Mark Kuykendall, Bobby Hicks & Asheville Bluegrass
Down Memory Lane
4 stars (out of 5)
By Larry Stephens
I love traditional bluegrass. I believe there are many country songs (such as those done by Ernest Tubb) that can be done bluegrass–style and can fairly be labeled “bluegrass.” I like lyrics that tell a story, that I don’t have to puzzle over to make sense of them, and singers who can be understood so I don’t have to call people in to listen to help decipher them. I like good pickers and, while I’m a banjo fan, I like the pickers to leave each other some space. Not every banjoist (or drummer) gets that.
So it stands to reason that I am the latest fan of Asheville Bluegrass. Both Bobby Hicks and Mark Kuykendall spent time with Bill Monroe so they have experience with a master. Hicks left bluegrass to play with Porter Wagoner (1959) and then Judy Lynn (1963). In 1981 he joined Ricky Skaggs, though he still performed with Monroe now and then. A half–century in the music business and he’s still going strong. A great Hank Williams’ number is “On The Evening Train” and listening to Hicks kick it off you can hear the style and ease with which he plays. His great talent is evident in other numbers like Jake Landers’ “Will You Wait For Me.“
Kuykendall is a good lead singer. He has a recognizable voice in the baritone range and you don’t have to scratch your head figuring out his lyrics. Besides playing guitar for the group, he also penned five of the songs on this CD. “Coming Home Never To Part” tells of a roaming man who misses home, mom and dad, but he’s on his way back. Is that bluegrass or what? “Old Mountain Home,” an upbeat number kicked off by Hicks, is in the same vein where he remembers “smelling the new–mown hay.” This cut has a good break by banjo player Seth Rhinehart. He plays with some punch to his banjo, accenting the notes as he rolls. He also plays backup with taste, supporting the music, not trying to overwhelm it and make everything a banjo piece.
The group’s harmony is displayed on “A Beautiful Life” with Hicks singing bass, mandolin player Nick Chandler (baritone) and bass player Nick Dauphinais (tenor). Chandler (who previously toured with Hicks for five years) and Dauphinais play as well as they sing and they plus Rhinehart are (or were) the Nick Chandler and Delivered band.. You can hear Chandler kicking off Ernest Tubb’s “I Wonder Why You Said Goodbye.” Their featured guest is Doyle Lawson, playing mandolin on “On The Evening Train” and “End of Memory Lane,” a Charlie Monroe song but picking up the tempo from the original version. Another old–timer is the Louvin Brothers’ “Love and Wealth.”
Great song selection, great picking and singing, great arrangments, Great Scott! You don’t have your copy, yet?