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Hensley, Ickes have a good thing going

Atwood's Tavern, Cambridge, Mass., July 21, 2016

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Chances are strong that Dobro master extraordinaire Rob Ickes has used the line a time or two when he explained his instrument of choice as "a guitar played incorrectly." The line got the requisite laughter from the small crowd of about 25 in the intimate club.

His sidekick, Trey Hensley, didn't offer any such comment. But the acoustic guitarist and singer for their duo, could have easily made some crack about his instrument being "a guitar played incorrectly" as well.

Make no mistake about it - both of these musicians know a thing or two about playing their instruments. Ickes been known for his Dobro playing for many years as evidenced by his 15 (!) Dobro Player of the Year awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association. While Hensley's playing may not have risen to the pantheon of Ickes, he was no slouch either with lots of lighting fast, sharp guitar runs that he showed he was not going to be overwhelmed by his band mate.

And with a voice that maybe recalled the bluesy country of Chris Stapleton, what was most important on Ickes and Hensley's first foray into Beantown and just a few days after the release of their second disc, "The Country Blues," (Compass), was the high level playing, singing, songwriting and song choice.

While Ickes is best known as a bluegrasser (Blue Highway was his longstanding band, and it was while Hensley did a scratch vocal for a Blue Highway disc that Hensley and Ickes connected), the duo was far more country than bluegrass. Yes, Ickes would have a number of Dobro runs that made you think bluegrass, but he also was equally up to snuff at times making the Dobro sound like a lead guitar. His playing simply was lyrical and thoughtful.

Adept at their own instruments, they also spurred each other on, at times facing off amidst a number of instrumental breaks during the two-set show.

Hensley and Ickes also tackled a number of well-known songs, putting their own stamp on the material, ranging from the Dead's "Friend of the Devil" to Merle Haggard's "Silver Wings" to Steve Ray Vaughan's "Pride & Joy" to Sonny Boy Williamson's (and made famous by the Allmans) "One Way Out." The diverse set of covers showed the ability of Ickes and Hensley to expand their natural musical inclinations.

There was nothing incorrect going on this evening when it came to singing or playing because Ickes and Hensley have a good thing going.