The title of this new CD from two of the most accomplished and celebrated contemporary musicians, along with the presence of blues legend Taj Mahal on the title-cut, makes it clear this is a deep dive into the (mostly) acoustic blues. Yet, World Full Of Blues is also a lot more. Super-pickers Ickes (resonator guitar and harmony vocals) and Hensley (acoustic guitar and lead vocals) also make chameleon-like forays into everything from straight-ahead bluegrass to slap-back Rockabilly and honky-tonk balladry. The end result is a very eclectic and pretty amazing album.
Under the steady hand of veteran Nashville producer Brent Maher (best-known for his long and productive run with The Judds), Ickes and Hensley recorded this music live in the studio. Which is to say, there was a lot of jamming and very little overdubbing. As Maher explains in the accompanying press release, the process was “all about living in the moment…letting spontaneity rule.”
The echoey and Rockabilly “Thirty Days” (one of seven tracks that Hensley wrote or co-wrote) features the sort of fiery and ultra-intricate instrumental interplay that’s heard throughout. Ickes and Hensley shift gears again with “I’m Here But I’m Lonely” (co-written by Hensley, Buddy Cannon, and Larry Shell). This Haggard-esque love lament captures the excruciating sense of romantic alienation that comes when you hold someone tight, yet still feel a million miles away from them. Hensley’s lead vocal is superb. Guest Vince Gill shares lead vocals with Hensley on a spirited version of “Brown-Eyed Women,” a Grateful Dead oldie penned by Jerry Garcia and the late Robert Hunter. The instrumental “The Fatal Shore” (one of four songs written or co-written by Ickes) features dazzling interplay between Hensley’s guitar, Ickes’ reso-guitar, Mike Bub’s acoustic bass, John Jorgenson’s B3, and Giovanni Rodriguez’s percussion accompaniment.
Well into the album, Ickes and Hensley finally settle into a straight-ahead bluegrass groove on “Both Ends Of My Rainbow” (another Hensley composition), and the results are similarly compelling. (Compass Records, 916 19th Ave. S., Nashville, TN 37212, www.compassrecords.com.)BA