6 String Drag (from the album High Hat on Schoolkids Records)
When 6 String Drag recorded the Twangtrust-produced (Steve Earle and Ray Kennedy) High Hat in 1997, the band was getting a lot of attention in their homebase North Carolina music scene and beyond. While contemporaries in the scene such as Whiskeytown (Ryan Adams) continued to cling on rising stars, 6 String Drag disbanded in the late 1990’s. The re-issue of High Hat (the album’s first time wearing vinyl) shares the secret of times when Roots and Americana were poor relations in both the Rock and Country markets, prior to the Roots music community needing neither format to exist and flourish. The High Hat release forms a bridge for the Raleigh, North Carolina band as they partner the album with the release of Top of the World, a collection of 2018 studio recordings from 6 String Drag.
Hitting the Alt Country target on the High Hat opening cut, 6 String Drag rattle and roll out “Bottle of Blues”, the mood of the tune plugging into the 1990’s abandon and near feral approach to Alt Country delivered by peer bands such as The Bottle Rockets, The Old 97’s, Wilco, and Son Volt. A rock’n’roll strut carries an option to heat things up with “Gasoline Maybelline” while a swamp-thick groove percolates underneath Country vocals for “Red”, a mean stomp addresses “From Me to Clayton”, and sharp-angled guitar chords give structured to the pleas of “Guilty”. The mission statement for 6 String Drag rings loud and clear on High Hat, the band following the beat of a Rock’n’Roll heart into various Roots music styles. 6 String Drag lay out a sonic rumble for “Cold Steel Brace” and nod to Brit Pop from The Kinks to Elvis Costello in “Driven Man”. High Hat glues the beat to the gas pedal in “85 on 85” and pushes “Top of the Mountain” with a Rockabilly shove as 6 String Drag use harmonies and rhythm to tag the Louvin-Brothers era sound onto “I Can’t Remember”, adding a bonus track to High Hat borrowed from The Louvin’s catalog of song with “Lorene”.
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Chris Hillman (from the album The Asylum Years available on Omnivore Recordings)
The 1976 recording for Chris Hillman’s solo debut, Slippin’ Away, packed the recording studio with heavy hitters that included members of Booker T & The M.G.;s, Poco, Buffalo Springfield, and The Turtles along with A-List LA studio musicians. Chris Hillman carried credentials into his solo outing as a founding member and crucial ingredient in the careers of groups such as The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and Souther-Hillman-Furay Band. Omnivore Records puts Slippin’ Away (1976) with the 1977 release Clear Sailin’ into one package with the album The Asylum Years. Sonically, Chris Hillman plays along with 1970’s California Country, a style he equally influenced and sources on Slippin’ Away. Of his previous musical encounters, Slippin’ Away resembles Chris’ time in Souther-Hillman-Furay Band as the album mixes era-defining Country Rock and call/response harmonies. Country-slide guitars (“Take It on the Run”), delicate Folk-Rock ballads (“Love is the Sweetest Amnesty”), Caribbean Island rhythms (“Down in the Churchyard”), and a shaky west coast rumble steers for “Midnight Again” as Chris Hillman strums his way into Slippin’ Away with “Step on Out” and lets the plea match the pace asking “(Take Me in Your) Lifeboat”.
A little more Country tempers the tones of Clear Sailin’, the songs tender front porch Folk as Chris Hillman rips a relationship down the middle in “Quits” while he puts a soulful backbeat underneath “Paying the Fool”, adds in horns for the honky tonk Saturday night of “Lucky in Love”, and shares a piano bench with lonely in “Heartbreaker”. The music of Clear Sailin’ sets a course towards a full-on Country future with west coast players in Desert Rose Band, co-founded by Chris Hillman in 1985. The rhythms of “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” lap like waves against the track as Clear Sailin’ shimmies on a Bluesy country sway in “Nothing Gets Through” and drifts on a smooth sea for the title track as Chris Hillman shrugs off blame in “Fallen Favorite” and asks a memory of old lovers to hop on board the western Country breeze of “Hot Dusty Roads”.
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Doug Sahm (from the album Doug Sahm and His Band on Atlantic Records)
A group of musicians gathered in October 1972 in New York City to back Doug Sahm for his first solo record. Atlantic Records had bought Doug’s contract after his band Sir Douglas Quintet folded in 1972, with the Oct 72recordings released early the next year in January 1973 as Doug Sahm and His Band. The limited knowledge of critics for anything outside of the Rock world at the time had trouble translating Roots music into a language they could understand. For the marketplace, Doug Sahm and His Band seemingly collected multiple styles on the recording as its tracks were backed with Country, Blues, Rock’n’Roll, and R&B. Looking back, the album served a larger purpose, taking a Lone Star state secret and spreading the word with Doug Sahm putting a Texas stamp on the sound. Texas Blues gives the album a smooth groove in “Your Friends” while “Don’t Turn Around” dials in a late-night radio station from New Orleans and an audio weather warning brings Doug Sahm together with future Texas Tornadoes bandmates Flaco Jimenez and Augie Meyers with the Tex-Mex style in “Poison Love”.
The recording of Doug Sahm and His Band took two weeks, seasoned players filling in group ranks that included David Bromberg, David ‘Fathead’ Newman, and Dr. John. Two fiddles open the album as Doug Sahm is joined by Kenny Kosek on first cut “(Is Anybody Going to) to San Antone?” as the pair tribute the twin fiddles backing Bob Wills on his tune “Faded Love”. His Band mate Bob Dylan lends his tune “Wallflower”, harmonizing on the cut as well as lending vocals to “Dealer’s Blues” along with a lead guitar solo. Doug Sahm and His Band tributes The Delmore Brothers with slinking Country Blues on “Blues Stay Away from Me”, puts some funky guitar chops underneath the horn blasts of “I Get Off”, and head uptown for a rhythm Saturday night on T-Bone Walker’s “Papa Ain’t Salty” while Doug borrows a tune from fellow Texan with Willie Nelson’s with “Me and Paul”.
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