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Salvation Cities: See Photos of Sundy Best’s Canadian Tour

The bare-bones Kentucky duo brings a bit of the South to the Great White North

Sundy Best

Sundy Best's Nick Jamerson and Kris Bentley perform on a Canadian tour.

Richard Arp-Barnett/richardephoto.com

In January, Kentucky duo Sundy Best made their maiden voyage to Canada, opening for Dallas Smith on a tour across the country. While the temperatures may have been frigid, the reception by audiences couldn't have been more warm. Percussionist Kris Bentley, who with singer-guitarist Nick Jamerson make up the band, says the singalong tracks on their new album Salvation City helped win over the crowds. As did their thick Bluegrass State accents. "We could have just got onstage and talked for 30 minutes and I think they would have enjoyed it," quips Bentley. "I was afraid we were going to get kidnapped and put in a Canadian zoo to just stand there and talk to people as they walked by."

On Saturday, Rolling Stone Country presents a performance by Sundy Best at storied Nashville club Exit/In. The show is already sold-out, but in this exclusive tour gallery, Bentley and Jamerson offer a glimpse of their journey across the Great White North. All photos are by Richard Arp-Barnett.

Sundy Best

Dallas or Bust

Sundy Best opened for Dallas Smith on his tour of his native country. Smith's single "Wastin' Gas" hit Number One on the Canadian country charts while the guys were on tour. "He's as big as it gets up there. People love him, they're singing his songs back to him," says Bentley. "He's like the Luke Bryan of Canada."

Sundy Best

Have Cajon, Will Travel

"That was on the way to Canada, from the airport. TMZ took that. It looks like I'm a Kardashian," jokes Bentley, who says traveling with his cajon drum box can be challenging. "I'll gate-check it normally, so I'll take it as far as I can. But I have a large travel case for drums that I can fit the cajon in, a hardware case. I've had to figure out on my own how to travel with it."

Sundy Best

Soundcheck City

"Opening up for Dallas, we had the luxury of rolling into the venue right at soundcheck. Nick carries the guitars and I got the cajon. It's plug in and play," says Bentley, who with Jamerson released Sundy Best's new album Salvation City in December. "Most of our soundchecks take no more than 20 minutes or so, but we take them very serious. Even as simple as it is, it's important we get the drum dialed in, because it's so unique."

Sundy Best

St. Nick

To combat the harsh Canadian cold, Jamerson grew a heavy Santa-like beard. "We were so nervous about going to Canada, because we had never been," says Bentley. "Everyone was like, 'Oh it's going to be so cold, we can't believe you're going in January!'" 

Sundy Best

Winning Them Over

"Doing what we do, people have no idea what to expect or have any clue about it, but it's fun for us. Because you can see the faces on the people in the crowd go from interested or curious, but they stay involved, and by the time we're done playing, they're into it," Bentley says. 

Sundy Best

The Box Master

Bentley's brother, a carpenter in Lexington, Kentucky, custom-built his cajon. "It's by far the best one I've ever played and I've played them all," Bentley says. "He painted it and designed the front plate too. It's very unique. I just let him do what he wants to do."

Sundy Best

Drop the Mic

Wiring the cajon for audio has been a learning process for Bentley. "I put a flat mic in the back, which sits inside the cajon. And I'll angle [a microphone] toward the front to reinforce the snare. It took me a while to find that combination of mics for it, but it's by far my best."

Sundy Best

Canadian Warm-Up

Jamerson warms up prior to a show backstage. "Before a show, that's pretty much what you'll see. We'll get our minds prepared," says Bentley. "With the cajon, I just travel with one, so it's already out onstage or else maybe we'd jam a bit in the dressing room. But we don't really talk much. We just do our thing."

Sundy Best

Handshake Deal

Bentley thanks the soundman after soundcheck at a casino in Mocton, Canada. "Any time that we get treated real well by the sound guy, I like to tell him thanks for taking the time to dial us in right," he says. "You have to be appreciative of the guy who makes you sound good."

Sundy Best

Guitars & Whiskey

"That's some of the band members from Dallas's band. And that girl is a good friend of the lead guitar player. She came to the show to see him and she plays and writes music and was playing a couple songs. We were backstage, just hanging out," says Bentley, noting the taste of home on the counter: a bottle of Kentucky whiskey. "We picked that up up there."

Sundy Best

Welcome to the Gun Show

"I canceled my gym membership last year," says Bentley of his hard-hitting cajon style. "The cajon is a workout. If I'm playing a lot, I'm in good enough shape to play, but it's definitely taxing. There'd be times when we'd play a 90-minute show and I'd be beat after."

Sundy Best

Take Another Toque

Bentley gave Jamerson grief over his choice of outerwear: a pair of Carhartt overalls and a toboggan hat. "That's all he wore in Canada! I swear, I think he might have slept in them a couple nights," he says. "He got those before we went. He bought those, I bought long johns and a coat, and the first pair of gloves I've ever owned. Now that I own a pair, I can appreciate gloves."

Sundy Best

Guitar Pull

While Sundy Best traveled light for the Dallas Smith run, the duo has added two touring members and a full drum kit for Bentley on their current tour. Jamerson often switches between acoustic and electric guitars.

Sundy Best

Back on the Chain Gang

"It's like the movie Roadhouse," says Bentley of this odd chained-off stage the duo played at a club in Sudbury, Canada. "I don't really know why they had that. And you can see the people in the crowd, their arms are barely at our feet. The stage was up pretty high and it just dropped off."

Sundy Best

Do You Wanna Go?

Sundy Best recently premiered the video for their new single "Do You Wanna Go," which is becoming a live favorite, on Rolling Stone Country. The clip features the band overseeing a mass wedding with an Elvis impersonator handling the vows. 

Sundy Best

Into the Black

"The rawness of the duo thing has gotten us to where we're at. It's so pure and organic," says Bentley. "We never tried to be different, it just happened. I don't know if [acoustic guitar and cajon] has ever been done in music before. It was just honest."

Sundy Best

Alley Wildcats

"That was the last show of the tour. There was this cool alley and we thought about recording a live song there, but it was too cold. The acoustics were killer though," says Bentley, who, like the bulk of Team Sundy Best, is a lifelong Kentucky Wildcats basketball fan.

Sundy Best

Making New Fans

"We had a blast, man. It was our first time up there and we already booked a couple things to go back this summer," says Bentley of their Canadian run. "I think we can really grow a fan base in Canada."

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