Kenny Roby | MUSIC: Homebrew | Indy Week
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Kenny Roby 

As I recall, Mercury was the winged-booty sportin' deity who sped all over creation delivering messages to the other gods and living the "I can't be tamed" lifestyle of a fleet-footed rover. Well, in Kenny Roby's world, even those "wings can feel like weighted chains." Of course, as Roby decides later in the album's title track, he isn't about to trade those wings for any regular walkin' shoes just yet; therein lies the material for Mercury's Blues.

While it's been three years since Roby's former band, Six String Drag, released the Steve Earle-produced High Hat (on Earle's E Squared label), Mercury's Blues is a powerful solo debut that's carried by top-notch songs.

Roby's distinctive, expressive singing and songwriting often recall midperiod Elvis Costello (Blood and Chocolate comes to mind), but he's good enough that he makes any genre or style unmistakably his own. Guest musicians include trombonist Dave Wright (Countdown Quartet), who gets to strut his stuff on the Dr. John-flavored booze lament "In This Town." Caitlin Cary (Whiskeytown) and several Six String Dragsters also appear, most notably drummer Ray Duffey, who plays on every track. "Early Mornin' Blues (pt. 1)" is a foray into Tom Waits' gruff netherworld, but Roby shines best when he lays it down old-style on "Jesus Tambourine" ("she was a broken-up string on my torn trampoline"). I don't know if Roby ever did beat any Jesus tambourines, but if Mercury's Blues is any indication, I hope he stays around with us sinners.

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