‘Living In A Song’ (And Crafting Them) On Rob & Trey’s Most recent

Ora Sawyers

Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley are the Swiss Army Knife of roots music. They’d match, with their devices, perhaps not in your pocket but undoubtedly into a compact auto. However they have far more resources at their fingertips than a good deal of more substantial bands – equipment for scintillating grooves, lush harmonies, bluesy yearning, fiery selecting, and lyrical beauty. Which is why now, pretty much a ten years into an unanticipated journey, Rob and Trey have come to be a roots nation duo with no peers and couple if any precedents.

Two singers with guitars is hardly unusual, but it is the type of guitars we’re conversing about that make this duo special and well-matched. Rob Ickes has been America’s most awarded resophonic guitar (or Dobro) player given that the 1990s, and just to refresh, that one’s performed flat and overhand with a slide and fingerpicks. With its articulate and dynamic voice, the Dobro could be the bluesiest of all the devices. Complementing that is Hensley’s acoustic flatpicked guitar, the virtuoso state-bluegrass model pioneered by Doc Watson and Clarence White.

These guitars fit jointly like parts of an engine, 1 that can cruise along serving a song or rev up for prolonged instrumental jams. I have noticed Rob and Trey reside a dozen times in the previous handful of many years at the very least, and I’m constantly amazed by how much music they concoct among just the two of them. When they scale up with a bass player and drummer, it’s outright ferocious.

And nonetheless I have scarcely mentioned most likely the most outstanding and extensively relatable component of Rob and Trey’s artistry, and that’s Trey’s voice. He’s a single of the finest standard country singers doing work currently with a warm baritone that swirls with timbres of Merle Haggard and Randy Travis. He’s a voice that Marty Stuart spotted ages ago even in pubescence, inviting Trey on to the Grand Ole Opry when he was 11. Significantly extra recently, I saw Trey sing direct on a excellent part of the Nitty Gritty Dust Band’s celebration of Will The Circle Be Unbroken, and there, singing bluegrass music initially managed by the legendary Jimmy Martin, he delivered outstanding array and emotion. In some cases, I sense like Hensley’s vocal gift gets a bit lost in the aura of the duo or pigeon-holed as bluegrass when their scope and skill is so large and deep. Rob agrees, declaring, “I’ve been telling individuals about Trey for 10 decades.”

As for product to interpret with all those instruments and that voice, Rob and Trey’s to start with two albums showcased music by Merle Haggard, The Grateful Useless, Billy Joe Shaver, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and some vital Nashville writers. Hensley snuck in a pair of his personal early on, such as the traditional strains of “That’s What Leavin’s For” on 2016’s sophomore album The Region Blues. But typically they recorded tunes by others, until not too long ago. On the way to earning 2019’s Planet Full Of Blues, the guys teamed up with Grammy-profitable producer and songwriter Brent Maher at his Berry Hill studio house. He inspired them to produce most of that album and kick-begun a writing practice that accelerated during the 2020 pandemic. By that issue, creating for a new album – with Maher returning in his developing role – had grow to be a precedence.

Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley

Songwriting “was in no way forefront for me,” Hensley mentioned in a Zoom dialogue in February all over the time of the launch of their fourth album Residing In A Song. “I constantly just considered about taking part in guitar and singing music that I already understood and preferred, but I believe it became just a mindful determination for Rob and I both of those. We talked about it. All around the time we have been acquiring prepared for World Total Of Blues, we preferred to compose extra. And then for this a person, it was like, ok, we’re gonna write almost everything.”

For Ickes, it was much more of a leap into the realm of lyrics, whilst he’d composed a lot of instrumentals for bluegrass and string bands around a lengthy occupation that incorporated 4 solo albums and a couple of string jazz initiatives. “It was a new knowledge for me,” he says. “But I appreciated the course of action. We in all probability wrote around 30 tracks, and then place the 10 that we imagined would go nicely with each other on this album. You know, it was variety of pleasurable to say, hey, let us target on our songwriting and have that be the goal for the following file. And so I’m seriously, genuinely happy of what we did.”

The opening title monitor depicts a musician’s daily life on the street, albeit 1 much more down on his luck “scratching out a dwelling in yet another operate down bar” than the artists performing the singing. Then a distinct sort of highway song as “Deeper Than A Dust Road” will take us to the region with a little bit of sweet nostalgia. The men explained to me that “Is The World Nonetheless Turning,” a swaying but forlorn waltz-time weeper, was the very first song they wrote that felt like a guaranteed thing for the following document. Rob said, “When the pandemic initially begun, I was hanging out in my new music area one particular morning and when I arrived out my son was at his personal computer, and I just stated, ‘is the globe continue to turning?’ Like, what’s occurring? And I just believed it was type of a awesome title, you know, and, and then we turned it into type of a damaged hearted like track.” A very similar alchemy makes “I Imagined I Saw A Carpenter” occur to life, in that Ickes read his father communicate the title line additional or a lot less out of the blue when he was in the latter stages of remedy for terminal most cancers. He assumed it may possibly have occur from a in the vicinity of death vision, and he and Hensley worked the assumed into a beautiful non secular. An additional one particular to recognize falls at the incredibly stop, a coda termed “Thanks,” with pleasant fingerstyle guitar and a Tom T. Hall form of mild but critical vibe.

There are two old-time deal with tunes – “Working On A Building” and “Way Downtown” from the repertoire of Doc Watson – that hold the album grounded in the same deep place and bluegrass that released the Rob and Trey duo almost a 10 years in the past. They came with each other thanks to a twist in the lifestyle of Ickes’s longtime previous band Blue Freeway. The Appalachia-based quintet brought Hensley, an space newcomer they were hearing about, into the studio to report a scratch vocal on a track, indicating it was supposed to be replaced later on by another visitor singer. But it was way too good, and they bundled that track, “My Final Day In The Mine” on their early 2014 album The Sport. Ickes, a California native who claimed 15 IBMA Resophonic Guitar Player of the Yr awards, struck up a side venture with Hensley and ultimately made a decision he was ready for a adjust. The Rob and Trey duo released their debut album State Blues in January of 2015.

Nearly a ten years afterwards, their idea has been validated many times about. There is under no circumstances been a popular guitar/Dobro duo and whilst the first is inevitably the greatest, it is tough to even think about a improved a person, or a person able of having so a lot of instructions. “Sometimes I believe perhaps we have not outlined ourselves nonetheless.” claims Rob. “But that is neat. When you define your self, you sort of restrict you.” He notes that they’ve relished collaborations with Taj Mahal (on Earth Complete of Blues), Tommy Emmanuel, and Jorma Kakonen, with a Rodney Crowell relationship prepared this 12 months. None of that is by design and style, just the electric power of staying open minded and really fantastic at evidently every thing.

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