Tim Hensley Long Monday

When a session veteran comes out from the country and bluegrass shadows to make his first record, calling on favours from top-drawer names, the result is usually more noteworthy for the guests than for the end product. Not so here. Hensley is a singer, mandolinist, guitarist and songwriter who’s supported Ricky Skaggs, Kenny Chesney and Patty Loveless. This 11-song selection of smart covers, traditional country tunes and well-crafted originals heralds a distinctive presence who, when joined by Loveless, Vince Gill and Ronnie Bowman, with band support from Rob Ickes (dobro), Aubrey Haynie (fiddle), David Talbot (banjo) and Tim Stafford (flatpick guitar), proves a force of nature. His oddly pinched tenor recalls John Starling, yet on slower numbers like Prine’s "Long Monday,” his vocals prove the male counterpart to Iris Dement; his voice capable of inducing weeping. From the deeply spiritual "Working on a Building” to the full-blown hoedown of "Fox Run the Henhouse” (lending fair comment to world affairs), Hensley is no one-trick pony. The arrangements are nothing less than beautiful — this is a soulful step back into traditional song values and an aural delight. "Hard Rains Lately” offers a convincing argument as to why Hensley has earned the right to move well forward on centre stage, and stay there. (Rural Rhythm)