Guitarist and lead vocalist Mark Kuykendall (sideman for Bill Monroe, Jimmy Martin, and others) debuts in partnership with fiddle legend Bobby Hicks and also with the fine assistance of bassist/vocalist Nick Dauphinais, mandolinist/vocalist Nick Chandler, and banjoist/vocalist Seth Rhinehart (collectively Asheville Bluegrass). Together they offer 13 songs, all of them solidly traditional. Included are the standards “You Go To Your Church,” “A Beautiful Life,” a jaunty “Love And Wealth,” along with Charlie Monroe’s “End Of Memory Lane,” Benny Williams’ “Never Again,” and Jake Landers’ “Will You Wait For Me.” Also included are five Kuykendall originals of ’50s vintage, the best being “Sweetheart Of The Mountains” and “Jesus Rescued My Soul.”
Kuykendall has a soft, higher-end mid-range lead vocal reminiscent of Mac Wiseman in both timbre and the way their vocals seem on the edge of breaking at key moments. Kuykendall is a little less breathy, but similarly very smooth and emotion-laden. That translates well to the material at hand, which is largely dominated by longing and sentimentalism.
For his part, Bobby Hicks remains Bobby Hicks, smooth as ever and wonderfully tuneful. While there are no instrumental tunes included, his intro, two solos, and dead-on train effects on the Hank Williams’ song “On The Evening Train” give him an extended spotlight and remind us to revel in the mastery and good musical judgement he presents on each of his solos.
Straight traditional bluegrass albums are not as common as they once were. Times and styles move on. For those who love the older forms, encountering an album done this well is a distinct pleasure. (Rebel Records, P.O. Box 7405, Charlottesville, VA 22906, www.rebelrecords.com.)BW