Exclusive ND First Spin: Kenny Roby - 'Memories and Birds'

Back in the '90s, when No Depression (the magazine) was just starting to rev its engine, a little band from Raleigh, NC, called Six String Drag earned praise from Peter Blackstock. He called the band's debut album "too good to be overlooked." Six String Drag earned a few more mentions in the magazine, then split up before the decade was up. 

Frontman Kenny Roby's songwriting prowess has been stewing quite nicely ever since, back home in North Carolina. It's simmered over the course of a few solo albums, and finally seems to have reached a boil on Memories and Birds - a terrific effort co-produced by Jason Merritt (Chatham County Line, Tift Merritt) and pulling together a dozen musicians for a warm, lush, enveloping aesthetic. 

In fact, we dig this record so much, we'd like you to listen to it in full for the next week here at ND. Let us know what you think - what's your favorite song? How does it measure up to the promise of Six String Drag? - and we'll choose one lucky ND member at random to receive a free copy of the disc. 

Check out the album here, then scroll down for more info.

To enter to win a copy of the album, simply scroll to the bottom of this page and leave a comment in the comment box. You have until 11:59 p.m. PST on Thursday, April 4, to enter. Entries posted on Facebook or Twitter, or posted as a separate blog on this site, will not be counted. 

From the press release:

"On many of the songs I pictured the characters living during classic periods and places in American modern music. I tried to touch on the feeling of the popular music from that time, whether it be the '40s, '50s or '60s, without coming off as retro. We spared no expense building out the arrangements and searching for the sonic colors that best reflected the narrative of each piece," says Roby. "With all of that said, stylistically much of this record seems timeless to me and lyrically many of these characters could be from any period. There is rarely a lyric that dates them."

Much like the characters who inhabit his songs, Kenny Roby’s life as an artist has been an intellectual and spiritual quest. Over the course of a 20 year career, he has explored the history of music with a musicologist's zeal, absorbing its various forms and sounds into his work. Simultaneously, he has taken a long hard look in the mirror through the writing process, discovering and reflecting back a piece of himself through his songs. Charting the continuum of that journey leads to Memories & Birds, an ambitious vision of a Southern past littered with provocative characters and the dark, foreboding places they inhabit. It's a recording filled with surprising twists and turns, shadowy corners and broken dreams, the narrative thread running throughout this complex eight-song cycle evokes the stark imagery and themes of William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy and Cormac McCarthy, while emerging from the musical lineage of Leonard Cohen, Townes Van Zandt, Randy Newman, Tom Waits and the like. These are song-stories of loss, isolation, desire, rejection, resignation, despair, aging and anxiety.

Views: 1115

Comment by Kyla Fairchild on March 28, 2013 at 8:22pm

Love this album!  One of the best things I've heard so far this year.

Here's a great quote from Steve Earle from the feature article on Six String Drag from Issue #11 (Sept/Oct 1997) of the ND archive:

“Somebody wanted me to see Whiskeytown,” Earle recalls, “so I went down to Bubbapalooza [Memorial Day '96] in Atlanta. I walked in, and 6 String Drag were playing before Whiskeytown. I’d never heard ‘em before; I think I had a tape, but hadn’t ever gotten around to playing it. Three songs into their set, I turned to my partner and said ‘Let some neurotic co-dependent A&R chick sign Whiskeytown — I want to make a record with these guys.’

“We went to breakfast the next morning, and basically offered them the deal right there.”

--- Steve Earle

Comment by Shipcote on March 29, 2013 at 3:20am

He played for me in Newcastle Uk 1999 with Neal Casal ( after Six String Drag) and Ive been buying his stuff ever since. His Mercury Blues album was popular over here & his song Rather Not Know( on album  of same name) about his Father is one of  my fav songs ever. His Mercy Filter album is a killer too !

Comment by Sherman Woodson on March 29, 2013 at 4:25am

Look forward to repeated listens to this album.

Comment by Royal Potato Family on March 29, 2013 at 5:49am

Love Love Love this record! We were lucky enough to get an advance copy through our distributor and we haven't stopped listening since we first heard it. I'm hard pressed to believe there will be an album much better this year. "Memories & Birds" is a masterpiece as far as we can tell!!!

Comment by Eugene Unger on March 29, 2013 at 8:44am

Looking forward to hearing the new songs this week when Kenny plays a record release show in my area. Colorado is my favorite from the album.

Comment by Eric Gregory on March 29, 2013 at 10:16am

Kenny is great. Great songs, amazing voice. I think "Tired of Being in Love" is my favorite right now. I hope lots of people hear this record.  

Comment by Hillbilly Haiku on March 29, 2013 at 11:14am

Intellectual and spiritual. This is the sort of music that slows my breathing, invokes dreams, takes me inward. It will bear repeated listens without becoming stale.  I was not familiar with Kenny, thank you for the introduction.  Started to make a comment about the cover photo but that is too shallow for work of this level.  :-)

Comment by Jonathan Lee on March 29, 2013 at 12:47pm

My favorites right now are the title track and "Colorado".

Comment by Jim Kaltenthaler on March 30, 2013 at 12:42am

Magnificent. Primal. This one has dug it's way into my marrow and I can feel it coursing through my body on its way to my soul. Simply extraordinary.

Comment by Chuck Hamilton on March 30, 2013 at 11:51am

Enjoyed Six String Drag years ago and very happy to see Kenny is still at it!

Ordering this CD ASAP too!

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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.