Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley – World Full of Blues | Album Review

Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley – World Full of Blues

Compass Records

CD: 12 Songs, 43 Minutes

Styles: Nashville Blues, Dobro Blues, Country Blues

Have you ever watched America’s Got Talent? Once in a blue moon or supermoon, an act that exceeds even Simon Cowell’s standards receives the Golden Buzzer. Confetti flies, contestants cry, and careers soar high. That’s how good the newest album from Rob Ickes (rhymes with “bikes”) and Trey Hensley is. World Full of Blues puts dobro on center stage for nine perfect original numbers and two fantastic covers (Grateful Dead’s “Brown Eyed Women” and Robben Ford’s “Rugged Road”). Not only is this CD devoid of bad songs, but mediocre songs, too. Every track is a masterpiece. The icing on the cake is that Hensley’s diction is flawless, all his lyrics crystal-clear. Nashville blues fans won’t find any more exquisite art than this.

Take a 15-time International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Dobro Player of the Year and a Tennessee-born prodigy who made his Grand Ole Opry debut at age eleven, and you have a pair of pros that has galvanized the acoustic music scene. On World Full of Blues, they’ve added two iconic guests: Vince Gill and Taj Mahal. The album itself was recorded live at Grammy-winning producer Brent Maher’s Nashville studio, The Blueroom, with minimal overdubs. Says Rob Ickes, “Ultimately, we’re the unifying factor. It’s obvious we’re into all these different styles, but there’s a commonality in the sound of our instruments that, blended with Trey’s voice, makes it one sound.” Such seamless quality is rarely found, but it’s on this release in spades.

Joining Ickes (dobro) and Hensley (vocals and acoustic guitar) are John Jorgenson and Pete Wasner on Hammond B3; Mike Bub on acoustic bass; John Alvey on drums; Giovanni Rodriguez on percussion; Jim Hoke on tenor sax, baritone sax and clarinet; Steve Herrman on trumpet; Bill Huber on trombone; Vince Gill on lead and harmony vocals; Suzanne Cox, Aija Penix and Crystal Taliefero on harmony vocals; Taj Mahal on National Resonator guitar and vocals, and Vicki Hampton, Wendy Moten, Paul Andrews, Brent Maher, and Paul Schiminger on background vocals.

“Born with the Blues” has the best dobro intro of 2019, bar none. It’s so excellent that when Hensley starts singing, enthusiastic listeners will be plunged over the edge into ecstasy. After Vince Gill lends his powerhouse chops to “Brown Eyed Women,” “I’m Here but I’m Lonely” hits you right in the feels. It’s country-fried country, but if Sirius XM isn’t playing it already, I’ll eat my hat. Next, “Thirty Days” lightens the mood and makes your toes want to tap. Then comes Taj Mahal’s classic-sounding intro to “World Full of Blues,” featuring his trademark growl. The song itself is starkly political but spot-on. “The Fatal Shore,” an instrumental watermark, will make even the greenest amateurs play along for practice. The last standout is “Both Ends of my Rainbow,” an optimistic life-on-the-road tune that’s relatable to all who are pursuing dreams.

World Full of Blues earns the “Blue Buzzer” from yours truly. It’s absolutely phenomenal!

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