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Rob Ickes, Trey Hensley and Mike Bub are not formally “a band,” but individually, they stand as giants of bluegrass/country music. To gather all three of them on stage together “is like hitting the bluegrass trifecta,” says Lynn Lipton, who counts Ickes and Hensley as friends and admires Mike Bub unconditionally.
And yes, the Hudson Valley Bluegrass Association will indeed be presenting these three great musicians in concert, on April 27 at the HVBA’s Unitarian Fellowship venue in Poughkeepsie.
Rob Ickes, the grandson of old-time fiddlers, is by all accounts one of the finest, most versatile and most creative Dobro players in the country, and he has brought to that modern-classic instrument new levels of talent, enthusiasm and inventiveness. He has constantly expanded the reach of this treasured instrument, which he started playing when he was 13. Also more generally called a resonator guitar, the Dobro combines musical elements of the steel guitar, Hawaiian slack-key and other varieties of slide and bottle guitars, with an open resonator to create and enhance its liquid sound.
Ickes was chosen as the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Dobro Player of the Year 15 times since 1996; he is, in fact, the most awarded instrumentalist in the history of the IBMA honors. He was one of the founding members of Blue Highway and toured with that hugely admired supergroup for 21 years. Rob Ickes has also played with Alison Kraus, Merle Haggard, Ricky Scruggs, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Claire Lynch, Mary Chapin Carpenter and many other country and bluegrass greats.
Vocalist and guitarist Trey Hensley first appeared on the Grand Old Opry when he was 11–“his guitar was almost bigger than he was,” country legend Marty Stuart recalls–and his musical climb has been ceaseless since then. In 2013, Hensley moved to Nashville and met Rob Ickes. They have performed together ever since.
Though he is proud to keep true to the roots of country music, Hensley is far from being simply a neo-traditionalist. His authenticity as a bluegrass musician is one of his supreme virtues. “I’m counting on Trey to keep the voice of the mountains alive,” Stuart says of Hensley’s rich baritone sound. “It’s comforting to know that the real deal still exists.” Writes iconoclastic reviewer Steven Stone, “Hensley’s ability to include the best parts of traditional country while eliminating the polluting elements of modern Nashville hot-country fodder demonstrates a level of musical taste…only a very mature musician can muster.”
If you’ve heard the Del McCoury Band, you’ve heard Mike Bub, who many feel is the best country/bluegrass bassist around. (Mike started out, in Arizona, as a banjoist and then guitarist, so plainly the size of his instrument increased as he grew.) As an instrumentalist in the Southwest, he attended South Plains College, in Texas, which fortuitously had a unique curriculum in country and bluegrass music. This led to the formation of the bluegrass band Weary Hearts and Bub’s eventual move to Nashville, where his association with Del McCoury began.
The Del McCoury Band is the most honored band in the history of the International Bluegrass Association, and Bub’s performance as the band’s bassist led to five IBMA Bass Player of the Year awards. The popularity of the McCoury Band took bluegrass to an entirely new audience, and Mike Bub was part of that.