We told you last Friday that Dailey & Vincent had hired Christian Davis to sing bass in their quartets. On Saturday (1/23) I caught their show in Rocky Mount, VA and spoke to Jamie and Darrin about their latest hire.
The concert showed the guys in fine form, and Davis’ addition to the vocal lineup was powerful – and powerfully received by the sold out house. He was featured on several quartets, and took the lead on one himself, a stirring version of Thanks To Calvary.
Before the show, I spoke with them about Christian, and what led to bringing him into the band. Jamie Dailey said that the decision to add a bass singer came up when they were recording their upcoming Cracker Barrell CD, Dailey & Vincent Sing The Statler Brothers.
“When we started recording for the Statler album, we knew that we would need a real bass singer for the stage show. Joe Dean, our banjo player, had been doing a great job singing bass, but he was uncomfortable with the fact that we needed to raise they keys so high for him to get to the bass notes. We used Jeff Pearls on the CD to sing the bass parts Harold Reid had done on the original records.
I started asking my southern Gospel friends who we should contact about singing bass with us on the road, and the first three people I called said ‘Christian Davis.’ We had never heard of him or his music, so we contacted him on Facebook to see if he was interested.”
Jamie said that Davis was unfamiliar with bluegrass, and had never heard of Dailey & Vincent, but they agreed to get together and discuss things. It was immediately clear that he could cut the singing gig, but one big issue remained. Christian doesn’t play any of the bluegrass instruments, and Darrin said that he told him right off that there was no standing around the stage without an instrument in bluegrass!
“He had never played guitar, but he’s working hard at it. He’s got the right hand pattern down, and is learning the chords now.”
But they didn’t seek him out as a second guitarist, and Jamie said that his first night with them on stage – the night before (1/22) – had been a stellar debut.
“In my whole career, I have never sung with a bass singer like this. And the audience loved him! After he did his feature number, we started getting requests from the crowd asking to hear him sing another.”
Vincent reports that he was blown away himself…
“I ’bout lost control a few times last night. This guy is a freak of nature. Like Jamie and Paul Brewster can go high, Christian can go that low.”
So how did Saturday’s show turn out?
Well, it was a full house at the Franklin County High School, and Dailey & Vincent did a solid two-hour set with no intermission. I have seen them live several times and each time the show is more focused and refined. This was my first chance to see Jesse Stockman with them on fiddle, and he proved himself a fine addition.
My biggest question was how they would sound with a “real bass singer.” There wasn’t a quartet in the first 20 minutes of the set, so it was with some anticipation that I saw Davis reach for a microphone. Just as Vincent promised, Christian had a guitar strapped on from the first song, and was clearly a bit nervous in that role. He was really just hanging on, making chords as he could, and getting used to keeping the bluegrass rhythm.
We first heard him sing on I’ll Go To My Grave Loving You from the Statler Brothers CD. It was initially a bit shocking to hear such a deep bass voice in their show, but it was perfectly true to the Statler style, and a fine choice as the first introduction to the new sound. A hit from the first chorus, Davis got a warm response from the audience when he was singled out afterwards.
This was only his second show with the band, and you can expect him to blossom in short order as a full band member soon – joking around, de-tuning people’s instruments and the like. I expect that he will lose some of the vibrato common in modern Gospel as well, making the blend with the rest of the quartet even smoother. His voice literally rattled the hall when he reached down deep and it makes a very strong show even stronger.
The band worked seamlessly through the long set, switching from full band, to vocal quartet, to banjo/fiddle duets, to Dailey & Vincent duets without a moment’s lag. For such a new group, Dailey & Vincent already has a formidable repertoire to choose from, and they showed the same care in choosing instrumentals to feature their hot pickers as they have selecting songs for their recordings. Stockman did brilliant versions of Bill Monroe’s Old Dangerfield and Cherokee Shuffle, Dean ripped up Black Jack and Knee Deep In Bluegrass, and the two of them did their duet on Stoney Point.
Mandolinist and vocalist Jeff Parker very nearly stole the show when he wandered out into the audience collecting dollar bills and hugs from the assembled fans when he finally got his chance to shine. In addition to being a terrific musician and singer, Parker is a natural ham, something he never showed during his long tenure with Lonesome River Band. His emergence as a major part of the D&V live show is most welcome, and simply hilarious.
This attention to detail on stage is just the most visible aspect of the professionalism that has made this group so successful in such a short time. They carry the same sort of precision over to their business management as well, where Dailey said that they now employ 17 people to help them both on the road and off.
“We have a business meeting every Monday where we set our priorities for the week, and then we rehearse every Monday afternoon. Darrin and I split up the leadership duties so that we can make sure no detail goes unattended.”
I wondered whether the move to having a full-time bass singer might signal an intention to move away from bluegrass to southern Gospel, but Jamie was quick to disabuse me of that notion.
“We are a bluegrass band, and we will always be a bluegrass band. It’s really important to us that we do everything we can to make bluegrass better, in our small way. The music has always changed as new artists come into it, and we want to leave it better off than when we found it.”
Dailey & Vincent are well on their way in fulfilling that goal. I’m not sure that bluegrass has ever seen a group that sang so well as they do live, and if they continue to perform at this level, and handle their business as competently as they have to date, bluegrass music will be forever in their debt. Don’t miss this show when it comes your way.
I also picked up a copy of the Statler tribute CD at the show, and will have more to say about that soon. It will be available on February 1 at more than 600 Cracker Barrel restaurants across the US.