self-titled – Shady Groove
There’s nothing shady about Shady Groove’s self-titled debut release. It opens with an explosion of psychedelia so strong that it seems almost impossible to match, much less exceed that energy on the entire album. But, Chris Soltis and company succeeded in doing just that, producing an album that is exciting to listen to over and over.
Since 1997, Shady Groove has been proving itself by playing at college bars and various New York City venues, as well as touring elsewhere. While Shady Groove prides itself on improvisational jamming, which is best seen live, the album reflects the philosophy with heavy jam sessions in almost every song. The last song, "Conmen," is almost ten minutes long and jams throughout. Lyrics are sparse, and this is a good thing — Soltis’ voice sounds like he’s smoked one too many cigarettes in his day, the result sounding forced and overly raspy most of the time, way older than Soltis is. Thankfully, Soltis isn’t responsible for all of the vocals — his brother, John, and Josh Sternberg lend their talents to the album as well. Ironically, one of the album’s best tracks, "Andre II," has more lyrics than most of the songs. It’s got a catchy vibe that just won’t quit, both musically and lyrically.
But the music, the jamming, that Shady Groove does is almost unbelievable. The band plays at the same skill level as legends such as the Grateful Dead and Phish, yet are only fresh out of college. Often when younger bands try and emulate those who paved the way for the jamband scene, they sound sloppy and clumsy. Not the case with Shady Groove.
Shady Groove mixes up all of the elements – jazz, rock, funk, blues, psychedelia – to form a sound that, while can’t be called its own, still stands out.