Founding Member of Six String Drag Returns With First New Solo Album In Over Six Years
“He’s phenomenal.” – Ryan Adams
“I recently heard a song called ‘Memories & Birds’ by a North Carolina songwriter named Kenny Roby that floored me.” — Citizen Cope
Raleigh, NC-based singer/songwriter Kenny Roby has announced the release of Memories & Birds due April 2 on Little Criminal Records. The eight song effort is the first new album in over six years and fourth overall from the founding member of the acclaimed ’90s alt-country/indie rock band, Six String Drag. Co-produced by Jason Merritt (Chatham County Line, Tift Merritt), Memories & Birds was recorded over six months and incorporates 12 musicians to create the album’s often lush and evocative orchestrations.
“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 Comac 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.
“Most of the characters seemed to be loners. Even when they are surrounded by life they are alone,” explains Roby. “None of their tales are written from my perspective, but from the narrator’s perspective. Of course I inhabit a little bit of each of them.”
Roby’s empathy for these characters is undoubtedly informed by his own travels. He briefly lived the dream with his former band Six String Drag. In the late ’90s, they were heralded alongside fellow next-big-thing North Carolinians’ Whiskeytown and The Backsliders, wined and dined by the major label machine and ultimately signed and produced by Steve Earle. Just as quickly, it all disappeared when hard living, the arrival of children and the strain of the music business hustle caused the band to dissolve. Roby persevered, however, releasing three exquisite, but vastly different solo records: Mercury’s Blues (1999), Rather Not Know (2003) and The Mercy Filter (2006). Circa 2007, he went on hiatus to further hone his craft, raise his family and bide his time. So while Memories & Birds could be called a comeback, existentially speaking, it’s a debut. Wiser for his experiences and no longer chasing the cliche of success, Kenny Roby returns, purely, the poet, the songwriter, the musician and the artist that he’s always been and will always be.
Kenny Roby will tour regionally upon release of Memories & Birds with national tour dates to follow.
1. Memories & Birds
2. The Monster
3. The Craziest Kid In Town
5. Tired Of Being In Love
6. A Short Mile
7. Me & The Monkey
8. Our Fading Fighter
Feruary 1 | Moe Joe | Clemson, SC (w/ Amy Ray)
February 2 | Moe Joe | Clemson, SC
February 9 | The Flat Iron | Greensboro, NC
February 19 | Pete’s Candy Store | Brooklyn, NY
February 21 | Rockwood Music Hall | New York, NY
April 1 | Tennessee Shines Radio | Knoxville, TN
April 2 | The Grey Eagle | Asheville, NC
April 4 | Moe Joe | Greenville, SC
April 5 | Snug Harbor | Charlotte, NC
April 6 | King’s Barcade | Raleigh, NC
July 10 | Duke Performances Series at Duke Gardens | Durham, NC