The Shelby Lore Band may not be a household name yet, but Shelby (guitar and lead vocals), Tyler Kiser (bass and vocals), and Luke Estep (drums and vocals) are working hard to change that. With two songs featured on The Big Ugly soundtrack (“Damn Good Night” and “Hard Drinking Man”) and a total of six nominations and two wins with the Appalachian Arts and Entertainment Awards (Best Original Song – “Everything They Said” and Best Drummer (Luke Estep), Shelby and the guys are definitely riding a wave that is culminating July 10, 2021 with the release of their sophomore album, Great Unknown.
Recorded at Lore Studio in Ashland, Kentucky, Great Unknown was mixed, mastered, and engineered by Noah Frazee. In addition to Shelby, Tyler, and Luke, the album features Chase Lewis (piano/organ), Wayne Neal (steel guitar/guitar) (Mountain Oyster Cult), Garrick ’Puddin’ Howell (harmonica) and John McHugh (guitar on ‘Great Unknown’). The twelve songs on Great Unknown run the gamut of love, hard times, and the fallout of addiction among other topics.
The album opens with “Bad Way Again” a bluesy rocking tune lamenting being in a bad way again, “Can you help me babe? I’m in a bad way again. The whiskey ran dry, and I lost all my friends.” “Bad Way Again” is a catchy tune despite the topic. A rollicking looks at being “down lower than I guess I’ve ever been,” the song also teases the listener to how hot a guitarist Shelby Lore is, something that becomes even clearer the further into the album you get.
“Take It Away” falls somewhere in between the blues and ‘the 70s pop rock, with a beautiful instrumentation melding into harmony with Lore’s vocals. “All the love I tossed aside because I didn’t love who I was inside,” “Take It Away”’s lyrics are a bit of soul searching before rolling into a segment of love songs like “I’m All In.”
“I’m All In” is simply a beautiful love song, and the first single the band released off the album. “When it comes to you, I’ve never been afraid to cross that line. If I had the chance to press rewind, I would go to that first night we shared, and pause it every time.” “I know that it’s a gamble and I play the game to win. And if it comes down to fold or show your hand, I’m all in, every time.” When it comes to love, just like poker, you got to be willing to gamble, you have to be all in.
I had to take a couple deep listens to “Blankly Staring” before realizing the song is dealing with mental health struggles. The music and beat overpowered the lyrics’ message, “Why oh why, does it seem like I’m falling out of my own skin.” “Such a beautiful day, not a cloud up in the sky as I wish it away. Happiness has its place, but from time to time it tends to disappear from my face.” These lyrics get deep even as the music remains upbeat. A lot of folks are going to relate to the struggles of the song.
“Bottom of Love” is another of several great love songs on Great Unknown. “Bottom of Love” is more of a ‘70s soul crooner than the others. The songs of Great Unknown hop genres throughout the course of the album, “Bottom of Love” takes us more into slow blues, almost R&B as Lore sings about the “Bottom of Love.”
“Miss Jones” tackles the opioid crisis in Eastern Kentucky and the rest of the United States from a Mother’s point of view. “Miss Jones had a time getting out of bed this morning. She couldn’t lift her heavy heart with her worried mind. Held a cold coffee cup, looking out the back door window. If she had a second chance, could she get there in time?” “Miss Jones” is too many mothers these days. Left to wonder what they could have done different to keep their children alive. This one is a tearjerker that brings to light a topic that needs discussion.
The current single release off Great Unknown is “What I Almost Said.” “You don’t have to go, it’s getting late. Why don’t you stay with me? You never know, one of these days, what you and I could be! I hope I don’t seem out of line for what’s inside my head. I love you, sweet dreams and goodnight, is what I almost said.” This one could be a love song, as long as the courage is found to say, “What I Almost Said.”
“Remember Our Dreams” is a true love song. Remembering dreams, laughing in sleep, as the weight of the world bears down on love. “Do I get you for the rest of my years? I remember of dreams.” As the weight of the world beats down on relationships, it is important to remember dreams and what brought you together in the first place. Remembering our dreams grounds us, and brings life back in focus. “Do you think we can find some time this weekend for me and you? I miss staying up all night, just talking like we just to do you told me all of your dreams.” Sometimes we all need a weekend like that.
“Other Side” is an ode to everyone working, struggling to make ends meet, “I’ve been working this nine to five, overtime doesn’t help keep us alive,” who wonders if it’s “even sunny on the other side.” Lyrically, this one is as tight as the rest of the album, but Lore’s guitar, coupled with Kiser’s bass and Estep’s drums really makes this dong draw the listener in.
“Need Me Around” crosses into the country genre, the song that most falls into the traditional country realm. Wayne Neals’s pedal steel intro and throughout the song really gives that traditional feel to this love song. “Lonely needs a friend, redemption needs a sin, and I need you to need me around.” One of several love songs on the album, “Need Me Around” (and the others as well) has a different feel from the others. A throwback to a simpler time and sound, this one is haunting.
The title track, “Great Unknown,” is the heaviest number on the album. A showcase for Lore’s guitar playing, I can see this one providing the opportunity to jam into other songs and back live. It features Garrick ‘Puddin’ Howell on harmonica and John McHugh trading licks with Lore on guitar. The lyrics on this one could be about anything; this is the jam on the album and the playing shines brightly here.
Closing out Great Unknown is “The Book and the Locket.” This song is another example of Lore’s songwriting skills. “She’s got the world on the end of her ball point pen. Taking note on the way that it moves. She writes her dreams down inside there, she even writes down her nightmares and when the grey skies give her the blues, she’s got days’ worth of pages to put demons in they cages and tossing away the key.” “She’s got heartache and laughter, things she’s still running after. And ever time that she’s broke down and lost it, with her book and her locket.” The lyrics here are simple yet paint a wonderful picture of the struggling heroine.
Great Unknown is a great genre hopping album, based in the blues with excursions into country, r&b, pop and more. Listeners should definitely find a song or more that has the flavor they are looking for musically. Great Unknown is available on all platforms on July 10,2021. Or you can purchase direct from Shelby Lore ( https://facebook.com/shelbyloremusic).