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Like the Bottle Rockets, 6 String Drag plays country-tinged rock not only for the meaning but for the fun of it. In a Son Volt world, that’s a big deal; better to err on the side of the lightweight, as High Hat occasionally does, than to romanticize 12-pack-sodden gloom. Poppy yet rough-hewn in the manner of co-producer (and E-Squared head) Steve Earle, the group starts off with a righteous bar-band lament, “Bottle of Blues,” promoting the traditional value that if you can’t get love you might as well get drunk. Soon, the band’s pub-rocking it up, swinging in the manner of Van Morrison and early Elvis Costello on “Red” and “Guilty,” and also recalling My Aim Is True on the thumping “Driven Man.” While that song tells a tragic story at relatively great length, situations are briskly limned in others, such as the 1:58 “Gasoline Maybelline” (a treacherous girlfriend or an unreliable car, depending on how closely you listen), “From Me to Clayton” (not surprisingly, more on the perfidy of automobiles), and the old-timey, lovelorn “I Can’t Remember” and “Over & Over.” A band that knows how to write bridges, toss in a horn section or organ for a change-up, and seethe (“Cold Steel Brace”) as well as go full-throttle (“Ghost”), these guys deserve the hearing that better-financed y’all-ternative crews are getting.—Rickey Wright