Jon Shain Trio, The Kress Sessions

S.H. Kress & Co. may be long gone from the retail landscape, but the company’s many Art Deco buildings remain curious remnants of the 1920’s and 30’s, repurposed for everything from apartments to office and retail space.
North Carolinian Jon Shain recorded his latest album live in a loft inside the Kress building in Durham, NC in front of an intimate audience of forty people, and the appropriateness of such an artistic endeavor taking place inside a building erected by S.H. Kress ought to be obvious–in addition to founding the retail chain, Kress was an avid supporter of the arts.
Shain’s musical history includes time in the groups Flyin’ Mice and WAKE, but his more recent efforts have been in service of a brand of laid-back bluesy folk that’s neither blues nor folk, really, but a quintessentially American distillation of his many influences.
Shain isn’t a traditional-sounding blues singer, instead coming closer to the ragtime reminiscence of Leon Redbone on songs such as the brief “Joe Turner Riding Down Main Street.” He nods to the equally diverse New Orleans sound on “Ooncha Ooncha Music” and comes close to his folk-rock roots on the Neil Young-esque “Give My Regards To Brother Ray.”
Throughout both “sets” represented here, Shain is supported by the Trio (which inexplicably is actually a quartet, if you include Shain) including F.J. Ventre on upright bass, John Currie on dobro and guitar, and Bill Newton with some well-placed harmonica fills. It’s the kind of band that’s good enough you don’t really notice how good they are, with Shain’s fingerpicking accented by Newton’s chugging harp and the stinging dobro solos from Currie, all of them working together seamlessly. The sound is impeccable, almost studio-quality if it weren’t for the bursts of applause at the close of each number and the numerous humorous asides between songs by Shain and the band. “You guys going to bring the mystical?” he asks at the start of “Like The Ocean,” and sure enough, they swell into a appropriately mystical Led Zeppelin-sounding intro to the spiritually themed tune.
Altogether, this is a wonderful testament to the enjoyable nature of an intimate evening of musical entertainment that makes one wish they had been there, and makes one feel like they almost were–Mr. Kress would most certainly approve.


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