The Kentucky music community is flourishing once again and, we are just beginning to see the fruits of the labors put in during the pandemic. Folks like Sean Whiting and Cole Chaney are riding high on the waves of their releases. While we’re patiently awaiting new albums from folks like The Local Honeys and Grayson Jenkins. That’s a fairly diverse list, but I’m going toss someone else into the ring for y’all.
Shelby Lore is a young fella from Carter City. His style is difficult to pinpoint, but that’s by design. And while a lot of folks would suggest an artist “pick a lane” and stay in it, I’d argue the opposite. I really enjoy when an artist spreads their wings a bit. I think it’s a deeper look into who they are as an artist and something that I wish more folks embraced.
With his latest release titled, ‘Great Unkown’, Lore brings together a melting pot of styles that has deep roots in Southern Rock. They’re bathed in the Blues, packaged up with a little Kentucky twang and there’s even a little coal dust mixed in for grit. I suppose if forced to make a comparison, I’d say that you’d hear a lot of influence ranging from Bad Company, Blackberry Smoke, to Whiskey Meyers. You’ll sniff out some Skynyrd influence and a not so subtle homage to the recently reunited Sundy Best. Lore’s sound isn’t overpowered with heavy guitars or gimmicks. He just delivers up some good, solid rock and roll, served up Eastern Kentucky style.
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We do things a bit different than most, so let’s take a look at a few highlights from ‘Great Unkown,’ and hopefully you’ll be intrigued enough to discover the rest on your own.
Kicking the album off is “Bad Way Again.” It’s a laid back look at a pretty dark battle. A tale of hitting rock bottom and leaning on a loved one to help him dig out of the hole he’s dug himself into.. Full of many tasty guitar licks, you’ll be drawn into the call for help as the story gets all gussied up in wonderful harmonies and one of the bigger melodic hooks on the ‘Great Unkown.’
Next up is the gem of the entire album, at least in my opinion. “I’m All In” snagged my attention with the very first piano note and if I’m honest, it still has it. The tempo allows Shelby to really focus his attention on his vocals and deliver the centerpiece of this release.
“I’m All In” hits the dead center of the bullseye that is the sweet spot of Lore’s artistry. This song is so good, that even if the rest of ‘Great Unkown’ sucked, I’d say buy it for this song. Thankfully though, this album doesn’t suck, so you have no reason to be hesitant to dig deeper into this release and enjoy.
“Blankly Staring” is the track I alluded to earlier as a homage to Sundy Best. The impact of Nicholas Jamerson and Kristofer Bentley has really, really shined since they reunited. This cajón and acoustic laden track is yet another example of the crop of exciting and promising artists staying true to their roots. If you listen intently, you’ll be rewarded with the smoothest, and easiest vocal Shelby delivers on the entire album.
“Bottom Of Love” is my 2nd personal favorite tune. The gritty, bluesy delivery offers up the cherry on top of a story that floats effortlessly on the river of piano and organ. The emotion and crescendo meet as Shelby lays down my personal favorite solos on the album. Lore stretched his legs on this one and it’s a beauty!
“What I Almost Said” is the most straightforward rocker on the ‘Great Unkown.’ The track features Shelby’s guitar skills right out of the gate, and that sets the tone as the vocals climb towards a big ole open chorus. If you enjoy changing and shifting dynamics, as I do, this one is a real treat for you.
Shelby revisits the musical stylings of “I’m All In” with the “Other Side.” This one radiates blue Lore lays down one of the more polished songs on the ‘Great Unkown,’ but it’s the guitar work that will keep you coming back to this one. Shhhheeeewwwwiiieeee, Sheeeelby!
The title track “Great Unknown” is the song that reminds me a bit of Blackberry Smoke. I’m a huge fan of Blackberry Smoke, so that’s not a knock, but a compliment. Charlie Starr and Company have created some of the best music of the last decade. If you like your guitar licks tasty, Shelby delivers a taste of the blues that has been fried up like a Sunday chicken with all the fixin’s!
The softer side of Shelby wraps up the ‘Great Unkown’ with “The Book & The Locket.” The story is the deliberate focus of this song, and end the album the way that every album should. What’s that you ask? He leaves us wanting more.
Shelby Lore has given us a wonderful gift after an awful year in 2020. No matter what style of music you enjoy, you’re bound to find something you like on the ‘Great Unkown.’ Lore has embraced the fact that he can be chameleon-like and blends himself into most any style. His ability to shift his voice to shape and color his songs is well worth the price of admission to the ‘Great Unkown.’
So grab your shovel and dig up the bounty of gems I left for you to discover.