Outside of a terribly bland album cover, there is little for me to complain about while listening to Dailey & Vincent’s recent Rounder album, Brothers of the Highway.
And I’m someone who has frequently taken shots at the duo, largely for their forced jocularity, predictable and off-putting banter/bickering, and too pretty by half interpretation of bluegrass.
With Brothers of the Highway, the pair of Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent have brought their strengths together to form a cohesive and lively album that proves that those who felt they had previously not invested enough time to find the best material,l or worked diligently enough to craft their own sound independent of Quicksilver and Kentucky Thunder, were justified in their opinions.
Yes, their previous albums, especially Sing the Statler Brothers were immensely popular, but their Rounder albums always seemed to be lacking a spark of magic and sincerity. Such cannot be argued here.
Jamie Dailey wrote the album’s lead track, a driving banjo and fiddle workout entitled “Steel Drivin’ Man”; while this chart-topping ditty is hardly unique, it is a pretty awesome little tune. The concert favourite “Hills of Caroline” (a popular Vince Gill song) is given an moving and understated rendering here, with Bryan Sutton and Vincent sharing the guitar parts.
While the Louvin’s “When I Stop Dreaming” has been recorded (a few too) many times in the past decade, Dailey & Vincent’s version- with Vincent taking the lead- is considerably impressive. Jeff Parker’s mandolin fills provide beautiful counterpoint to the smooth lead vocals and Dailey’s soaring vocal harmony.
With idyllic images, “Back to Jackson County” (another Dailey composition) and the only slightly less bucolic and similarly titled “Back to Hancock County” (from Pete Goble and Leroy Drumm, via the Traditional Grass and Bill Emerson) are sure to prove popular among the core D&V audience. Another song from The Traditional Grass repertoire, “Howdy Neighbour Howdy,” would be the only track that I would consider as ‘filler.’
Along with the Gill track, a strong album cut from George Strait (“Brothers of the Highway”) and an inspiring Kathy Mattea single (“Where’ve You Been”) are evidence that the duo spent some time filtering through material for this release. “Big River,” a song from Pine Mountain Railroad’s Cody Shuler, is the second of two featuring lead vocals from Vincent, and he does a real good job on this one; as well, one really notices Christian Davis’ bass vocals.
Originally appearing two years ago on the Bill Monroe-inspired Centennial Celebration package, “Close By” appears on a Dailey & Vincent recording for the first time, while “Wouldn’t It Be Wonderful There” is the requisite southern gospel-influenced song.
I’m not a fan of the group, but one has to give Dailey & Vincent their due with Brothers of the Highway. The album finds the outfit at the top of their game, providing excellently recorded, vocal-focused bluegrass that will go over well with the vast majority of the festival-attending public.
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“Steel Drivin’ Man” video HERE.