april 2009

Joined At The Hip, If Not By Blood

With 'Brothers From Different Mothers,' Dailey & Vincent Rule The Bluegrass Roost

By David McGee

Photos by Audrey Harrod

Dailey & Vincent, onstage at WoodSongs (from left: Adam Haynes, Jeff Parker, Jamie Dailey, Darrin Vincent, Joe Dean, Jr.): 'The simplicity of bluegrass really strikes a chord with my soul and my heart,' Darrin says. 'I love being able to walk up with acoustic instruments and know there's nothing else to enhance it except the sound system. I love the naturalness of that-you have the talent or you don't have it.'

When they rolled into New York on a cold February night, Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent, and their accompanying stellar band comprised of Adam Haynes on fiddle, Jeff Parker on mandolin and 19-year-old wunderkind Joe Dean Jr. on banjo, were the hottest bluegrass band in the land. In five months time, spanning the October 2008 IBMA awards to mid-February's SPBGMA Bluegrass Music Awards, the duo, which had released its much-anticipated debut album in January 2008, had racked up an astonishing 13 awards-in billiards, this is called "running the table." Needless to say, expectations for the second D&V album, Brothers From Different Mothers, scheduled for release on March 31, were running high, and the promise of hearing some of the news songs would surely draw New York City's vaunted bluegrass aficionados out in droves to Joe's Pub, where for a mere $12 ticket they could immerse themselves in the state of the art performed by two of its foremost contemporary practitioners.

Didn't quite work out that way. The venue was about three-quarters full, not a bad crowd for a week night, but at the very least puzzling, given how both the New York Times and the Village Voice have waxed rapturous over a resurgent bluegrass and country scene, centered largely in Brooklyn and at a handful of clubs on the lower east side of Manhattan. Wherever it is, it wasn't out in force for Dailey & Vincent's debut appearance in Gotham, as it was a few days earlier when the Steep Canyon Rangers played Joe's, although word leaking out that Steve Martin would be joining the band onstage may have played a part in luring a turnaway crowd to the Sunday night show. By Tuesday night, perhaps they were at home in Brooklyn, genuflecting at the altar of their Bon Iver CDs.

Undeterred, D&V and company proceeded with alacrity to entertain and move the faithful. Jamie and Darrin's stances onstage mirrored the music they offered: thin and blonde, Jamie stood casually as he sang and in between songs, embodying the calm, soothing nature of the reflective tunes; Darrin, on the other hand, diminutive and wiry, struck a taut, intense pose—which is not to discount the easy sense of humor he displayed between (and even during) numbers, when something tickled him and he'd let loose with a high howl of delight—that seemed most appropriate to the fierce, driving uptempo barnburners and keening spirituals sprinkled throughout the set.

"We're not gonna talk a lot," Jamie announced shortly into the set. "We're just going to play."

Indeed, they kept the chatter to a minimum for the next hour-plus, sprinkling in some group and personal history, or some background on a particular song, but for the most part letting the music have its say. They offered tunes from both albums, and some they've never recorded. They gave their exemplary band members ample room to showcase their artistry—Parker, on mandolin, and Dean Jr. on banjo, about tore the house down with their furious picking on "Cumberland River," and the latter showed off a resonant bass voice on a new gospel number, penned in December by Jamie, that was sung a cappella in four-part harmony. And throughout the night they paid tribute to a group near and dear to D&V's musical hearts, the Statler Brothers, two of whose songs are on the new album (plus, on the album the opening barnburner, "Head Hung Down," features the Statlers' bassman Harold Reid in a surprise comic appearance at the end, in the guise of his alter ego, Lester "Roadhog" Moran, as a judge pronouncing a sentence—Reid's first appearance on record without his mates in 30 years) and at least three of which were performed at Joe's Pub, including a moving rendition of the Brothers' enduring classic, "I'll Go To My Grave Loving You," with Jamie taking the high, keening tenor part to some otherworldly place. Neo-traditionalists Gillian Welch and David Rawlings have found a place in the D&V story as well: their backwoods spiritual "By the Mark" was not only the demo song that landed Dailey & Vincent their deal with Rounder, but became their first #1 single when released off their debut album. On the new album, the haunting Welch-Rawlings tune "Winter's Come and Gone" is included, and was given a memorably delicate treatment in concert. Duets, trios, quartets—the group gave a clinic in ensemble singing and impeccable but emotionally committed instrumental work.

If you know anything about Dailey & Vincent, you know that however much they might have been disappointed in the size of their Joe Pub's audience, you also know this is but their first time through town, and there will be other nights here, and a growing fan base to support their appearances on those occasions. As meticulously as their music is crafted, so is their entire partnership; and remember, if you will, that Jamie Dailey spent eight years with Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Darrin Vincent 10 years with Ricky Skaggs's Kentucky Thunder (after breaking in at the age of six as part of his family band, The Sally Mountain Show, along with his then five-year-old sister, Rhonda, in their home town of Kirksville, MO), which explains much about the duo's rigorous devotion to discipline, precision and stagecraft. Before they teamed up formally, or publicly, they were working on a building. Construction is still underway.


The simplicity of bluegrass really strikes a chord with my soul and my heart. I love being able to walk up with acoustic instruments and know there's nothing else to enhance it except the sound system. I love the naturalness of that-you have the talent or you don't have it. To do good harmonies, the quartets-it's all just natural, and I just absolutely love raw, natural talent. It really gets me going. That's why I love bluegrass. —Darrin Vincent

To get to where they are now, as a duo act, Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent took remarkably similar paths without ever crossing each other's until 2001. They both started playing professionally in their pre-teens, both in family bands, and both graduated to big-time bluegrass outfits before making a move to go out together. Both are men of deep faith, committed to their spirituality, to their families and to their music—to ask which comes first is silly, because no one element exists without the other to complement it and all three elements define their personalities and their values.

Of the two, Darrin was more the known quantity when he teamed up with Jamie Dailey. Born in Kirksville, MO, he learned the difference between a professional and an amateur musician at a young age, at six, in fact, as part of his family's Sally Mountain Band, which not only played concerts, but also had its own radio show and released albums for sale at its shows. Primarily a bassist but also a skilled guitarist, he played with his sister Rhonda's band, The Rage, as it made its way into the bluegrass pantheon. In 1997 he left to join Ricky Skaggs's formidable Kentucky Thunder.

"Being with Ricky, keeping the integrity of the music and the singing and playing to the highest standard" was paramount, Darrin says. "When you work for him, you always try to sing more than a hundred percent, or play it more than a hundred percent, every time you got out on stage or recorded. And seeing that work ethic in him has inspired Jamie and I to push our guys to maximize their ability. He had such a unique way of portraying that without being hard-nosed and mean. There's a certain way you want to compete with Ricky and try to do your best, try to get ahead of him-but you can't do it-but go to the maximum of your abilities. I really think that's brought a big part of Jamie and I leading our group of guys with Jeff Parker, and Joe Dean and Adam Haynes, being that loving role model and trying to push people to their max to play. And to perform for people. That's been a big deal with Ricky in keeping music first, and I learned that lesson from him."

Another veteran, producer/engineer Ronnie Light, was an important mentor to Darrin. Light's staggering resume includes producing and/or engineering credits with artists ranging from jazz guitar virtuoso Lenny Breau to a host of country giants (Ray Price, Hank Snow, Waylon, Willie, Loretta Lynn, Connie Smith, Charlie Pride, Skeeter Davis; he's credited as producer of the groundbreaking Wanted! The Outlaws album, and on it goes) to Rhonda Vincent (he not only worked on four of her recent Rounder albums, but goes all the way back with the Vincents to 1991's Bound for Gloryland, credited to Rhonda Vincent & The Sally Mountain Band). In a 2000 interview with this writer, Rhonda pinpointed Light's contribution to her own development in the studio: "He's a great teacher," she said. "He's always there. He'll tell me why we're going to do something, why we're going to use this mic. He's given me a tremendous education, in exactly the same way he said he had learned. He was the youngest staff producer at RCA when Chet Atkins hired him at 17 years old."

Darrin says Light "has had the biggest impact in my life in the studio, in producing. I love him and I really appreciate everything that he's done. He's hard-nosed. There were a lot of times I'd walk out of the studio crying, you know, but he just wanted the best out of me, and he knew I had it. I appreciate his patience and his long suffering, if you will."

At the IBMA Convention in 2001, Darrin and Jamie met up for the first time. They chatted and tried out some harmony vocalizing. And it was good.

Search the Internet for background on Jamie Dailey and you'll be hard pressed to find anything that indicates he did something other than fall to the earth in 1998 when he joined Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver for what proved to be a nine-year ride. Indeed, he does sing with a purity and clarity that seems Heaven-sent, but he is in fact very human and very southern—born in Corbin, Kentucky, raised in Gainsborough, Tennessee, his whole life until he moved to Nashville to pursue his professional ambitions. He was onstage even before Darrin, at age three, playing with his father in a group called The Four Jays, working festivals and churches. As a three-year-old, he placed "second or third" in a singing contest with his rendition of the Oak Ridge Boys' Dallas Frazier-penned hit, "Elvira."

"The 'oom-papa-mow-mow' part was really high," he says with a hearty laugh. "I couldn't hit the low notes."

His first instrument was the tambourine ("I beat the tar out of it"), then the electric bass at age eight ("I was really little and frail back then and it was so big for me. I had to sit on top of the amp to play the electric bass"), then the banjo, then guitar. At age 18 he formed his own band, Highland Rim ("we just worked regionally, hangings, killings and things like that. Just the good stuff.") and that's where he was in 1998, when Doyle Lawson came calling. Then 22, Jamie thought he was joining one of the most respected groups in bluegrass history, which he was; what he didn't know beforehand was that he was also going to boot camp. What he took from the experience with Lawson is not strikingly different—or any less demanding—than what Darrin Vincent experienced and learned from in his years working for Ricky Skaggs.

"I learned from Doyle how to play and sing as a unit, not just one person," Jamie says. "Most important lesson I learned on stage is to listen to everybody around you, not just to yourself. If everybody listens to each other and you play against each other and with each other, you're gonna play as a unit. And that's exactly what I learned there that was the most important lesson. Second, he taught me how to be a road pro. Third, and most important, was discipline, discipline, discipline. And I got my hand smacked many times. I'm telling you, the first two years I was there I literally felt like I was in the military. At rehearsal he'd get right near your face, son, and he would lay down on you. 'Listen to me, son! That is not what I told you! Are you listening to me!?' And I'm sitting there shaking in my shoes thinking, I'm gonna have a heart attack right here right now. This is it. But I listened, I dug in, I tried, I didn't give up. You couldn't pay me three million dollars for that experience. No way. Being part of that history right there was cool to me."

Following their fateful 2001 meeting, both men returned to their respective employers. In 2005 they showed up on record for the first time, on one of the better bluegrass Christmas albums of recent years, Christmas Grass Too, singing together on "Beautiful Star of Bethlehem." Darrin was a part of a core group of musicians playing on the record, which also featured Doyle Lawson, Rhonda Vincent, Sony Isaacs, Bryan Sutton, Dolly Parton and Ronnie Bowman, among others. This, however, was but prelude to the bolder step of formally casting their lots with each other


I planned from day one and we prayed. That's why it took so long. I wanted to make sure when we did this that we had our ducks in a row. I just didn't want to wake up one day and say, Hmm, I want to leave Doyle and start a band. Lot of people do that, and I don't think it's a wise move. —Jamie Dailey

Bluegrass music is proud to acknowledge the latest Ambassador to represent the interests of the U.S. overseas. Jamie Dailey left yesterday functioning in the role of temporary Ambassador and serving as Chairman of the Delegation for the ACG (American Council on Germany). The twelve-day trip begins in Munich, tours the country of Germany, and culminates in Berlin.

Jamie is known to bluegrass fans the world over for his nine-year tenure with the award winning Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver. He is also an accomplished songwriter with artists such as Ricky Skaggs having recently cut his songs. In 2008 he will begin touring with his new band, The Dailey Vincent Band. For the next twelve days, Europe will know him as Ambassador Dailey.

The main purpose of the Delegation is to discuss, with German and other EU Heads of State, Iran and nuclear weapons, and how the U.S. and EU should deal with the problem. Other issues that will also be dealt with include, 2007 elections in Turkey, the rise of China to superpower status, and the German government's Grand Coalition.

The trip concludes in Berlin at a Gala dinner where Ambassador Dailey will perform three songs for the gathered Heads of State. Jamie will be playing guitar and singing, solo. (TheBluegrassBlog.com, August 23, 2007)

Jamie Dailey is an acknowledged "sponge." Not "sponger," someone who lives off others' fortunes, but one who soaks up knowledge from the world around him and his experiences in it. His savvy as a planner, his penchant fortaking the long view and setting goals to be met, is essential to understanding the Dailey & Vincent story.

"I've traveled with the White House and the Pentagon abroad doing foreign relations work with Ambassadors and different Heads of State, so I've been around some very intelligent people, and I've listened to their business stories and I've heard things. I knew going into this how hard the bluegrass industry was and is, and I knew that we were going to have to do a lot of planning or it would be a slow start and it could get sluggish in a hurry, and we could possibly starve," he says. "And I was used to making a very healthy salary and saving for retirement."

Leaving production and recording to Darrin, Jamie set out to get the business end of the group in order. In 2003 He opened a bank account and instructed Darrin that both men would contribute to a fund, on a weekly basis—"25, 50, 100, 150 dollars apiece"—to finance their joint venture. To Darrin's question as to why this was necessary "when we're not even playing," he replied: "Because we're gonna need it when we start."

Then he became a booking agent, locking down 88 dates for the duo in its first year, and planning the tour routing. Next came the hiring of a business team: manager, business manager, attorneys, publicist. Then the "By the Mark" demo, and Rounder bit: label deal secured. To an increasingly skeptical Darrin ("Why do we need all these other people that we can't afford? Rhonda doesn't have that."), he pointd out: "That's Rhonda. We're Dailey & Vincent. We're gonna have to have these people around us. And we have to spend to make money."

This interregnum between deciding to work together and actually doing it—both men gave notices to their respective employers in January 2007 of their intention to leave at the end of the year; they played their first official public show together at the Ryman Auditorium on New Year's Eve 2007 (they had earlier performed to a rousing reception at the IBMA Convention in the fall)—bespeaks both men's characters: Jamie the planner who believes in return on investment and calculated risk, Darrin the cautious skeptic who plays it close to the vest to protect what he's built in his life. A perfect balance ensues.

"I had three children and a wife, and being with Ricky I had security," Darrin says in reflecting on his cautious approach to the D&V partnership. "I'm just not one to uproot and do things on a whim. I like sure things. I have to because of my family life. Starting out with Dailey & Vincent, there was no guarantees on anything. We could have flopped, we could have sold no records; there was a lot of hidden things we didn't know. But I prayed about it, and mostly it was my wife, she didn't feel comfortable with the income. We prayed one evening together and the next morning we woke up and she had tears in her eyes. She said, 'Honey, I believe in your ability and I believe you and Jamie have something special. Whenever you feel it's time for you and Jamie to start this, you've got my one hundred percent support.' And when she said that, I called Jamie and said, 'When it's time, let's do it.' It was only a matter of weeks after that that we gave our notices to our employers at the time. That was the deciding factor for me. Jamie will tell you it wasn't hard for him at all. He was ready to do it."

When they went out on their own, the wisdom of Jamie's foresight became evident early on: "It took every dime we had saved plus more to get this thing started," he says.


This is my testimony. —Darrin Vincent

Faith plays a big role everything we do. —Jamie Dailey

From the stage at Joe's Pub and in the press materials accompanying their new album, D&V mention how much,and how long, they prayed about their proposed union. These are not idle sentiments on their part, or whimsical, but serious inquiries and appeals to Providence for divine guidance. Here too their answers about the role of faith in their lives reveals both their differences in how they approach it on a personal level, and the tie that binds their professional endeavors.

Darrin: "This is my testimony, and it's not to bash anybody or to denigrate any other religions. For me, I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He died on the cross for my sins, and his blood atonement has saved me, and I've got a guaranteed spot in Heaven. I have joy and peace in my life because of that. I can reflect that in the music I play and in my everyday living. It's required of me to be a living testimony. I think it's in Luke, Chapter 12, verse 48, 'Where much is given, much is required.' I just feel it's required of me to tell folks about the Lord and what He's done for me. That works for me. I don't want to offend anybody, and I want to be as gentle as I can, but if I can show joy, and people say, 'Hey, there's something different about him—he's got peace and joy and happiness, and I want some of that,' I want to be able to show them why that's so. The songs and the joy of having a new home in Heaven and all that, there's a promise there; and I think people are looking for a promise, and they're looking for security. For me, that's what I have in Jesus Christ."

Jamie: "Faith plays a big role everything we do. It's the foundation and the core; it's where we go for guidance, ultimate guidance. The Lord has absolutely been so good to us. He's blessed us so much, and we don't deserve anything. We don't deserve one thing. And I don't understand why He's blessed us so much. He's a God of love and he's really taken care of us. I'll be the first to tell you, and I'll speak on my behalf and not Darrin's, I'm a sinner. I'm not perfect. I have to work at it every day. I don't go out and try to put it in peoples' face and say, 'You have to be a Christian. You have to believe.' I don't do that. I'm not going to do that. I don't want to turn people away. I just hope that something I might sing, or actions I might show from the stage, will touch peoples' hearts, get them to thinking about their own lives and let them do with it what they will from that point on."


"The message was in the songs—we felt strongly about them."
—Darrin Vincent

In assembling material for their debut album, both men brought in songs they thought would suit their vocal style, whether it be in duet, trio or quartet form. But the bottom line was an emphasis on meaningful material, not throwaway ditties. Rather than drawing from a deep well of treasured songs, they decided to dig a new well and fill it with contemporary songs worthy of comparison to the ancient tones. The lone chestnut they cover, "Don't You Call My Name," from the Johnson Mountain Boys, gets a spirited treatment that allows for a rowdy fiddle solo from Stuart Duncan, some breathtaking speed-picked banjo work courtesy Joe Dean Jr., and scintillating, high lonesome vocal tradeoffs between Dailey and Vincent. Duncan, Dean, Andy Leftwich (fiddle), Jeff Parker (harmony vocal, mandolin), Byron Sutton and Cody Kilby (guitars) give Dailey and Vincent inspired instrumental support throughout (the twin fiddles pining away on the Jimmy Fortunate-penned spiritual "I Believe" are as heart tugging as their moaning is artfully executed), but some of the most effective moments find the duo stripping it down to their voices accompanied solely by guitar (Dailey) and mandolin (Vincent). Gillian Welch and David Rawlings' mountain gospel gem, "By the Mark," benefits most from this spare approach, as the two stringed instruments play a steady rhythm and pointed solos behind the two artists' fervent, layered vocal attack; less solemn and foreboding, "Music of the Mountains" is a buoyant reminiscence of the old homestead made doubly resonant by the duo's casual front porch picking and genial vocalizing. Closing with a jubilant, full band, southern gospel four-part harmony workout on "Place On Calvary," Dailey & Vincent seemingly punched their ticket for a long ride.

"I had songs stuck back, and Jamie had songs stuck back, and he had songs that he just loved in his heart, like 'More Than a Name On a Wall,'" Darrin recalls of the first album's tunestack. "Things like 'More Than a Name,' we started rehearsing as a band to put in our show. And it was so strong, I couldn't get through it in a show without bawling my eyes out, because it has such a story and a testimony about our veterans. I said, 'If that's touching me'—because I'm petty hard-hearted on most things—"I guarantee it's striking a chord with people.' So we recorded it and Jamie sang the heck out of it. We made it a duet, and it just fit our mold as a duet. So we came across songs like that by accident, and by adding them to our show.

"We believed in those songs, they had meaning to us and we knew we wanted to be able to sing about these things. The message was in the songs—we felt strongly about them."

Dailey & Vincent perform the Statler Brothers' "More Than A Name On the Wall"

"The pressure was on heavy and the pressure is still on, because in all honesty, I don't have a clue whether people are going to like this new record." —Jamie Dailey

The backstory on Brothers From Different Mothers belies the album's polished, professional sheen and thoughtful song selection. It was in fact recorded under duress, as Darrin tells it, in a timeframe absent any room for a well-considered concept album or anything else on a grand scale. Jamie's already made a personal appeal to the folks at Rounder for more time on the duo's third album, "to really plan and focus and try to find those big songs."

Even though recording commenced well ahead of the bluegrass awards rolling in, both men admit to feeling pressure to exceed the achievement of their self-titled and critically acclaimed debut.

"It's extreme pressure, wanting it to match and exceed your first one," Darrin admits. "So yes, we felt stress and pressure to do that on this record. But we had a time crunch; we had to get another record out there. In the few months that we had to prepare for Brothers From Different Mothers, we did the best we could to make the best record we could, to find the best songs that we could in the time we had. I think it's a strong record, and I'm very proud of it and I think people will enjoy it."

"Well that first record did do more than I thought it would—I would not have dreamed in a million years that it would have done what it did," Jamie adds. "So the pressure was on heavy and the pressure is still on, because in all honesty, I don't have a clue whether people are going to like this new record. On the first record, when I brought 'By The Mark' in, I told Darrin, 'Here's a song we have to cut.' I didn't know it was going to be a number one; I did not know it was going to be a big song for us. I brought 'More Than a Name On the Wall' in; I had not a clue that it was going to do what it did. I just didn't know, until after the recording came out.

"So now we're sitting here with a second recording, and I don't have a clue who will like this CD! All I do know is I love the songs that we put on it, and I do know that I enjoyed singing them, and I do know that we tried harder to make it better this time, musically, vocally, production-wise. And all that we knew to do was play the best songs that we possibly could and put the best arrangements to them we possibly could, make it sound entertaining, make it sound as fresh as we could possibly make it, and make it sound as good as we could possibly get it."

Early reviews have made much of D&V using the new album as a showcase of bluegrass and country vocal styles ranging from duets to gospel quartets, and critics have been quick to hail them as the latest and best in the lineage of "brother" duets that includes the Louvins, the Wilburns, the Delmores, the Osbornes, the Everlys, et al. The album title, in fact, refers to the kinship they feel personally and professionally, if not by blood. But again, the looming deadline was more a factor in the song selection than any conceptual pursuit. In fact, the opening breathtaking barnburner, "Head Hung Down" (the aforementioned song on which Statler Harold Reid makes his cameo appearance), was an eleventh hour addition made when the duo felt their finished album lacked a proper opening number.

Darrin: "We just did not have a fast, barnburning song. This is how technology works. Jamie called Robert Gately, who had written a lot of bluegrass songs, and told him we were missing an uptempo, first song. He said, 'I just got through writing it.' He mp3'd it to me on my computer, Jamie wrote down the lyrics on the phone, we sat in the studio, went through it, arranged it, I wrote a chart on it, and within an hour and a half we had the song down on the record. And during that whole time period we were sitting in there rehearsing and thinking about it, and Jamie said, 'It'd be cool to have a low voice on the Judge part at the end,' and I told him, 'I know the perfect guy for it. We need to get Harold Reid of the Statlers to do that, if he would.' We recorded it, Jamie called him, and we went to his house in Staunton, Virginia, and I recorded it there in his den, the 'Roadhog' character on the end. He told us that he hadn't recorded for anyone else but the Statler Brothers in 30 years. To have him on there was huge for us, and we were so thankful."

The album features an interesting variety of material, more so even than the debut album. "You Oughta Be Here With Me" comes by way of Roger Miller, with D&V giving it a heart-tugging mountain twist in their keening harmony vocals; Ron Spears penned the plaintive classic country heartbreaker, "Please Don't Let Our Sweet Love Die," a husband's plea to save a marriage collapsing of ennui, with Jamie bringing home the message with a piercing high tenor vocal, earnest and full of regret. Jamie himself contributes two original songs, the brisk, banjo-fired bluegrass workout, "Girl Of the Valley," and a high-stepping gospel celebration, "When I Reach That Home Up There," featuring a powerful gospel quartet vocal and spirited interaction between mandolin, fiddle and banjo. The closing number is a real surprise: "On the Other Side," written in part by the Statler's Jimmy Fortune, is an introspective, folkish rumination on a departed father's life in Heaven, enhanced with a discreet, humming string section.

Knowing how bluegrass purists might react to an infusion of strings into what is otherwise a staunch, contemporary exercise, both Dailey and Vincent argue that they did right by the song's message and, in a larger sense, by the music too. They're not looking to take bluegrass into places it doesn't want to go, or shouldn't go, but they do want to enlarge its audience instead of always preaching to the choir.

"That song was a very powerful song we heard Jimmy Forrester sing on our show one night," Darrin recalls. "We had 'I Believe,' which talks about the passing of Jimmy's mother, and this one here is the passing of the father. We felt like the mother and father, it worked, and this song just screamed strings to us. We wanted to stretch out. We can reach new people and bring 'em in if they'll just give our music a little chance. We're trying to grow bluegrass music and bring new people in, and we're having an opportunity by playing different venues, like performing arts centers. We're hoping to play with symphonies and we needed some songs to keep that thread and bring people in."

Admitting that he and his partner are walking "a fine line" with "On the Other Side," Jamie says the important point is that the song "really touches our hearts, and we wanted to give it what it needs to be the best it can be.

"We would always tell people on things like that to please listen to the lyrics, listen to what it says, try to feel it with an open mind. Our fans know—I hope they know—that we're not gonna go off on some wild ride here. We're going to keep one foot steadily and firmly in bluegrass tradition. We're not gonna leave that. But at the same time we do have to try to branch off somewhat as we go along, to try to reach out and bring in new listeners. Because there are a lot of people out there who aren't bluegrass fans; if we can lure them in, get them to listen to some traditional things, they'll probably like it. So yes, we'll try to continue to branch off and do some things along the way to try to expand the music, expand the audience, without sacrificing the tradition."


The Statler Brothers, from left, clockwise: Phil Balsley, Don Reid, Jimmy Fortune, Harold Reid
'The Statlers' voices were big. If you've ever heard them talk, you hear how big their voices are, even when speaking. Translate that to singing, and it's as big as this world.'
—Jamie Dailey

Get flash player to play to this file

The Statler Brothers, "Susan When She Tried"

You don't talk to Dailey & Vincent without dealing with one of the biggest influences on their music, the Statler Brothers, who are honored with two covers—"Years Ago" and "There Is You," back to back in the sequence—on Brothers From Different Mothers. The Statlers' faith, their love of traditional values, their love of country, and their zany sense of humor—and lest we forget, their distinctive, endearing harmonies—could be a blueprint for D&V.

"I grew up at the state fair in Missouri at the age of five, six, hearing all their songs at the place where we played," Darrin says. "I knew their songs, but for me, after hearing 'More Than a Name On the Wall' and going back and looking at their repertoire-and I hadn't studied them the way Jamie had-they had that homey feel to their songs, something that your next door neighbor could relate to. They wrote songs that pertained to local, everyday things. It really struck a chord with the audience. The simplicity of their melodies and the songs about the people next door, or your friends down the street, I just love that and I think it's so clever and so neat."

Jamie reveals a more personal, intimate connection with the Statlers' music. He credits it with nothing less than helping get him through some unsettled childhood years, when his parents were divorcing and he was feeling utterly alone in the world. In conversation he works up to it, first speaking strictly as the musician, then gradually admitting to the deeper connection: "To me, what makes their music special is that you can always count on clean lyrics and the melodies that they put together when they wrote those songs are absolutely what I call 'meat and potatoes' melodies. Great melodies that people could understand, that weren't over peoples' heads. I just love the sound of their melodies; I love the way they wrote their songs; the harmony—I'm a vocal nut; I love harmony, I absolutely love it. To me, they had the best harmony ever in country music. Their voices were big. If you've ever heard them talk, you hear how big their voices are, even when speaking. Translate that to singing, and it's as big as this world. It just really moved me from day one. When I was a kid, I was eight or nine years old when my parents were divorcing. My dad bought me a Statler Brothers record, and when I went to bed, listening to that every night, because I was troubled, it calmed me. They're my childhood heroes. They really are."

So it is that later this year Dailey & Vincent will return to the studio to cut a Statler Brothers tribute album. Both men are excited about the project, but for Jamie it's filed under "Dream Come True."

"I am absolutely like Thumper on the cartoon. My foot cannot wait to break down the studio doors and go into that. I've already picked out the songs we're going to do for it, already got the words typed up, Darrin and I are starting to write charts for everything, and I'm so excited. We had lunch with Don and Harold and got the blessings from the Statlers. I told them what we were doing, and Don looks across the table from me and says, 'I never dreamed in a million years that our songs would switch over and could be heard as bluegrass. I'm blown away.' So we're really looking forward to doing that. They came to a concert of ours in Staunton, back in the summer, and brought their lawn chairs and put right on the front row. We had about 1500 people. And they stayed for the whole thing, through the encore, waited until everybody left; they were the only four left there, and they came over to the bus and sat with us and talked forever. I'm telling you, having your childhood heroes do that, you can't beat it. So we want to honor them and I know some people are going, 'My God, I wish they'd quit doing that.' But it's a fun record. They said, 'Do anything you want to do, but make it a fun record.' I said, 'I know exactly what it's going to be.'"

(Jamie later revealed "You'll definitely be hearing 'Flowers n the Wall,' 'Class of '57,' 'Bed of Roses,' 'Do You Remember These,' 'Elizabeth, M Only Love,' 'Susan When She Tried.' The meat and potatoes songs.")

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The Statler Brothers, "I'll Go To My Grave Loving You," 1975

We'd love to go into an environment where people could see a two-hour Dailey & Vincent show and go home and say, 'Wow! We're pumped up and we have joy!' That's really what we'd like to do. —Darrin Vincent

If you've read this far it won't be surprising to hear of a long-term vision for Dailey & Vincent, courtesy the man with the plan, Jamie Dailey. Of course he's thought it out. And he's factored in the economic crisis-a host of festivals have been cancelled over the past two years-and mapped out a destination for he and his partner. It's the culmination of the original vision, or to put it in Dailey terms, "Phase Five."

"We're in the middle of Phase Three right now," he explains. "But by Phase Five we want to be working close to 100 dates on our own, going into performing arts centers, theaters, school auditoriums, amphitheaters, things of that nature, on our own, not working around tons of artists or working a lot of heavy things. We want to be on our own. We'd like to do a hundred shows a year on our own, and pick out or have people book us twenty to thirty bluegrass specials. But there's business reasons behind that, and there's plans behind why we want to do that. Because in an economy that is really hurting right now and may not get better any time soon-and this is the major reason we want to do this-we have seen, when booking in 2007 for 2008, nearly 14 festivals cancelled that year; in 2008 26 festivals cancelled; and this year there's been about 10 or 12 more. So my point is, we need to build our fan base, we need to go back to places like Joe's Pub, build a fan base to where we can pack it, and let's depend on Dailey & Vincent and not on things that may not be around. So that's Phase Five of the plan. We worked about 55 shows on our own last year and we had 80 percent to 90 percent to full capacity in 500- to 800- to 1000- to 1200-seat capacity, on our own. So I'm thinking if we can do that, why can't we do it for 100 dates? This year we've got about 69 of those on the books, and for 2010 we're looking at 75, and by 2011 we would like to see phase five completed."

Darrin connects the long-term vision to professional and personal goals both: "We'd love to do this for the next 20 years and, like the Statler Brothers did, retire when we're on top and producing great music. Just find the time and say, 'Okay, we're tired and we're gonna go home and be with our families.' That's sort of what Jamie and I want to do. We want to have a long career, 20-year span, try to get as many new fans as we can, keep the old fans, be happy and make great music. Hopefully do 100 concerts as Dailey & Vincent and maybe a dozen or half a dozen bluegrass festivals. That's where we'd like to get eventually. We'd love to go into an environment that's friendly, air conditioned or heated, where people could see a two-hour Dailey & Vincent show and go home and say, 'Wow! We're pumped up and we have joy!' That's really what we'd like to do."

Read Billy Altman's review of Brothers From Different Mothers here.

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