Acoustic music legends David Grisman and Tommy Emmanuel released Pickin’ last Friday, marking their first-ever duo album. And it would be hard to find anybody more excited about that than guitarist and singer Trey Hensley. Because he and his duo partner Rob Ickes were invited to join the ongoing album-inspired tour.
“We said yes before the sentence was ended,” Hensley told WMOT from the road. The guitar player/country singer said he has been studying and admiring the work of both musicians as long as he can remember.
“If you’ve ever listened to bluegrass music you’ve been influenced by David Grisman. And they’re both just so innovative. They’ve got their own thing but they gel so well together. The new record’s amazing. This tour they sound so great together. It’s just two gears in a machine; it’s all working perfect.”
Or you could say four gears in the case of the tour, which rolls through the midwest and Eastern seaboard until November 18. Ickes and Hensley, a Grammy Nominated duo, play an opening set and then join Grisman and Emmanuel on stage, individually and together for show closing jams.
Grisman and Emmanuel are giants in their fields who’d never played together until 2014.
Grisman got into traditional bluegrass during the folk revival of the 60s in New York and then widened his scope as one of the pioneers of jazz-inspired string band music. He’s famous for his duos with Doc Watson and Jerry Garcia, who nicknamed him Dawg.
Emmanuel emigrated from Australia and became a hugely popular acoustic guitar soloist. He didn’t get a nickname so much as a designation, when his hero Chet Atkins named him a Certified Guitar Player.
According to Grisman’s website, the two first made music together in 2014 when Emmanuel invited Grisman to sit in on a live show in San Francisco. The recording sessions took place at Grisman’s home studio in Northern California in early 2017. All the tunes are Grisman originals, save for the durable “Sweet Georgia Brown” and an album closing arrangement of the Australian anthem “Waltzing Matilda.”
Where some of Emmanuel’s reputation is built on his flashy technique and power, Pickin’ lines up with Grisman’s most famous duet instrumental projects in its emphasis is on taste and musicality. Pieces like the signature “CGP & Dawg” have a Sunday morning flow and delicacy.
Hensley says, “The most important part of playing with anybody but especially in a duo is listening to the other person, and Dawg and Tommy are masters at that.”