Kentucky Shine’s name might seem to sum up all that needs to be said about the group’s musical mantra, but at the same time, those who assume the handle says it all are shortchanging this varied and versatile combo. While there’s little doubt that they can hold their own as far as their energetic approach is concerned, they also shine through their mastery of tone, texture, and tightly-woven musical mesh. The band — which consists of guitarist JB Miller, Steven Stewart on fiddle, bassist Ross Clark, and Jordan Riehm on banjo — avoid a one-dimensional sound in order to ensure there’s added emphasis on mood and melody.
That’s evident from listening to their latest independently-produced effort, Back In Again, and their take on a pair of well known standards. They cast the readily familiar Sweet Georgia Brown as a decidedly jaunty instrumental. So too, their take on the traditional folk ballad Wayfaring Stranger remains reverential, but it’s also delivered from a personal perspective that infuses added emotion into the song’s somber setting. The same might be said of the lithe Lilly Dale and the elegiac offering, This One’s For You, each of which express a further degree of versatility and variation. So too, the extended instrumental, Lost In the Pines, goes through a series of shifts, resulting in a powerful piece of music that defies any attempt at pigeonholing or corralling it into any singular style.
That’s not to say Kentucky Shine don’t express the exuberance that’s so intrinsic to bluegrass basics overall. Songs such as Standing in the Rain, Lonesome Teardrops, and Day Dreamin’ ring and resonate with sheer joy and undiluted enthusiasm. They are clearly a tight-knit ensemble, one thats clearly at the top of their game.
It’s those multi-dimensional attributes which ultimately make it clear that Kentucky Shine fully lives up to all that their name implies. They radiate and illuminate with irresistible appeal.