Sundy Best pretty much made its summer plans April 2.
The Prestonsburg-via-Lexington duo of Nicholas Jamerson and Kristofer Bentley was booked to play a Sunday gig at The Burl to benefit the Pine Mountain Trail, a hiking trail in Eastern Kentucky, and that’s when they fell in love with the venue. So, without hesitation and concrete plans for what they’d do, they committed to a summer residency with an open-jam format at The Burl: Summer of Sundy.
“It’s about growing and nurturing our garden here, so to speak,” Bentley said. “We live here, so why not play here all the time? It’s easy to get caught up in going out and playing everywhere but your home. It’s easy to take for granted your home base and first supporters, so we wanted to step back and give ourselves to this community and state.”
Over the past few years, Sundy Best has had plenty of chances to play outside the Bluegrass State.
After gaining a strong following among University of Kentucky students earlier this decade, the band produced three albums in fairly rapid succession: the independently-produced “Door Without A Screen” in 2012, which was re-released after they were signed to eOne Music in 2013; its eOne debut, “Bring Up the Sun” in 2014; and a very quick followup, “Salvation City,” that saw the duo moving beyond its basic structure of Jamerson on vocals and guitar, and Bentley on cajón (a box-shaped percussion insrutment) and vocals. The latter two albums hit No. 11 and 22 respectively on the country charts, and Sundy Best got airplay on CMT and a handful of dates at the Grand Ole Opry. Two subsequent records — “It’s So Good to Be Alive” and “Almar Sky” (both released in 2016) — met less success, and Bentley said he and Jamerson decided it was time to reassess.
“We just needed a break,” he said. “We had been going nonstop in every direction and needed time away to re-evaluate why we were even doing music in the first place. It also allowed us both time to grow individually. There’s no rush or hurry in life. We got to experience so much so fast that it became quite a whirlwind, and ultimately, we weren’t ready yet to go any further. We both needed to grow individually before we could be where we are now, which is refreshed, renewed and re-energized.”
Like at the beginning of the decade, Sundy Best again has a regular gig in Lexington. Back then, it was essentially as the house band at Redmon’s, now the Stagger Inn. Summer of Sundy sees the duo more as a host band than a house band, inviting many musical comrades to perform.
The first edition of Summer of Sundy was May 28, and Bentley said the crowd has grown each show, and its June 25 show — featuring The Sway, Sean Whiting, Chelsea Nolan, Grayson Jenkins and The Jenkins Twins — was the largest to date.
Not only do Bentley and Jamerson see the residency as an opportunity to highlight themselves, but also the other talented musicians throughout the Bluegrass, with Bentley citing Sturgill Simpson’s hand in producing Tyler Childers’ pending album as further evidence of Kentucky-based artists supporting one another.
“We’re all wanting to go to the same destination. If we all decide to travel there together, we are sure to get there together,” Bentley said. “Nothing can stop us when we all share the same purpose, and musically it’s more fun when more people are playing and everyone is vibrating at their highest level and sharing their hearts.”
“Throughout Kentucky, there’s a sense of community, from Paducah to Pikeville,” he said. When we become aware of what we have — whether it be music, food, horse racing, basketball, beer … there’s such a growing awareness of the goodness that is here. I think musically we’re just becoming aware of the talent we have.”
After the summer, it’s back to band business. Bentley said they are preparing to release new music later in the year, including from various side projects such as Bentley’s The Revival.
“We are just taking it one day at a time and not trying to plan our future too much, but instead enjoy the present time we have and share it with as many folks as possible,” Bentley said. “With that being our motivation, we feel more excited than ever to get to do what we love. This is an exciting time, because we feel a momentum to what we’re doing that will be fun to watch play out. We aren’t seeking to be popular. We are only seeking to share the good time.”
Matt Wickstrom: @wickstromwrites
If you go
Summer of Sundy
What: Sundy Best hosts an afternoon jam with area musicians
Bands for July 2: Will Solomon (2:30 p.m.), Carson McHone (3:15 p.m.), Home Grown Head Band (4 p.m.), Anderson Road (4:45 p.m.), Brother Smith (5:30 p.m.), The Revival (6:15 p.m.), Sundy Best (7:30 p.m.)
When: 2 p.m. Sundays through July 30
Where: The Burl, 375 Thompson Road
Admission: $5-7, for ages 18 and older