A little more than two decades ago, 6 String Drag was Raleigh's most viable entry in the alt-country sweepstakes, but fate had other ideas in mind. The band split up after their second, Steve Earle-produced record, High Hat, and didn't release another until their 2015 reunion album, Roots Rock 'N' Roll. Thankfully, the reunion stuck, and Top of the World feels like the true successor to High Hat (which has just received a twentieth anniversary reissue).
Roots Rock 'N' Roll undeniably found the band still breathing fire, but as the title implies, it was more overtly old-school and rootsy than what the band had done with High Hat. But Top of the World takes the elements that made 6 String Drag's nineties incarnation so special and expands on them. This time around, singer and guitarist Kenny Roby, bassist Rob Keller, and recent arrivals Luis Rodriguez (guitar) and Dan Davis (drums) remind us that the band was always as much about alt-rock and power-pop influences as Americana. Roby still sounds like he's got at least as much Elvis Costello in his DNA as he does Gram Parsons.
Whether 6 String Drag is leaning into the hard-charging autobiographical stomper "Small Town Punks" or pulling back a bit for the poised, reflective title track, it's clear that this is ultimately a rock 'n' roll band with some twang leanings, rather than the other way around. Jason Merritt's production, while unerringly tasteful, makes crafty use of horns and keyboards to give the twin-guitar attack some bonus ballast. And from the handclap-punctuated barroom rocker "Every Time She Walks on By" to the pub-rocking bump and swing of "I Wish You Would," Top of the World is the sound of a long-postponed promise being definitively fulfilled.