North Carolina-based songwriter Kenny Roby has had a crazy couple of years similar to the scenarios described above. He lost his longtime friend and fellow collaborator Neal Casal (Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Circles Around The Sun), dealt with the demise of his relationship, and realized his life was changing in ways that were difficult beyond measure. Yet he didn’t let all this craziness get the better of him. He channeled that loss and made a record; a really incredible and beautiful record, no less, in the form of The Reservoir, his first solo release (outside of albums with his main band 6 String Drag) since 2013. The songs on this album reflect his recent experiences, drawing the listener into the story in profound ways.
“I think it’s less difficult to put (challenging experiences) into words than it is to get out of the way and not censor yourself too much,” Roby states. “To be as honest as you can about what you are experiencing. It’s also riding that fine line of sharing the human experience but not getting bogged down too much in the details. This record is more a sharing of what my experience was of being ‘one of us humans’ than it was a memoir, as far as I can tell.”
“It was very easy playing with those guys,” states Roby. “They make it easy to let go and do my thing. That also might have a little to do with me letting go and letting them do their thing, too. There have been times in my artistic career, and in my personal life, I might have held onto things too tightly. I’ve been pretty fortunate to have played with some incredible musicians in my life.”
“The older I get, the faster I make records. I’d rather document the vibe and feel than sweat too many details, to squeeze the life out of the experience. This record was recorded pretty quickly. 16 completed songs in 7-8 days, basically. With a few songs that we scrapped.”
All the songs on The Reservoir flow beautifully throughout the album. “Don’t Ya Know What’s On My Mind” opens the album with a soft, cushion of sound, just Roby's soulful voice, his acoustic guitar and stream-of-conscious river of ideas passing through our ears. We jump into an old-timey vibe with “Vampire Song”, a upbeat ditty that speaks of facing fear, “Watcha gonna do when a man’s got nothin’ to lose?”. “All Trains Lead To Cocaine” touts the wickedness of addiction with a country-gospel sound. “History Lessons” brings the energy up a notch as a bouncy, whistle-along tune that adds lightness to the album. “Watchin’ Over Me” is a beauty of a song that speaks to me of the redemption of past discretions.
The final track on the album, “I’m Gonna Love Again”, leaves us with a bit of hope. Maybe, just maybe, out of the darkness, we can find joy. “I send my paper heart into the wind, I’m gonna love again.”
In many ways, The Reservoir plays out like a therapy session, or a series of diary entries. We get a deep sense of Roby’s depth as a songwriter, as his wordplay is intelligent, poetic, and hits the heart in a profound and emotional way.
“I hope people give it a good listening to,” states Roby of The Reservoir. “At the very least, to be entertained for a moment in these crazy times. And maybe on another level, some folks might identify with it, and maybe it’ll help them feel a little less isolated and alone.“