Dailey & Vincent,
Dailey & Vincent
(Rounder, 2008)

The continued existence of bluegrass over six decades, when other genres with which it once co-existed (Western swing, rockabilly, honkytonk) came, all but vanished and now survive only on the margins of the margins, is a marvel in itself. Just as much a wonder is bluegrass' lasting vitality, not just in the manifestation of modernist post-Monroe sounds that can still be called, if sometimes only barely, "bluegrass," but in the flourishing of hard-core, traditional bands that keep the tried true.

In their first release, Dailey & Vincent accomplish the always welcome feat of reminding me why I have liked bluegrass for a very long time. They do it through the sorts of harmony singing ordinarily associated with the brother duets of the pre-bluegrass era -- Monroe Brothers (Bill and Charlie), Blue Sky Boys (Bill and Earl Bolick) and others. That sort of thing is often called "genetic harmony," and some say it is not replicable by non-siblings. The truth is that, while it certainly helps to have genetically compatible vocal equipment, it isn't essential. The harmonies by these two non-relatives may not owe to the same parents, but they are a touch of heaven. Fittingly enough, they work with particular power on the gospel songs. Listen, for example, to their intense, soaring reading of Gillian Welch/David Rawlings' "By the Mark."

They also do it by choosing excellent material. The songs here are relatively recent, the oldest going back (to the best of my knowledge) to the 1980s. But they're all in the tradition, visiting the classic themes of bluegrass, early country music and the mountain ballads that preceded both: faith, death, work, travel, home, love and heartbreak. Dailey & Vincent sing it all as if they mean and live every word. Their "River of Time" (written by Robert Gateley) is as pristine and beautiful an old-fashioned heart song as you're likely to hear anywhere.

Besides an obvious natural talent, Jamie Dailey (guitar) and Darren Vincent (bass) come to the job after years of labor in bluegrass fields, specifically with two of the best bands going: Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver in the former case, Ricky Skaggs' Kentucky Thunder in the latter. (Vincent's sister Rhonda, also a Rounder artist, is -- after Alison Krauss -- bluegrass' leading female performer.) Joined by band members Jeff Parker (mandolin, harmony vocals) and Joe Dean (banjo, bass vocals), they live up to all the considerable hype that resounded well before Dailey & Vincent had a record, when they were just an announcement. A recording like this -- the first, I trust, of more to come -- serves to validate bluegrass' glorious past and to ensure its luminous future.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
Jerome Clark

19 April 2008

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