THE STORY BEHIND KENTUCKY AVENUE...
Twenty years ago, KENTUCKY AVENUE’s Stella Schindler had to move out of the room she had been renting in the DC-metro area when the house was sold to a new owner. Little did Dave Ries, the other founding member of the band, know that when he bought that house on Kentucky Avenue, he was kicking out his future music partner! The fate-filled discovery not only sealed the deal on their band name, but also gave the final nod to their burgeoning music project.
Stella and Dave crossed paths when Stella was invited to sit in at a music event in the Fall of 2016 at the high school where she teaches English. A few rehearsals in her classroom soon gave way to the pair writing originals, a process that began with sharing their back catalogs of songs they each had written, but never formally recorded. Spontaneously trying out harmonies, adding a guitar part, quickening up the pace, and moving capos around, they soon found they were not just tweaking old tunes, but sketching and ultimately creating new ones. Practices became sessions of storytelling as well as a time for fine tuning the lyrics, harmonies, and arrangements. Before they knew it, their first full-length album, Nothing Here Is Mine was ready for the studio!
Under the guidance of TJ Lipple, who had been the producer and engineer of Stella’s second solo album Distant Hum (2008), they started recording at the legendary Inner Ear Studio in VA. They also brought in bass player Greg Watkins who would become a regular in their live performances. With the release of Nothing Here is Mine, Kentucky Avenue solidified their presence on the Americana, alt-country stage, performing in several of the DC metro area’s hottest music venues, including The Birchmere, where they opened for Shelby Lynne.
New songs started brewing, so Stella and Dave took to cooking up their second record. Their modern Americana spirit seeped into the classic country rock music of 1970s Laurel Canyon the two had always been drawn to and with a nod to Emmylou and Gram, they got to work on Ballad of the Past. This time they would be joined by the extraordinary violinist Michael Robert Taylor—not only in the studio, but as the 4th member of the band.
Like many artists facing new challenges during the pandemic, Kentucky Avenue had to adjust their original plans for this album, but they were in good hands under the direction of producer and engineer Mark Williams at Sucker Punch Recording Company. With the foundation of each song recorded before lockdown, the additional parts were farmed out to faraway places. Pedal steel player and multi-instrumentalist Tom Hnatow in Kentucky took to heart the musical description coming from Dave: “Play like Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings are having dinner with Neil Young in Laurel Canyon in the 70s. Flying Burrito Brothers are cooking the meal....” Mr. Hnatow nailed it. The band self-released the record in April 2021.