For about 10 seconds, the acclaimed bluegrass duo Dailey & Vincent thought of arranging their names in reverse order.
“And then we realised that our initials would be V.D.,” says Jamie Dailey. “For bluegrassers, we’re a lot smarter than people might think. Plus, Dailey & Vincent is alphabetical, so we could just use that as an excuse.”
Recently, Jamie and his partner Darrin Vincent released their seventh album, a live CD/DVD titled Alive In Concert, that features a 50-piece orchestra and even a 100-piece choir on a stirring rendition of America The Beautiful.
“You don’t see that kind of thing in bluegrass,” says Vincent. “We like trying to expand the horizons of what we do and what people can expect from our genre.”
Such adventurous experiments might rattle some purists, but they also win over new converts, particularly younger fans.
“We change people’s hearts and minds at every show,” Dailey says. “It’s always great when people come up to us saying, ‘I hate bluegrass, but I love what you guys do.’ People have a set thing in their head what bluegrass is, and we’re trying to challenge that.” To which Vincent adds with a laugh, “You can call us pioneers. We’ll take it!”
On the following pages, Darrin Vincent runs down his picks for 10 essential bluegrass records – all of which are heartily endorsed by Dailey. “It’s not that I’m wishy-washy or couldn’t think of my own choices, but I do really like Darrin’s list.”
1. The Bluegrass Album Band - The Bluegrass Album, Vol. 1 (1981)
“An awesome record. It’s got Tony Rice, J.D. Crowe, Doyle Lawson, Bobby Hicks, Todd Phillips and Jerry Douglas. To put all of those elite, wonderful artists together on one record is like catching lightning in a bottle.
“And the record has a lightning about it. If you’ve ever listened to it, you’ll know that it’s just truly special raw bluegrass music.”
2. Tony Rice - California Autumn (1975)
“One of the very first records I ever got. You always remember the first albums you buy, but this one happens to be special because it’s so great. The guitar tones and the sound of Tony’s voice, particularly on the title track – it knocks me out to this day.
“Everybody should give this a listen, whether they’re into bluegrass or not. It’s so well done and has timeless songs on it.”
3. Tony Rice, Ricky Skaggs - Skaggs & Rice (1980)
“It’s just two guitars and two voices. That’s it – that’s all you need when you’ve got guys this talented.
“It’s very raw; it’s not overproduced. Hearing Ricky sing that tenor in league with Tony – it’s just wonderful. Everything’s good about this record. There’s nothing bad about it. How’s that for an endorsement?”
4. Tony Rice - Native American (1992)
“The song selection is superb, the recording is gorgeous, and the way Tony plays is awe-inspiring. There’s something about this record that makes you come back and listen again and again.
“You’re getting a feeling that I’m a Tony Rice fan, huh?”
5. Emmylou Harris - Roses In The Snow (1980)
“There’s tremendous players on it – Ricky, Brian Ahern, Jerry Douglas, Johnny Cash – so it’s no wonder that I like it. Green Pastures is one of my all-time favourite songs. It’s in my blood, that one.
“My sister bought me this record for Christmas, and then she took it away years later. She’s got good taste.”
6. Ricky Skaggs - Sweet Temptation (1979)
“This was Ricky’s first record before he went country. It’s got all kinds of stuff on it, bluegrass and country, and it’s all phenomenal.
“You can’t go wrong with some people, and in the case of Ricky Skaggs you’ll never go wrong. He’s got a ton of great records, but this is one of my favourites.”
7. John Hartford & Mark Howard - Cadillac Rag (1991)
“It’s all instrumentals that John Hartford wrote. The music is wonderful, and I mean just sublime.
“We’re big fans of pairings, as you can tell by a lot of records on this list. The bluegrass genre lends itself well to exceptional talents coming together to blend voices. Cadillac Rag is a beautiful example of this tradition.”
8. Ricky Skaggs - Bluegrass Rules! (1997)
“Surprise – it’s another Ricky Skaggs record. This is his first bluegrass album after he came out of country music. I’m not on the record, but he hired me when they were finishing it. I wish I were on it!
“You can just feel the energy he felt coming back to this music – his singing and playing just jump right out at you. The whole band swings. An awesome record.”
9. Alison Krauss and Union Station - Paper Airplane (2011)
“I love this record! The song selection is incredible, and everybody who sings and plays on it is just wonderful. This is a newer record – some of the other choices are classics – but it’s amazing.”
10. Rhonda Vincent - One Step Ahead (2003)
“I co-produced this record, and so I’m rather fond of it. It’s got a lot of great songs on it. She sang her rear-end off on it, and I’m not just saying that because she’s my sister – she nails it.
"Between all the great music and playing on it, it’s a really sweet album.”