Smooth Kentucky
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Smooth Kentucky


Band Folk Acoustic


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Smooth Kentucky @ Mick O'Shea's Irish Pub

Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Baltimore, Maryland, USA

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Smooth Kentucky: Funky Undertones
Written by Tim Newby

Straddling a land that has Bill Monroe and Townes Van Zandt on one side and Jerry Garcia and Bob Dylan on the other, Smooth Kentucky’s sound is a trip through the spirit of American music. They have a bluegrass soul, but play with a rock ‘n’ roll heart.

Guitarist/ singer Ed Hough is that soul and heart. As guitarist Cris Jacobs says about his longtime musical partner, “He doesn’t come from an extensive music theory background, so his writing is simple, soulful, and true to what he feels. His sound is distinctly his, because he’s not trying to sound like anyone else…he doesn’t have to.” Hough simply says, “Well its bluegrass, but we got some kind of funky Americana undertones."

Smooth Kentucky formed in 2003 when a friend asked Jacobs, who was starting his other band The Bridge around the same time, if he could put together a bluegrass band for the Baltimore Brewing Company’s Friday night bluegrass happy-hour. Jacobs reached out to his longtime musical ally, Hough. The two then recruited mandolinist B.J Lazarus to help round out the line-up. At an early gig upright-bassist Dave Freeman left his card on the table and told Hough to call him. He did, and Smooth Kentucky as a four-piece was born. They played as a four-piece for two years, during which time they released their self-titled debut album, which is a smart combination of traditional bluegrass and a more adventurous spirit that Hough says he discovered from attending, “many, many Grateful Dead shows.”

Shortly after the album's release they decided they wanted to expand their line-up by adding a fiddle player. Fiddle prodigy Patrick McAvinue happened to hear the band on a local radio show. An audition was quickly arranged, but almost ended as fast as it started.

“He walked in and was baby-faced; he was in the 10th grade. We were hesitant,” recalls Hough. McAvinue quickly eased Hough’s worries, “All I did was hear him tune up, and I was done. Cris and I looked at each and were like ‘oh my god’.”

Just as the band settled into its new life as a five piece, Jacobs had to scale back his time with the band as The Bridge began to take on a larger national profile and was keeping him on the road away from Smooth Kentucky for long stretches. Hough arrived at a simple solution to this problem. He recruited Dave Giegerich (dobro) and Jordan Tice (guitar) to help fill the holes while Jacobs was away. This unusual arrangement of having three different guitarists rotating through allowed the band to be able to create a wholly unique personality. While at its core Smooth Kentucky is built upon the steady, tasty rhythms of Hough, Freeman, and Lazarus, each show is a new adventure as they play with their ever-revolving cast of guitarists, which allows each night to provide a different interpretation of their arsenal.

Their new album, A Few More Miles, released in June of this year, is a testament to that ever evolving line-up and the band’s deep widely-branched roots. It is this simple, but constantly changing muse that Hough follows.

“The main goal for me is to provide the listener with something that’s not so expected, but still remaining true to our overall sound," Hough states. "It is always the element of surprise that keeps me coming back for more. Hopefully with this new release people will be surprised and want more as well.”

A Few More Miles is a journey through the joys of rural American music; it explores the backwoods and the front porch, even taking a turn to visit a finger-pickin’ good version of Bob Dylan’s “She Belongs To Me,” all the while soothing your soul with the sounds of a tall glass of whiskey in hand and the sun shining on your face.

For more information, music, and tour dates for Smotth Kentucky visit - Honest Tune, written by Tim Newby


My Smooth Kentucky Home
SMOOTH KENTUCKY – “A Few More Miles” CD ’09 (Private, US) – Step up, ladies and gentlemen and gather closely, for without allowing my fingers to ever leave my hands, I am about to reference a 1985 Eurythmics song in a review of a 2009 bluegrass record. Think I can’t do it? And have it make sense? Oh, ye doubting Thomases! Read on….

As has been my habit, and recently with great success, I took a dive into the “local music” section at a Baltimore CD store about 2 weeks ago. When I emerged, I pulled out my regulator, peeled off my wetsuit and took a look at what I had. SMOOTH KENTUCKY – “A Few Miles More.” Tranquil country scene on the cover and a little description in pen scribbled on the price tag: bluegrass. Hmm…. I opened the sweet little LP-sleeve-style cover and began reading. 7-piece band, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, dobro, 2 guys doing lead guitar. Then I let my eyes drift across the songs themselves and my interest was really piqued. See, over the last few years that I’ve embraced the bluegrass genre, I’ve found that an awful lot of bands do covers of traditional pieces. And, this is fine. Bluegrass is a style of music, like folk and Celtic, that’s produced a large number of absolutely timeless numbers. Regardless of how many times it’s been done, you can never have enough of a talented bunch of players and singers having a go at something like Bill Monroe’s “Uncle Pen.” That one’s been tackled by everybody from The Flying Burrito Brothers to Phish to Buck Owens to Goldie Hawn. Goldie Hawn!?!?! Really. Still, with all of that, I sit up and take note when I see a bluegrass band that writes their own stuff. One of my favourite examples of this are Realm favourites Iron Ridge (having graced my Year End Top 10 more than once). It’s that added spur of flair and originality that made my eyes light up when I noticed that SMOOTH KENTUCKY’s debut is comprised of all self-scribed material, save for a cover of Bob Dylan’s “She Belongs To Me.” So, it was with great anticipation that I pushed the > button on the old Realm-o-Matic.

First song in, Ed Hough’s vocals begin telling of his longing for “Sweet Amanda” over an upbeat, infectious melody and I’m hooked already. The conversational soloing between the guitars, fiddle and mandolin is plentiful but never overwhelms the song, a Hough composition. “Slipstream Abilene” continues the same feel with even a bit more melody. Hough’s voice is really going down nice & easy with a friendly, yet commanding tone. BJ Lazarus (who penned this one…), Cris Jacobs (one of the lead guitarists, along with Jordan Tice) and a trio of guests add harmony vocals that just ring with vibrancy. “Banjo Bend” ups the ante with a headlong pace and jamming between the players that’s riveting. Then we find “I Don’t Mind” gracing our ears with a melody that’s so sweet it’ll be in your mind for months. And, so SMOOTH KENTUCKY continues through the course of this album, with one highlight after another, from the finger-burning instrumental of “Skippin’ Lucy” to the heartfelt ballad of “The Way” and gorgeous album closer, “Halfway Home,” featuring vocals and ivories so poignant that I’m reminded of 7N’s Kirk McLeod’s solo disc, “Solo Piano.”

With all this, however, the track that brought me up short was # 9, “Leavin’ This Old Town.” When this energetic cut, written by Ed Hough, hit it’s chorus, I have to say I haven’t felt such a wave of pure melody rip my heart right out of my chest. See, one of my very favourite melodies (and songs) ever, is a track by the Eurythmics from their 1985 release “Be Yourself Tonight” entitled “There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart).” From the first time I heard Annie Lennox wrap her pipes around that beauty, it became one of my “go to” songs…for any number of occasions. Now, let me make something very clear. The chorus of SMOOTH KENTUCKY’s “Leavin’…” is far from a copy of that tune, but it’s a singular case of something mining a similar melody and using it to stunning effect. Don’t believe me? Listen to each one. Tell me you’ve still got a hair on either of your arms that’s not standing up. That’s beautiful, powerful stuff.

In all, pulling “A Few More Miles” out of that ocean of local CD’s a few weeks back was a shot in the dark, but it’s another on my recent streak of luck that’s hit the bulls-eye. The only thing that’s left is for me to check these guys out live sometime, because I’m sure they can lay it down like nobody’s business. Highly recommended! A Derby Winner

Monday, June 28, 2010
Smooth Kentucky's Bluegrass Blend on Baltimore Unsigned
Smooth Kentucky found inspiration on the back of a whiskey bottle.

"The Baltimore Brewing Company used to have a bluegrass happy hour every Friday night," says guitarist/vocalist Ed Hough. "[Guitarist/vocalist Cris Jacobs] had a connection with the girl who put it on, and she told him to put together a bluegrass band. He called me up and we needed a name because the City Paper was about to go to print. We got 'smooth Kentucky' off the back of a whiskey bottle and it stuck."

It's a fitting representation for the six-piece band's blend of new grass and Grateful Dead roots.

Tune in at 8 p.m. Tuesday (with an encore broadcast at 9 a.m. Saturday) as the band performs selections from its 2009 release A Few More Miles-- and previews some new songs--during a special performance and interview recorded at The Bunker Recording Studio.

Smooth Kentucky performs at Mick O'Shea's on Friday, July 16. - WTMD, 89.7 FM

JUNE 29, 2010

Baltimore Unsigned: Connected through the Dead and booze
Artist: Smooth Kentucky
Hometown: Baltimore
Members: Ed Hough (guitar, vocals); BJ Lazarus (mandolin); Cris Jacobs (guitar/vocals); Dave Frieman (bass); Patrick McAvinue (fiddle); Jordan Tice (guitar, vocals)
Sound: New grass with Grateful Dead roots
Fact: The band’s sound is influenced by what Cris and Ed’s parents listened to
Project: A Few More Miles is out now.
Next Gig: Mick O’Shea’s, July 16 and Aug. 2; 7 p.m.

“The Baltimore Brewing Company used to have a bluegrass happy hour every Friday night,” Hough says. “Cris had a connection with the girl who put it on, and she told him to put together a bluegrass band. He called me up and we needed a name because the City Paper was about to go to print. We got ‘Smooth Kentucky’ off the back of a whiskey bottle and it stuck.”

“I was 16 years old when I met Ed,” Jacobs says. “My band needed a drummer, so we made an ad that just said ‘DRUMMER WANTED’ and put a Grateful Dead symbol at the bottom. He was 23 or 24 and showed up at my parents’ house in a VW bus. We hung out in the basement for a few hours and we’ve had a musical connection ever since.”

Catch Baltimore Unsigned for the full interview at 8 Tuesday night on 89.7 WTMD, listener-supported radio from Towson University. Check out WTMD on the web at - Baltimore Sun


We have 2 CD released.
Our first CD "Smooth Kentucky" was released 8/04.
1. Blue-eyed Georgia
2. Riding On That New River Train
3. Stagger Lee
4. This Time You're Gone
5. Way Downtown
6. No Looking Back
7. Come On Home
8. Station Blues
9. Midnight Train
10. High Noon

We recently released (4/09) our 2nd CD "A Few More Miles".
1. Sweet Amanda
2. Slipstream Abilene
3. Banjo Bend
4. I Don't Mind
5. Just Wastin' Time
6. Get yourself in Line
7. Skippin' Lucy
8. The Way
9. Leavin' This Old Town
10. Love in the Mail
11. She Belongs To Me
12. Wont Stop Lookin'
13. Halfway Home

Streaming tracks are available at
2. (Smooth Kentucky)
3. (A Few More Miles)

We are played on WTMD, 89.7FM Towson, MD and WRNR 103.1 FM Grasonville, MD



We are a Baltimore-based acoustic band formed sometime in 2003. We blend bluegrass, blues, newgrass, Americana and folk with acoustic funk and strong song writing that always pleases everyone listening to us.