Bobby Hicks is a living legend in bluegrass music. He’s going in the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Honor this year. His prodigious fiddling was responsible for some of the classic Bill Monroe instrumentals like “Cheyenne” and “Roanoke,” and his backup playing behind the Bluegrass Album Band years later is nothing if not inspired. If you call yourself a bluegrass fiddler, you better know about Bobby Hicks. North Carolina is fertile ground for musicians in the old-time and bluegrass camp, and Mr. Hicks joins Mark Kuykendall & Asheville Bluegrass to bring you a real taste of western North Carolina’s traditional bluegrass.
The other members of Asheville Bluegrass are Nick Dauphinais on bass and vocals, Mike Hunter on mandolin and Seth Rhinehart drives the five-string banjo. There is a no-nonsense approach to the music here; everyone knows their role. Mark Kuykendall’s singing and song contributions tell you right away that he has listened to classic bluegrass, gospel, old-time brother duets and country heart songs. His songs don’t take a back seat to any of the more classic material they have chosen for this recording. The title track “Forever and a Day” is well-chosen: an original song that bluegrass programmers will go to often to show off the taste and texture of this group. Bobby also contributes “Zuma Swing” as a reminder that he remains an eminently resourceful and swinging fiddler.
“Mary Jane, Won’t You Be Mine”
I don’t want to undersell the other members of this band, who provide sparkling work. I suspect this band well represents in live performance what they have thoughtfully produced here. This is a group with both talent and tradition on its side. Among the classic bluegrass songs chosen, there are solid and energetically delivered versions of “Roust-A-Bout,” “Journey’s End,” “Mary Jane, Won’t You Be Mine,” and, yes, I like Hicks’ warm and relaxed singing on “They’ll Never Take Her Love From Me.” This is a group well prepared to deliver solid, enjoyable traditional bluegrass to any audience.