The term “country blues” calls up everything from Charlie Patton’s roaring and sliding on Dockery’s plantation during the 20s, to Jimmy Rodgers’ plaintive Blue Yodels, to the sultry whine of Hank Williams’ 12-bar lament, “My Bucket’s Got a Hole In It,” a tune he learned from his only acknowledged teacher, an African-American street musician named Rufus Payne. It is the latter version of the country blues that instrumental virtuosi Rob Ickes (dobro) and Trey Hensley (flat top guitar) draw from most obviously in their newly minted CD of that name, The Country Blues. The long lonesome twang comes on strongest in “May You Never Be Alone,” written by none other than Hank Sr. himself, though Hensley’s voice is more apt to recall the macho sensitive tones of a later generation of male Nashville vocalists. “That’s What Leaving’s For” brings a more contemporary feel to similar sentiments, recalling 70s neo-country bands like Little Feat. There are echoes of southern rock in here, too, with Allman-like guitar harmonies driving the Ray Charles’ mandate, “Leave My Woman Alone.” The creative interplay between Ickes’ masterful dobro and Hensley’s flatpicking is central to their take on the Grateful Dead classic, “Friend of the Devil,” as well as the Charlie Daniels number, “Willie Jones.” The album ends with a look back at the black origins of the country blues, an excellent Allman-influenced version of “One Way Out,” the classic twelve bar by the harmonica giant of Helena, Arkansas, Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller).
“May You Never Be Alone”
In short, this is one cooking instrumental duo, with a strong southern male voice (Hensley) out front. Personally, their unaccompanied sound (see Youtube) is so full and good that much of the album’s Nashville production seems superfluous…which bodes very well for their upcoming house concert right here in Rhinebeck on July 21 at 7:30, when you will be privileged to view and hear their monstrous chops up close. Minnewaskan wild fires and West Virginia floods shouldn’t keep you away!