For some folks, knowing that the video for Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart” was filmed in your town could deter your pursuit of music.
But for Steven Boone, who spent some of his childhood in Ashland, Kentucky, that definitive country track was yet another part of an oddly detailed tapestry of music that included Béla Fleck and Dave Matthews.
With the release of Boone’s first album as a frontman on the way, the guitarist still acknowledges a wild array of influences, even while his work hedges toward a smoothed-out soul sound that easily could be slotted into any Ben Harper set.
It was his move back to Richmond at the tail end of high school that hooked him into a circle of players that remained integral to his music for the next decade.
“We’ve worked together for so long, we just know each other’s vibe,” Boone says, of putting the album together with multi-instrumentalist Devonne Harris. “I don’t know if I would have felt comfortable in any other setting.”
“That chemistry is there,” he says. “He knows me, he really gets me. I couldn’t ask for a better producer.”
“SoulLow,” Boone’s 14-track musical manifesto, features not only Harris but also a miscellany of Virginia talent, including jazzbo Charles Owens and singer Sam Reed.
“There wasn’t much talking about the music. It was just there,” recalls Harris, who is known for playing keyboards in Butcher Brown and producing beats under the guise of DJ Harrison. Harris plays several instruments on the record as well as producing.
“It was weird. ... He trusted me enough to let me do what I wanted to do,” Harris says. “There aren’t too many people who are that trusting.”
Before stepping into Jellowstone Studio, Boone was a part of the city’s musical life, doing time in soul crooners’ bands, Dance Candy, as well as a stint in Stonebrook Moonshine.
“I was living on Shepard Street, I lived on the third floor and [bassist Drew Kisamore] lived on the first floor,” Boone says about that latter band’s origins. “It was one of those things where it was a sunny day and I was on my porch drinking a beer and playing guitar, and he’s on his porch playing.”
The two jammed impromptu, leading to the ensemble’s formation. But performing a combination of other people’s compositions and covers hasn’t kept Boone from writing his own songs — something evidenced on the forthcoming album, which features works that date to the early 2000s.
But Boone doesn’t know that he’s necessarily a radio-ready songwriter. “Marianne,” a somehow breezily paced song about his friend’s suicide, clocks in at five minutes, with another handful of cuts sporting similar durations.
The radio’s not necessarily what he’s shooting for anyway. Boone seems to desire a way to relate what he’s witnessed, and explain how he’s interpreted and dealt with everything life’s tossed his way -- all that loss.
“Maybe that’s just how most experiences have been,” says Boone, his demeanor in distinct contrast with some of his songs’ dour nature. “You meet somebody. Nobody’s perfect. Then they’re gone.”