Blurring the line between country and alt country, Aiken’s Kenny George Band seem to swear allegiance to both sides of the coin and its works well for them. That’s the attitude displayed on the group’s latest, the 7-song EP, “Gunshy”: Country music is as country music does, whether it’s by the book or off the map. Embracing the genre’s classic emphasis on brooding love songs along with current Nashville-style gloss, the band also detours into alt country style introspection with smart lyrics, eschewing the whole barbecue and monster trucks imagery that has built the current cash-making contingent of Music City. Singer and guitarist Kenny George has a lucid and penetrating voice- think the soulfulness of a Jason Isbell mixed with a little hard-boiled Zac Brown on its edges. The rest of the band is a real-deal country machine, keeping the proceedings authentic and professional throughout.
First track “Pocket Full of Habits” is a moody, almost tense folk affair. It’s a muted alt country travelling song and it serves to remind the listener that yes, this is traditional music, but don’t get too comfy in that rocking chair, Gramps. “Last Stop Birmingham”, with its perfect steel guitar, is pure country, done the old school way. “Not Slipping Away” has fiddles that time travel it straight back into the better days of country with substance. The mournful and rolling pedal steel in “Sad Country Songs” is perfectly evocative of its title. The well-written title track goes for a commercial sheen and could probably be a mainstream hit, if it gets on the radio. “Hard to Think About” could fit right in on a Drive-By Truckers or Jason Isbell record (that’s an awesome thing to do, by the way). The record ends with “Shouldn’t Have Let You Go”, another laid back love song. It’s a great, catchy straight-up country tune.
Like most country, the songs here are mostly love-songs.When you are writing songs about relationships, you had better bring something new or excellent to the table and the Kenny George Band can do both. They take the best parts of country’s legacy and throw in George’s personality to give it a tweak in a modern direction. The band incorporates a lot of feeling into the production, and they never sound like this is some contractually-obligated, phoned-in affair. If you love country but are dying to hear something a little less Nashville, look no further.
Recommended if you like: Jason Isbell, Zac Brown, Ryan Adams
Sean Knight is a native South Carolinian who has spent his life bouncing back and forth between SC and Texas, playing in bands you probably never heard of in both states and stinking up open-mic nights in the Low Country for many years. He plays, collects, listens to and probably spends too much of his life obsessing over music.