[7 November 2007]
Named after the distance from the band’s hometown to Graceland, Cincinnati-based quintet 500 Miles to Memphis plays the kind of unaffected, country-tinged rock I heard practically every weekend during college in Lexington, Kentucky. Recorded across the Ohio River in Highland Heights, Kentucky, the band’s first album, Sunshine in a Shot Glass, is far more self-assured than most debut albums. From the whiskey-soaked drawl of Ryan Malott (echoing Mike Ness in his rootsier moments) to the rock solid rhythm section of Jeff Snyder on bass and Kevin Hogle on drums, as well as Stephen Kuffner on guitar and vocals, David Rhodes Brown on lap steel, and Paul Patterson on fiddle, the band has obviously been playing together for a while. Not exactly country, not quite punk, 500 Miles to Memphis just rocks, leavening the mix with instruments traditionally associated with country music—usually fiddle or pedal steel guitar. The wonderful “My Time Is Up” really showcases Malott’s vocal range, while the wistful honkytonk of “I’ll Miss You (Whatever)” with its saloon-style piano brings the band’s country influences to the forefront, and gives the guys a chance to stretch their legs a bit. Ultimately a bit tough to categorize, the band sounds like nothing more than a country-western version of the Dropkick Murphys, and has produced a promising debut.