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Bluegrass with a twist

BY EMMA MCCLATCHEY | AUGUST 07, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Dailey and Vincent tour bus was midway between Indiana and Wisconsin at 1:30 a.m. on Aug. 3 when the band’s four singers — clad in T-shirts and patterned pajama pants — decided to throw together an a cappella arrangement of the Doris Akers gospel classic “Sweet, Sweet Spirit.”

Even though the men had never sung it together and their voices were a little tired from the previous night’s performance, the video of the impromptu quartet received positive feedback on Facebook — and that was good enough for Darrin Vincent.

“Sunday in Wisconsin, I was feeling like the people were really responsive to what we were doing,” Vincent said. “So I said, ‘You know what, you guys, we have a great audience; I want to do a new song.’ We had just done it once on the bus the night before, but we pulled it out and, boy, they loved it.”

Vincent said Iowa City audiences can expect a similar level of spontaneity and fun at 8 p.m. today at the Englert Theater, 221 E. Washington St., where Dailey and Vincent — dubbed the “rock stars of bluegrass” by CMT — will perform as part of the group’s current tour.

Hancher brought Dailey and Vincent to the Englert for the first time in February 2013. The show was so successful, said Englert production manager Tori Morgensai, that the band’s agent reached out to theater director Andre Perry about making the Englert a stop on this year’s tour.

“They blew us away the first time, and we’re excited to see what they bring this time,” Morgensai said. “I think there are roots in this town that run very deep that are tied to banjo music, fiddle music, and that bluegrass feel. Dailey and Vincent fits this community really well.”

Vincent said he feels at home in Iowa as well. The Missouri native grew up touring the Midwest with his family’s bluegrass band, the Sally Mountain Show, before joining the five-time Grammy-winning band Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder.

He met the other half of Dailey and Vincent in 2001 after hearing Jamie Dailey perform with the renowned bluegrass group Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver at the Bluegrass Music Association Awards in Louisville, Kentucky.

“He was singing a gospel song and was hitting the high notes on the chorus, and I was just smitten by his voice,” Vincent said. “After his performance, I went backstage and stuck my hand out and said, ‘I’m Darrin Vincent, and I’d like to be your friend.’ I followed him back to the dressing room, and we exchanged phone numbers. I called him up the next week, and it was the beginning of our friendship.”

From there, Dailey and Vincent accrued an all-star bluegrass band including guitarist, mandolinist, and tenor Jeff Parker, guitarist and bass singer Christian Davis, fiddler B.J. Cherryholmes, and banjo player Jessie Baker. Vincent said the band changes its music about every three or four months to keep its show “fresh.”

“They have to be respected for their musicianship,” said Kirk Brandenberger, who played fiddle with Dailey and Vincent during their May 2 performance in Keokuk, Iowa. “Where most groups will have one or two weak players, they have no weaknesses.”

After seven years, six albums, three Grammy nominations, and 13 International Bluegrass Music Association Awards, Dailey and Vincent has quickly become one of the country’s most beloved bluegrass acts, finding success in Nashville and securing exclusive promotions by Cracker Barrel Country Store. The group members’ energetic stage personas have also attracted new audiences to the bluegrass genre.

“We just had an email on our Facebook from a woman who was coming to our show with her family just to please them, but we won her over because we’re not like a lot of other bluegrass acts,” Vincent said. “She really enjoyed the show — she laughed and she cried.

“We do a lot of songs that really touch your heart, and then we’ll make you laugh, too. We’ve got a whole bunch of characters in our group, and it makes it really fun for everybody. It’s not stuffy.”

While Dailey and Vincent produces plenty of original tunes, Vincent said the group takes inspiration from country and bluegrass legends such as “Father of Bluegrass” Bill Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Dolly Parton, with whom Vincent and Dailey have both recorded music. Vincent said they’re also not afraid to perform country, gospel, and other genres with roots in bluegrass.

“Bluegrass has had a real influence on every type of music, and that’s the coolest thing I know,” Vincent said.

Dailey and Vincent’s Englert performance is part of what the band is calling its “Landmarks of America” tour. The journey began with acclaimed performances at the Library of Congress, New York’s Carnegie Hall, and the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

Vincent said the Iowa City’s enthusiastic audience will serve as a good test group for their live concert album and video to be recorded in Manassas, Virginia, on Sept. 13 and 14.

“There are different cultures out there; people in some places will clap respectfully versus hooting and hollering,” Vincent said. “But what I really like about the people in Iowa is they get into it. They really lap it up and enjoy it, and it makes it fun to play.”

Despite Iowa’s distance from the bluegrass-centric Appalachian Mountain states, Brandenberger said bluegrass acts will find Iowa has “fertile ground” for a growing bluegrass culture.

“I encourage anyone to take a chance with Dailey and Vincent,” Brandenberger said. “They may be surprised. There were people here in Keokuk who don’t go to bluegrass concerts, and they came out and were writing letters to the editor about how great the show was. It will change your mind about your father’s bluegrass.”


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