Published Oct 03, 2019With their third release, Americana duo Rob Ickes (dobro) and Trey Hensley (acoustic guitar and vocals) have surpassed the lofty expectations created in the past five years. Blues-washed country is the target of World Full of Blues, and it is the music Hensley was born to create. Bluegrass legend Ickes can play anything he likes, of course, but he too feels entirely at ease within this set of listener-friendly Americana.
The majority of the material is written by Hensley and Ickes, alone, together or with others. "I'm Here But I'm Lonely" is a Hensley co-write with heavy-hitters Larry Shell and Buddy Cannon; vocally, he is joined by Suzanne Cox (so lonesome) and Ickes' equally forlorn instrumental flourishes.
Additional guests including Vince Gill (harmony and co-lead on "Brown-Eyed Women," a classic Grateful Dead family tragedy) provide interest outside the duo's impressive chemistry. "Thirty Days" is a stunning song expertly presented. John Jorgenson contributes Hammond B3 here (and on a few other songs) while the vocal pairing of Aija Penix and Crystal Taliefero add spritely vocal embellishments.
By the time Taj Mahal visits on the title track, the formula is apparent: great songs, singers and players and just let them go. Hensley demonstrates his mettle here, vocally holding his own; given the opportunity to sing with a legend, some may be tempted to hang back, but not Hensley.
Full marks to producer Brent Maher for coordinating the wide-ranging songs, musicians and vocalists. Select songs ("Nobody Can Tell Me I Can't," "Suzanne") have a bit of swing appeal, and others are harder-core country ("Both Ends of My Rainbow," "There's Always Something to Remind Me of You.") There is a tangible intimacy running through World Full of Blues, a vibrant freshness frequently absent from recordings.
For the uninitiated, Hensley may remind listeners of early Randy Travis. No imitator, Hensley just happens to be blessed with a versatile, resonant baritone that works in all settings, causing genre distinction to be forgotten. (Compass)