It's obvious that the Kingston Trio never caught the MTA train -- they always return, their fate is not unlearned -- but they will probably sing forever, if not always beneath the streets of Boston. A raspy-voiced Bob Shane is the only original member left, but George Grove and Roger Gambill have filled out the trio. The repertoire has expanded (praise the Lord) but everything else is virtually unchanged (pass the ammunition).
With its backroom folk ambience, "Looking for the Sunshine" could easily have been made 15, 20 years ago, when the hootenanny became a way of life. There's a non-fatal stab at an '80s novelty tune, "Will You Still Love Me if I Don't Do Coke?," a paean to the original Trio's Hawaiian origins ("Hawaiian Nights"), a genial "A Rolling Stone" and the MOR-ish "I Like to Hear the Rain" (one song after "Looking for the Sunshine"). It's all delivered without distinction, a bit more polished and studio- bound than the old days, but without becoming engaging.
There are two Mickey Newberry songs, including the agonizingly Kenny Rogerish "Cortelia Clark" -- it's more syrupy than Vermont in the fall -- and one Alex Harvey offering (he's the poor man's Newberry). Other songs include "The World Needs a Melody" (so does the song), a turgid "Long Black Veil" and the pop-veneerish "Sometimes Love Is Better When It's Gone" (by Mike Settle, who doubles as producer).
What's lacking here, besides good material, is what made these guys fun the first time around. How about a little Kingston brio? ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUM THE KINGSTON TRIO -- Looking for the Sunshine (Xeres SCH 1-10006). THE SHOW THE KINGSTON TRIO, with John Sebastian, Saturday at Wolf Trap.