Kieran Kane, formerly of the not-quite-neo-trad (but utterly compelling) country group the O’Kanes, has released his finest album to date with the primarily acoustic Shadows on the Ground. On this effort, Kane pares back his tunes to only their most essential, suggestive elements, and the result can be compared to the most evocative short stories of Ernest Hemingway. This is his simplest effort yet — but there’s great artistry at work. Shadows on the Ground was recorded in a couple of days in a single room in Nashville, and is dedicated to Kieran’s son Lucas, who had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. The hard, simple truths on the album perhaps stem from that situation, with the lyrics often coming off like unadorned little nuggets of Eastern thought (such as the title track’s “Truth is always truth, stone is always stone/We all live and die but not alone/We go by different roads/We go by different names/Shadows on the ground all look the same”). The combination of the stark but intelligent lyrics and low-key yet impressive instrumentation and arrangements — in fact, two songs feature only one chord — results in an album that, like the best art, doesn’t telegraph its message. Rather, it’s suggestive enough to draw the listener in for the act of discovery. (On a blunter level, it’s also a darn fine listen.) The intelligence and artistry at work on this album are remarkable, and here in the new millennium, it baffles the mind that a talent like Kieran Kane and the O’Kanes once hurtled up the mainstream country music charts.