For many years now the HVBA has staged high quality bluegrass concerts at various locations in the Hudson Valley, each venue offering a unique perspective for the band and audience. Last week’s concert, featuring Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley, happened to be set at a beautiful house tucked away in the rural farm land of Rhinebeck, NY. This was both my first time seeing a Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley concert and my first time at this venue. I’ve listened to Rob Ickes play with Blue Highway for many years and always enjoy his powerful bluesy solos. I had never seen Trey Hensley perform, but have watched countless videos of him playing solo or in tandem with Ickes.
Upon entering the house, I was immediately greeted by the host and several guests. The concert room had a high angled wooden ceiling, with chairs and couches arranged in front of the designated performing area. There were steps to one side leading up to a balcony that overlooked the entire room. Once again, HBVA chose the perfect venue for a small two man act. I waited with anticipation for Ickes and Hensley to arrive and begin their set.
The show started off quickly with “Georgia on a Fast Train.” I was immediately captivated by the amazing rhythmic groove the two created without a bass player. Unlike a full band, I was able to hear each instrument very clearly. Rob Ickes stepped closer for each solo, helping him speak more directly to the audience. Due to the room’s acoustics and the pair’s dynamics, Hensley’s powerful baritone voice filled the room without amplification. Ickes sang harmony on a few songs, which was a nice surprise. Over the course of their two sets, they played “Pride and Joy” by Stevie Ray Vaughn, “One Way Out” by Sonny Boy Williamson (famously interpreted by the Allman Brothers), Graham Parsons’ “Return of the Grievous Angel,” and a Trey Hensley original, “My Way Is The Highway.” Although this diverse range of music may not seem to connect, Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley have the ability to blend styles, seamlessly combining blues, rock, bluegrass and country. Hensley has the unique ability to play sweetly and sensitively on some of the slower tunes and louder on the faster ones. Some of his triplet runs made everyone shake their head in wonder!
At the intermission between the two sets, Rob and Trey came out to talk with everyone. This intimate setting helped break down the barrier between the artist and the audience. During my conversation with Hensley, he mentioned that he has a B-Bender on his guitar that moves the B string whenever he pulls on the strap pin. When the second set came, I listened and noticed that he used it to create a pedal steel-like effect on some of the country tunes, one of the many interesting special effects the two create without the use of pedals. For example, on “Pray Enough,” Ickes did a few reverse slants over three frets, creating a bluesy vibrato.
Overall, the intimate setting and fantastic musicianship made for the perfect concert. Thanks to the HBVA for always bringing great music to the Hudson Valley! Be sure to check out both of Ickes and Hensley’s albums, the first of which was Grammy nominated. And if they are ever in the area, make sure to see them.
By Korey Brodsky