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.