Tommy Emmanuel, CGP
Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley
Friday, February 23, 2024
Doors: 6:30 pm / Show: 7:30 pm
Tickets start at $35.00
Tommy Emmanuel, CGP
The real-time exuberance Tommy Emmanuel brings to every note of every song he plays is palpable and infectious. His fans are in love with his unbound talent as a guitarist of multitudes, his ability to play three parts at once, always with pure heart and real soul. He is a true virtuoso. But he seems as delighted always with the magic of the music as the audience, if not more, and his joy illuminates everything.
It’s one thing to play these multi-dimensional arrangements flawlessly on an acoustic guitar. But to do it with that smile of the ages, that evidence of authentic, unbridled delight, is an irresistibly infectious invitation to feel his music as deeply as he does. “The joy, ” he says, “is there always because I’m chasing it through music. Seeing the surprise in peoples’ eyes is worth living and working for… I can’t help but play to the people with all my heart, which is overflowing with joy of being in that moment that I’ve worked all my life for. And here it is!”
That authentic exuberance Tommy brings to every show and every record is especially powerful, given the profound deficit of real joy in so many lives. Tommy’s happiness, like his music, is pure and expressed in real-time. Nothing is phony. It’s a quality that does reach far beyond any one language, and it’s instantly understood by all his fellow humans. It’s the reason he smiles so much while playing, and why his audience does as well. As many have said, it’s hard not to be happy at his shows. Because his joy, and the timeless river of inspiration, which is the source, is universally recognized. And it feels good.
In 2018, Tommy made the great album, Accomplice One, a series of duets with musicians great and varied, and all at his level. It’s a concept that worked, as the range of artists reflected Tommy’s expansive love of all kinds of music, including Rodney Crowell, Mark Knopfler, Amanda Shires, Jason Isbell, Jerry Douglas, Jake Shimabukuro and more. Each of his accomplices seemed as inspired by his energy and passion as much as Tommy was by theirs, and he played with effortless grace.
Now comes the long-awaited sequel, Accomplice Two. It shares the same exuberance, diversity, and sense of adventure as the first album, with a great range of artists. This album features rock legends Michael McDonald, Jorma Kaukonen, and Little Feat; bluegrass superstars such as Billy Strings, The Del McCoury Band, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Sierra Hull, and David Grisman; country icons such as Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Jamey Johnson, and Raul Malo; and guitar heavyweights like Yasmin Williams, Larry Campbell, and Richard Smith. The first single “White Freight Liner Blues” is out now and features the Grammy award winner and claw hammer guitarist, Molly Tuttle.
Tommy also has a new television special called Accomplice LIVE! which begins airing on PBS inMarchof2023.This special features some of Tommy’s best-known songs and duets with his accomplices such as Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, Sierra Hull, Yasmin Williams, and many others.
Tommy was born in 1955 in Muswellbrook, New South Wales Australia, and started playing the guitar at age four. In his twenties, he was the most sought-after performer and session musician in Sydney. By age 30,he was burning on electric guitar with several rock bands in stadiums across Europe. He could have gone on to live the rock star life. Yet, he yearned for something purer and closer to his heart. Casting off the reliable rock band engine of monstrous sonics blasting, Tommy went acoustic.
The inspiration for Tommy’s transformation was his hero, Chet Atkins, who represented the purity of one man, one guitar, and unlimited passionate for serving the song. Eventually Tommy met his hero and started a lifelong friendship which shaped Tommy’s music forever. Chet welcomed Tommy into guitarist knighthood by bestowing upon him the coveted title of CGP (Certified Guitar Player), an honor awarded only to four other humans ever, and they recorded an album together, The Day Finger Pickers Took Over the World. Receiving the love and esteem of Chet lifted Tommy into a different realm. Because, as Chet recognized instantly and told the world, musicians like this don’t come along that often; pay attention to this man. And people have paid attention from sold out shows all over the world to multiple Grammy nominations, ARIA Awards, IBMA Awards, and countless “Best Acoustic Guitarist” wins in numerous music magazine readers polls…. the world is taking notice.
Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley
Take a 15-time IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) Dobro Player of the Year and a Tennessee-born guitar prodigy who made his Grand Ole Opry debut at the age of 11, and you have Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley, a powerhouse acoustic duo that has electrified the acoustic music scene.
Known for their white-hot picking, stone country vocals with soul and world class live musicianship, Ickes and Hensley meld together blues, bluegrass, country, rock and other string band music of all kinds to form a signature blend of music that defies restrictions of genre. They are equally at home on stages of prestigious performing arts centers, theatres and the Grand Ole Opry as they are on Americana, jamgrass, bluegrass and jam band festivals.
Ickes co-founded the highly influential bluegrass group Blue Highway and has been a sought-after Nashville session player and live performing musician for decades, with credits to his name such as Vince Gill, Earl Scruggs, Merle Haggard, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire and Alison Krauss. Hensley has been called “Nashville’s hottest young player” by Acoustic Guitar magazine and his soulful baritone vocals have received acclaim as well. Influenced by repertoires as diverse as The Allman Brothers Band, Ray Charles, Merle Haggard and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Hensley has shared stages with artists such as Johnny Cash, Steve Wariner, and Peter Frampton. As a duo, Ickes and Hensley have shared the stage and collaborated with Tommy Emmanuel, Taj Mahal, David Grisman, and Jorma Kaukonen & Hot Tuna — all enthusiastic admirers of the duo — as well as Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi All Stars, Molly Tuttle, and many more. The duo were key players on “Original,” the recent highly lauded Compass album by bluegrass giant Bobby Osborne; their participation garnered a Recorded Event Of The Year Award for Bobby’s version of “Got To Get A Message To You” on that album at this year’s IBMA Awards; they also were on the 2016 Recorded Event winner, ”Fireball,” featuring Special Consensus, in 2016.
Ickes and Hensley have gained some added grit and a nod to the roots side of Americana aided by the guiding hand of GRAMMY-winning producer Brent Maher on the duo’s new Compass Records album, World Full of Blues (released Oct. 4, 2019). Maher, known for his production and engineering of such diverse artists as Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Merle Haggard, Kenny Rogers, The Judds, Faces, Ike and Tina Turner, Sly and the Family Stone, and Chuck Berry, loved the duo’s demos and signed on to produce immediately upon hearing them. Acclaimed bluesman Taj Mahal provides his unmistakable mojo to the title track and country music legend Vince Gill guests on an inspired rendition of cover of the Grateful Dead’s moonshiner song, “Brown-Eyed Women.” The project includes a range of songs that could be featured on a vintage Sun Records recording to Trey’s more traditional country originals. On World Full of Blues, they move beyond the acoustic-centric sound of their previous two releases (including the GRAMMY-nominated Before The Sun Goes Down) and juice things up with Hammond B3 and a horn section.
The album was recorded live at Maher’s Nashville studio, The Blueroom, with minimal overdubs. Maher says, “For me, this record was all about living in the moment…letting spontaneity rule.” Despite the diversity in instrumentation and song selection—acoustic blues to jammed out roots rockers, “Hag” country to Duane and Dickey style twin leads reminiscent of The Allman Brothers—the end result is a sound unified in its approach to the broad scope of roots music. “Ultimately we’re the unifying factor,” says Ickes. “It’s obvious we’re into all these different styles, but there’s a commonality in the sound of our instruments that, blended with Trey’s voice, makes it one sound.”
Ickes and Hensley wrote or co-wrote nine of the songs on World Full of Blues and put their own spin on the two covers. Hensley says, “Our songwriting was always present on the last records, but there were maybe three originals and the rest covers. We made a decision on this one to present more of our own material.”
Ickes contributes the instrumental “The Fatal Shore” and the cautionary “Thirty Days,” while Hensley offers the optimistic life-on-the-road song, “Both Ends of My Rainbow.” Hensley got the idea to write the lively “Nobody Can Tell Me I Can’t” after hearing a friend use that phrase in conversation. That title clearly embodies the duo’s creative streak, too.
“’World Full of Blues’” felt important to me to include from the first time Rob talked about it,” says Hensley. “Bill Scholer had written a version of the song, but Rob and I decided to rewrite it, with some help from our friend Jason Eady, to make it more modern, while keeping Bill’s original intent intact: ‘It’s a crazy world and it feels like it’s getting crazier all the time…’ We knew we wanted a guest on this song and Taj Mahal was at the top of our dream list. He loved it and agreed to sing a verse and play some guitar on it. Working with Taj in the studio was a huge highlight for us… what an amazing guy and an absolute legend in every sense.”
“Brown Eyed Women” has the distinction of not only being one of the duo’s favorite Grateful Dead tunes, but a career first for country legend Gill. “Vince is one of our big musical heroes and it was so awesome having him sing on a Grateful Dead tune, which was the first time he’s recorded a Dead song.”
“Born With The Blues” is a song Ickes and Hensley wrote with their friend Bobby Starnes. “Bobby started it and we finished it up,” Ickes recalls. “It reminds me of a Clint Eastwood western, and the percussion and horn section really solidifies that. This is a song that gives us room to stretch out musically. It felt like the perfect song to kick off the record. “
“Suzanne,” written by Hensley with Larry Shell and Larry Cordle, finds the duo swapping instruments, Hensley playing a 1931 National resonator guitar and Ickes playing a 1927 Montgomery Ward guitar that belonged to his grandfather. “We had spent the morning talking about how amazing Lightning Hopkins, Muddy Waters, and John Lee Hooker all were and this song just appeared.” Hensley recalls. “Having Jim Hoke arrange the horns and play on it just really added a Howlin’ Wolf-era/Sun Records vibe.”
Closing the project is a rousing, smoking hot take on blues-jazz-rock guitarist Robben Ford’s “Rugged Road.” Few guitarists cross boundaries as deftly as Ford and this rendition firmly places Ickes and Hensley in the same pantheon as the celebrated guitar slinger.
ckes grew up in a suburb of San Francisco and discovered the Dobro as a teenager when he borrowed a Mike Auldridge cassette from his brother. He later moved to Nashville to pursue session work, and eventually graced the recordings of some of the best in the business before co-founding Blue Highway, and earning an unprecedented number of IBMA Dobro Player of the Year accolades.
Hensley grew up in East Tennessee and started singing in a gospel group when he was 6 years old. A few years later, his parents took him to a bluegrass festival where the lineup included back-to-back sets by bluegrass legends Charlie Waller and Jimmy Martin. Hensley decided then and there that he wanted to play guitar. By the time he was 11, he had given the life-changing first performance on the Grand Ole Opry playing guitar with Earl Scruggs and Marty Stuart.
When Scruggs played Knoxville not long after the Opry appearance, he invited the young Hensley to sit in. Ickes, who was playing Dobro in Scruggs’ band at the time, remembers Hensley as “a very talented kid,” but it would be roughly a decade before they crossed paths again. When they did, Ickes was blown away.
“I couldn’t believe the guy!” Ickes says. “I was just so excited about his music that I called everyone I knew in Nashville and told them about him. Then I suggested that we start playing at (Nashville’s) Station Inn and treat it like a showcase for Trey, just to see what might happen. I used to tease him and say, ‘I’ll have you famous by Christmas.’ Then, just one year later, our first record was nominated for a GRAMMY.”
Ickes and Hensley have performed in places as close to home as Nashville’s world famous Grand Ole Opry (multiple performances at both the Grand Ole Opry House and the Ryman Auditorium) and as far away as Denmark’s Tonder Festival. They’ve played many prestigious music festivals, including Telluride Bluegrass, ELLNORA | The Guitar Festival, AmericanaFest, Rockygrass, ROMP, Wintergrass, Bluegrass Underground, Vancouver Island Music Festival, Guitar Town, Sisters Folk Festival, the Freshgrass Festival, Copper Country Music Festival and several others. They were invited to perform at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass with Buddy Miller in Oct. 2019 and will set sail from Miami to St. Croix and Antigua on the Cayamo cruise alongside Brian Wilson, Jeff Tweedy, Mavis Staples, Rodney Crowell and others Feb. 2020. Several more tour dates are planned in 2020 with Taj Mahal, their “World Full of Blues” collaborator.
Going forward the goal is simply to reach more people and illustrate what the unique talents and down to earth, honest approach of Ickes and Hensley can bring to roots music. “We want to keep doing the music that we love, no matter what the genre, and finding the audience that gets what we’re mixing together” says Ickes. Hensley adds, “I love what we’re doing, so it’s just continuing on with that, to more and more people.”
Ages: All Ages