Working their way up from a 7 p.m. slot: (from left) Jesse Stockman, Jeff Parker, Jamie Dailey, Darrin Vincent, Jo Dean, Jr. (Photo: Gregg McCraw)

They Came. They Sang. They Conquered.
Dailey & Vincent roll into a small club in Manhattan and make an impression

Dailey & Vincent
The Living Room
March 22, 2010
New York City

They came. They sang. They conquered.

The 7 p.m. slot at The Living Room, one of the most prestigious and long-lived venues on New York City’s lower east side, is usually reserved for artists too new to have gained much of a following. So it was a bit stupefying to see the name “Dailey & Vincent, 7 p.m.” etched in chalk on the board outside the club announcing the acts for the night of March 22. That’s right—in chalk. Courtesy the gentleman behind the bar.

In fact, it was Jamie Dailey, Darrin Vincent and their stellar band, blowing in, giving the locals an hour-long object lesson in traditional bluegrass at its ape, then blowing out, on their way to other triumphs, at large in the land. Many a good musician has graced the Living Room stage, but these genuine bluegrass superstars set the bar higher for all who would follow them, with a rousing set heavy on songs from their multiply honored debut album, a Bill Monroe tune, another dating back to Vincent’s tenure with Ricky Skaggs, and, not least of all, two emotional renditions of gems from their nothing-short-of-awesome Statler Brothers tribute album (Dailey & Vincent Sing The Statler Brothers), available only at Cracker Barrel stores (see review in the February 2010 issue.)

Always impeccably attired, the band sported a casual look for its second-ever Manhattan show, which followed by almost a year to the day the duo’s impressive NYC debut at the upscale Joe’s Pub, a show detailed in TheBluegrassSpecial.com’s April 2009 cover story. The two whose names were on the chalkboard outside did opt for sport coats, dress shirts and striped ties, but otherwise set the pace for the other three band members by donning blue jeans; the unusually rumpled mandolin virtuoso and burgeoning (in terms of his audience appeal, not his weight) heartthrob Jeff Parker, in fact, seemed a bit bleary-eyed, as if he’d just been roused from a deep and troubled sleep aboard the bus. Nothing much about the musicians’ apparel mattered, though, when the music started with a roar—the ebullient, hard charging “Sweet Carrie,” from D&V’s self-titled debut album, which set a blistering pace from which the band rarely strayed and featured fiery solos from 20-year-old banjo master Joe Dean, Jr. (sorry, girls—he’s engaged!) and newly installed fiddler Jesse Stockman, making the most of his NYC debut with a riveting instrumental statement that elicited gasps from some audience members. The band sprinted on, with Dean, Jr. igniting “Cumberland River” with a brisk, rolling banjo introduction ahead of Vincent taking a rare, piercing lead vocal ahead of typically smooth, affecting harmonizing with Dailey on the choruses, which first time around gave way to Parker tearing off a fleet mandolin run before throwing it back to Vincent for another energetic verse that brought “that Southern breeze” referenced in the lyrics into the heart of Gotham’s Living Room. A Dailey & Vincent show is nothing if not an exercise in arresting dynamics, however, whether those come by way of the seamless handoffs between instrumentalists who produce rich, shifting sonic textures within the framework of a single number, or courtesy a heartbreaking lament, as happened on this night when the group reached back to Vincent’s days with Ricky Skaggs’s Kentucky Thunder for a faithful reading of the Paul Overstreet-penned rumination, “Halfway Home Café,” a country ballad recounting a prisoner’s last-second reflections on the misery he sees all around him as he’s about to go home to his family, where he knows redemption awaits because “they forgive me for the bitter seeds I have sown.” Skagg’s sensitive rading is formidable and moving in the extreme, but Dailey’s deliberate, nuanced, upper register cry underscored with dramatic intensity the magnitude of the penultimate moment Overstreet limned so vividly in song.

Jeff Parker: Morphing into Wayne Newton before the audience’s very eyes (Photo: Gregg McCraw)

But who would have guessed that Jeff Parker would use this occasion to morph into the Midnight Idol himself, Wayne Newton, when he took the lead on the Osborne Brothers’ romantic plea, “Let’s Be Sweethearts Again”? Stepping gingerly off the stage into the audience, Parker crooned to the masses, who were feasting on his unexpected stroll through the aisles; as he roamed, Parker spotted a comely lass across the room who seemed open to his tuneful ministrations. “I’m comin’ over there,” he told her, and proceeded to wade—there is no more accurate a term for it—through the multitude packed around tables at the front of the stage. Finally making it to the aisle, he coaxed the young lady out of her chair, and arm in arm, sang her his plaintive plea, as she returned the favor by engaging him in a restrained bump and grind dance. Hitting a stop-time measure, Parker returned to the stage, where Dailey explained that his bandmate was trying to buy time so he could muster up the strength to hit the final, stratospheric high note at the song’s end. With the crowd heeding Dailey’s request to chant, “Go, Jeff, Go!” Parker lit out for the blue horizon vocally, and seemed to make it, although Dailey, who resides there more comfortably, was pitching in as well, making it impossible to tell, beyond a reasonable doubt, if Parker ever made it to the mountaintop. But the effect was what counted, and it sent the set driving hard to its rambunctious closer, the harmony-rich, ridiculously frantic “Poor Boy Workin’ Blues,” which reprised the set opening “Sweet Carrie”’s jaw dropping banjo and fiddle sorties by Dean, Jr. and Stockman. Having earlier rolled out their stirring treatment of the Statlers’ “I’ll Go To My Grave Loving You,” which they distinguish from the original by bumping up the tempo without diminishing the song’s poignant message, D&V returned for an encore and dipped into Statlers lore again, for a deeply felt reading of one of the Brothers’ greatest moments on record, “Susan When She Tried.” Dean, Jr., taking the bass part owing to the band’s new bass singer, Christian Davis, inactive due to illness, did more than fall in on cue on the shattering cascade of voices in the chorus—he did so with all the gravity and feeling with which Harold Reid infused the original recording. Dailey & Vincent could hardly have signed off the night more memorably than by paying homage to a group whose musical and lyrical sensibilities have had such deep impact on their own approach. With that, they loaded up and headed on down the road, a 7 p.m. act at The Living Room that packed the house and probably earned itself a later slot next time around.

Dailey & Vincent sing The Statlers’ ‘Susan When She Tried’

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