april 2008

Tim Hensley
Rural Rhythm

A sought after sideman (for, among others, Ricky Skaggs, Patty Loveless and his co-producer here, Kenny Chesney), Tim Hensley steps out of those shadows with a compelling debut effort comprised of traditional songs, well-chosen covers and a couple of his own originals set in a decidedly rootsy, all-acoustic framework. With backing from acknowledged masters such as dobroist Rob Ickes and fiddler Aubrey Haynie, Hensley (a multi-instrumentalist himself, playing mandolin and guitar) shows off a clear, expressive tenor voice made doubly effective by his artfully nuanced phrasing. The lilting title song, by John Prine and Keith Sykes, sets the tone with its spare, fingerpicked guitar and Jeff Taylor's gently crying accordion lines supporting Hensley's tear-stained memories of a stormy, but fulfilling, romance that's eating him up. Keyed by keening twin fiddles courtesy Aubrey Haynie and Deanie Richardson, "Lonesome Dove," a co-write by Larry Cordle and Carl Jackson, is a rich, western swing-flavored heartbreaker, beautifully realized in the rich mix of fiddles, guitar and Ickes' piercing dobro lines but a tough ride lyrically in its depiction of one burned lover's anguished kissoff of his similarly damaged distaff counterpart. Among the traditional numbers, the gospel standard "Working On a Building" receives a brooding quartet arrangement heavy on the bass vocal bottom, with the fiddle-banjo-mandolin complement providing a dark, unsettling atmosphere, whereas the briskly rendered "Shady Grove" jets into the stratosphere on the explosive fuel of rousing, speed-picked banjo, fiddle, mandolin and guitar solos. Arguably Hensley's best vocal performance here comes via his plaintive explication of the down-but-not-out homeless man living on the New York streets in Rodney Crowell's acutely observed "Ridin' Out the Storm," yet another occasion for Ickes to showcase his sense of the dramatic with a penetrating dobro solo. Good work, Tim. Don't be a stranger.—David McGee


Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (www.johnmendelsohn.com)
Website Design: Kieran McGee (www.kieranmcgee.com)
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY; www.flickr.com/audreyharrod), Alicia Zappier (New York)
E-mail: thebluegrassspecial@gmail.com
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024