KENNY AND AMANDA SMITH
With their latest release, Kenny and Amanda Smith have delivered another polished, lush-sounding bluegrass CD filled with Amanda’s IBMA award-winning voice and Kenny’s similarly lauded flatpicking guitar.
Opening with the sublimely engaging “Change,” Amanda’s voice grabs the listener at the first line. “I’ve Not Forgotten You” opens at a nice bouncy clip led by Kenny’s masterclass in guitar-tone intro, followed by an especially tasty flatpicking solo, leading the listener into the song’s finale. The current KASB lineup is amongst their best. Cory Piatt is just the right kind of player for the Smiths’ languid style, always holding steady to the backbeat and ready for a clean, precise solo or intro like “Brand New Road Or Home.” Banjo player Justin Jenkins mirrors that approach, never over the top or overtly flashy, just placing the right notes where they need to be at the right time. The standout track “Norman Rockwell World,” which recently hit #1 on the bluegrass charts, showcases Amanda’s resonant, lovely alto voice perfectly. It’s a powerful message, and in the current times, who among us wouldn’t want to live there? “It Takes A Lot Of You For Me” is also an especially on-brand tune for Kenny and Amanda, who’ve always loved that Chet Atkins Nashville Sound walking bass line mixed in with their brand of bluegrass. With You showcases one of the leading couples in bluegrass at the top of their game, and it’s a must-have for every KASB fan.
So why did I find this release at times uninspiring? While beautifully crafted, most of the songs here cover similar topics in similar key signatures and at similar tempos. There’s not a real, bluegrass foot-stomper among them, although the closer “Too Often Left Alone” does raise the tempo and provides some much-needed energy to the CD. That final track includes a memorable solo from Kenny.
With You most certainly will delight their large and growing fanbase. It’s fantastic for these guys, who are longtime friends and picking pals, to see Amanda get nominated again and to see “Norman Rockwell” World hit #1. With You makes a wonderful melodic statement any bluegrass fan should enjoy. The question is, how can they take the next big step forward? (www.kenny-amandasmith.com)DJM