It was only a matter of time before the wiser denizens of alternative country ran for the border. The four guys from Raleigh who make up the mildly punkish 6 String Drag aren’t breaking new ground like Jeff Tweedy and Wilco did on their second LP, but they have at least let their record collections take them on some long side trips out of Twangville. The band’s second album, High Hat, roams through the loose Tex-Mex of the Sir Douglas Quintet (“Elaine”), the terse pop of early Elvis Costello (“Driven Man”), the classic rock of the Band (“Gasoline Maybelline”), and the Bourbon Street fluff of Pete Fountain (“Over & Over”). In fact, if the band hadn’t adapted its name from an old Stanley Brothers title (“5 String Drag”) and signed on with Steve Earle (who coproduced High Hat and released it on his own E-Squared label), it might be tough to say who’s the bigger influence, Hank Williams or Hank Rollins. The tunes are catchy and the execution is succinct, and while singer, guitarist, and primary songwriter Kenny Roby has yet to develop a distinct musical personality, he’s got the raw material to do so: his nasal croon carries him from fragile ballads into full-tilt rockers and his hooks sink in. His lyrics, a hackneyed mix of unrequited-love tales and working-class moralizing, are another story, but the quartet’s got a reputation as a knockout live act, so don’t sweat the cliches–just sweat. Friday, 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo by Craig Poole.