Time Stands Still
North Carolina-based singer-songwriter Kenny Shore courses through several styles from folk-pop to soul to bluegrass to rock n’ roll and even a bit of zydeco on his hook-filled Time Stands Still. It comes across easy, but the emotions are far ranging throughout on this warm, intimate effort. An experienced cast of musicians, all friends of Shore, join him including mandolinist Andrew Marlin (Watchhouse), bassist/guitarist Isaac Derr, guitarist/lap steel player Joseph Terrell (Mipso), producer and banjoist Jerry Brown, bassist Robert Sledge, drummer Rob Ladd (the Connells), keyboardist Joe MacPhail, baritone saxophonist Danny Abrams, and Ron Poythress and Lizzie Rose on backing vocals – quite the aggregation, although the configurations vary by track.
Two of the best among an excellent group of songs appear as the first two cuts. The organ driven “Put Yourself in My Shoes” begins in a lightly swaying rhythm but blossoms into a riveting chorus as the singer pleads his former lover to live his pain. Each of the verses builds momentum to the point where the background singers, almost like a group of bratty kids on the playground, repeat “put yourself in my shoes.” We hear Brown’s banjo and Terrell’s lap steel introduce the breezy, Jimmy Buffett-like “Wander Around.” Already, just two tracks in, we sense Shore’s innate gift for melodies.
“She’s Broken” is an ode to imperfect one that he has affection for (“she’s broken in all the right places”} and it glides smoothly over Terrell’s lap steel and Rose’s charming harmony vocal. “Don’t Ever Say My Name” will have you singing along on the chorus over the swelling organ, lap steel, and jangling guitars. The aforementioned zydeco comes in the form of highly danceable, swinging old timey “Down in Louisiana.” Abrams plays clarinet and MacPhail delivers sweet pump organ to color this one.
Invariably, “Name 3 People” will evoke John Prine. It begins as a simple up-tempo shuffle, but its chorus shifts more into a mid-tempo cadence, as Shore handles it seamlessly. “Almost Like Heaven” explicitly mentions Prine as it’s a true story, a dream-like state Shore experience one night when he claims he felt Prine’s presence in the room, claiming that Prine gave him the chorus verbatim.
“Everything We Needed” is a mixed remembrance of the couple’s first house while the standout “Your Smiling Face” is an uplifting, gospel-tinged ode to Shore’s wife, who passed due to cancer in 2017, with MacPhail playing a joyous, barrelhouse piano and later swirling organ. “Able to Try” evokes Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey period with vocals credited to Taz Halloween who sings with Shore, although, like Morrison’s albums, it sounds like more than two, more like a choir. “Time Stands Still” is an old-timey shuffle, stocked with witty lines and mentions of Kurt Vonnegut and Kierkegaard as Shore reminisces about grandpa and grandma and several in between. It’s a nifty song but others are more worthy of being the title track. He closes alone on the Pisgah banjo for “The 24th of June,” leaving us with a bit of mountain flavor.
Shore delivers an ambitious effort with many great gems. It would appear that he has not yet amassed a large following, but the supporting musicians are testament to his prowess. This recording should bring more recognition. He deserves it.
- Jim Hynes
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