Wrong Girl” and “Every Time She Walks On By” exhibiting a renewed sense of exhilaration and enthusiasm. To be sure, there isn’t a single song on the new disc — rocker or ballad — that doesn’t ring and resonate with the same pitched delivery. “Let’s Fool Around Til the End of the World” recalls the irreverence and dry, offhanded,shrugged-off indulgence of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, while the delicate acoustic tones of the title track and the ringing “Waste of Time” suggest ever more earnest intents. The iconic influences don’t end there; “Be Like You” and “Jennifer Wren & The Crow I Know” invoke the lope and lilt of classic Brit rock and the Kinks in particular.

In short, this is an album that at very least stands alongside the best of their seminal efforts and ranks among their greatest achievements overall. Top of the world indeed.

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