Today’s Feature, 11-12, 2007: Smooth Kentucky

January 18, 2008 at 5:53 pm (Today's Feature)

Smooth Kentucky “You know that band you always see, then think to yourself, I gotta go see them again, I didn’t know I liked acoustic music so much!–well, that’s us.” – Smooth Kentucky The above quote pretty much sums it up. Smooth Kentucky is an acoustic band that formed almost 5 years ago, playing newgrass, blues, roots, bluegrass, Americana, funk and good time music. With songs like Sweet Amanda, Hey Joe, Blue Eyed Georgia and Station Blues, you’ll find yourself saying, “I gotta see them again.” (I did)

XXQs: Smooth Kentucky (PEV): How and when did Smooth Kentucky form as a band?

Smooth Kentucky (SK): The Band formed in the spring of 2002, with a phone call from Cris Jacobs to Ed Hough trying to put together a bluegrass band for some Friday evening shows at the Baltimore Brewing Company. We asked Ryan Porter of The Bridge to play bass, and BJ Lazarus to play Mandolin. After our first successful summer, we started booking more and more gigs other than the Friday nights. The Bridge was also starting to branch out of the Baltimore area and we needed to find a few new players. We met Dave Frieman during the first summer, and Ed gave him a call and set up a night of pickin’. It was a great fit with acoustic bass. It really filled out the sound, and made it true. 2 years later we met Pat McAvinue, and hired him on to play fiddle. This five piece is the true Smooth Kentucky, so I guess it’s taken a while to form this band. Who knows, maybe we still are forming it.

PEV: Why the name “Smooth Kentucky”?

SK: Cris and Ed needed a name for the advertising agents signage, and ads. We were sitting around trying to think of names, and looking at a whiskey bottle – it hit us.” Smooth Kentucky bourbon whiskey”

PEV: What makes writing bluegrass music so unique?

SK: There are so many different forms of “bluegrass”. That in and of itself to me is what makes it unique. You can get away with so much more than you can in say “pop” writing. The form of the song, the rhythm, the time…. the rules seem to just go right out the window, I like that.

PEV: When you write songs in a band, how does the collaboration process work?

SK: So far, the originals have been written by Ed. He brings them to the table, and the band adds ideas – musically, and vocally…. Whatever the song calls for. It’s all about the song you know.

PEV: What tends to come first, a catchy lyric or a catchy tune?

SK: Usually the music comes first – but sometimes I just have to pull the car over and write something down right then…it varies.

PEV: How would you describe your music style?

SK: Americana, folky, acoustic – grass…. because we are not just bluegrass, we try to stay right on the fringe.

PEV: You are trying to write a song, you come to a blank, what do you do?

SK: Most of the time, I’ll leave it alone for a while, and come back to it later. If it’s not there, it’s not there.

PEV: In your opinion, who is the best writer in music today?

SK: I really like what Keb Mo’ is talking about these days, and Tim O’Brien always wins, hands down.

PEV: What’s one thing you want the fans to know about Smooth Kentucky?

SK: We love playing live in front of great crowds and really appreciate them coming out to hear us – live energy exchange between the band and crowd is key for us playing well.

PEV: What the best part about playing live?

SK: So many things go on in your head when you are live, the reaction of the crowd, feeding off of your band mates, trying to see the hottie in the front row past the lights…it’s “the feeling” that only live performers know.

PEV: What or where is your favorite place to play?

SK: Festivals are by far my first choice. Great sound, and great people. I also really like to play at the State Theatre in VA.

PEV: Who are some of your influences?

SK: Tony Rice, Hot Rize, The Grateful Dead, Vassar, Flatt and Scurggs, Ricky Skaggs, Alison Krauss, the list goes on and on…

PEV: Smooth Kentucky is a Baltimore based band, what is your take on the Baltimore music scene?

SK: I think the music scene in b-more is slowly getting back to being on the map. The Bridge, I feel will be the next band you hear of from Baltimore on a national level.

PEV: If you had the chance to collaborate with anyone, living or deceased, who would it be? Why?

SK: I would love to sing a song with Tom Waits, and Lyle Lovitt

PEV: Saturday Night Live calls and asks you to do their show…who do you want hosting?

SK: Will Ferrell – no one else will do.

PEV: What’s one misconception people have about bluegrass music?

SK: They think it’s all really lonesome, toothless music…they need to know we have a dental plan.

PEV: How did it feel the first time you stepped into a studio to record your own music?

SK: Very nervous, and excited….and wow you could really hear yourself, and how bad you really were.

PEV: You offer your songs on your website, but what’s your opinion on downloading music for free?

SK: Live shows I believe should be passed around, downloaded, recorded free…but as far as recorded music, that someone put the time, energy, and money into…needs to be purchased to save the recording industry, and support the artist.

PEV: Obviously getting your music out there is not easy, what’s the worst part about “spreading the word”?

SK: The footwork we can only do so much on a local level –

PEV: So, what’s next for Smooth Kentucky?

SK: The band is in the studio right now putting together some great new stuff. We are traveling to the west coast this summer, and playing many local festivals, and clubs. We are thinking of starting to look for a female vocalist. We think it might bring out a new side to the Smooth Kentucky sound.

To find out more on Smooth Kentucky, check out


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