Tragedy has a way of upending even the most stable trajectory. The Kenny George Band knows that fact first hand. After last year’s sudden death of the band’s original drummer Bucky Brown, the group was faced with some hard choices, including the difficult decision about whether the band should even persevere.
Consequently, they chose to transition the only way they knew how — to keep on making music. Songs that had been sketched out with Bucky were retuned, using Brown’s original tracks while rerecording the other instruments to give it a fresher, cleaner sound. Those four songs plus a wholly original track recorded with new drummer Dave Mercer were combined for a new EP they dubbed The Silent Saint.
“With those four songs featuring Bucky and the title track that includes Dave, we felt it was the best way to make a segue way between past and present,” George said. “It serves as our tribute to Bucky as well as an introduction to the current incarnation of the band. It seemed the most seamless way of paying homage to the past and then looking forward to the future.
Recorded at Zac Brown’s Southern Ground Studios and produced by long-time associate Shawn Guess, the new music reflects a resilience that’s always been a part of the Kenny George Band’s sound. “Treat Me This Way” offers a steady stomp with a swampy sensibility. “It’s a Fool” resonates with a breezy sense of wistful reflection and consistent commitment. The steel-guitar drenched “Orleans” reflects the carefree attitude of those carefree environs, while “Pocket Full of Habits” purveys a casual down home offers up an easy, breezy attitude perfectly in keeping with a summer night soaking up the sounds of country comforts.
However it’s the title track that resonates with deepest personal meaning, a look back at the trials and tribulations faced by a band making its way in the world, and time shared between comrades untied in music. Given Bucky’s loss, that includes the hope that his spirit will still guide them along the road that’s still yet to unfold before them. George says they instinctively knew that the decision to carry on was one Bucky would have agreed with. The rest of the band — George (lead guitar, vocals, songwriter), Center Ely (steel guitar), Brooks Andrews (bass) and Scott Rankin (rhythm guitar, harmony vocals) — knew that the only way to survive was to reconcile their feelings of loss with a determination to strive for what they had been working for since the beginning.
Indeed, that consistent commitment has enabled the Aiken, South Carolina based band to create an indelible impression with fans throughout the Southeast and Midwest, where they’ve performed 250 concerts in the last two years alone. Their explosive live performances have made them a band on the brink of a breakout, and its little wonder that in 2016, they were voted South Carolina Artists to Watch by the South Carolina Music Guide.
Then again, George himself has been drawn to music most of his life. He picked up the violin at the age of eight, but didn’t take to formal lessons, so he then took up bass. Eventually though, he decided that guitar would be the better match. “My dad told me that the guitar players get all the girls,” he laughs. “So, he bought me my first guitar as a gift when I graduated from junior high. I learned to make music on that guitar and I’m pleased to say I still have it to this very day.”
Inspired by the sounds of the burgeoning Americana movement — bands like Whiskeytown and Wilco, and later the so-called “Outlaw” country clan — indelible icons like Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Kris Kristofferson, John Prine and Townes Van Zandt — George later immersed himself in probing the roots of the rock and country crossover, exploring the Southern California singer/songwriter scene by way of Jackson Browne, the Eagles and J.D. Souther. But Before starting the band, George took a brief hiatus in New York City to work with producer Damien Dash, but the cold New York winter, lack of opportunity and the steep cost of living prompted him to return home less than five months later. It proved to be a good decision, and with three releases under their belt — the Gunshy EP (their 2014 debut), Zac Brown Sessions (a prize bestowed as the result of winning a songwriting contest in 2013), and Live From Sky City (recorded in concert in Augusta, Georgia) — and their latest full-length album, Borrowed Trouble, the Kenny George Band is poised to garner new admirers and consolidate an already ample following all at the same time.
As a result, the band has resolved to move forward with more determination than ever. Or, as the title track of the new EP suggests, “We ain’t looking for redemption, just a little light shining through.”
“Bucky will always be a part of this band,” George said. “But with Dave in the fold, we know that we’re going to do what he would have hoped we would, and that’s to carry on as we always have. Only now we have that added purpose and passion when it comes to pursuing our dream.”