The Bensons discuss Benson, and their first single, Conway

After 20 plus years of marriage, Kristin Scott Benson, award winning banjoist with The Grascals, and Wayne Benson, longtime mandolinist with Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, have finally recorded some music together. The name they perform under is appropriately chosen as Benson.

Wayne explained how their musical collaboration came to fruition. “We have always been busy doing our own things, playing in our own bands. Even before COVID, we were teaching lessons and there are always side projects going on, so it never really occurred to us to pursue something together.”

“When we weren’t working, we wanted to have family time with our son (Hogan). When COVID hit, everyone’s perspective changed, including ours. We were basically shut-in together like everyone else, and that made us start thinking differently. We began teaching more and were together all the time for the first time ever in our marriage.”

Kristin elaborated on their recording. “We feel really lucky to be recording with the folks at Mountain Home. I’ve enjoyed a great relationship with them for years through The Grascals, and with my banjo albums. So we recorded at their studio in Asheville, NC in 2021.”

“We have Cody Kilby on guitar, Paul Watson on bass, Jim VanCleve on fiddle, and Grayson Lane, Mickey Harris, Heath Williams, and Jamie Johnson on vocals, plus Tony Creasman on percussion for a few cuts. They all did such a wonderful job.”

Their first release from their album is a hot, hard-driving instrumental, Conway, which debuted last week.

Wayne described his creation. “I wrote this tune on IIIrd Tyme Out’s bus at a festival in Conway, SC. I’m a closet electric bass player and kind of wrote this tune with the idea of being able to play bass on the demo just for fun. Paul, who played bass on the studio cut, really did a great job helping to create the groove. It’s a groovy song. That’s kind of the point of this instrumental.”

Kristin detailed more about the remainder of the project. “It’s fairly varied. We have some straight-ahead bluegrass and some forward-leaning material, both vocally and instrumentally. I’m really happy with a Gospel song called Oh Me of Little Faith that we asked our worship pastor to sing. I can’t believe we hear him every week at church. In Nashville, you’re used to music being amazing because there are so many musicians, but here we are in upstate South Carolina and we have this really special singer leading services. Grayson Lane is a young vocal talent that a lot of people have noticed, and we were super-excited to have him sing two songs. He’s got everything you want in a singer. He can sing really high, but still has depth and texture. We really love the timbre of his voice.”

“We recorded a Beatles song, I’ll Follow the Sun, that I’ve loved for years. I’ve heard Jamie Johnson sing a lot of things besides bluegrass, and he’s great at this sort of thing.”

“We sped up an old bluegrass song and turned it into a straight-ahead barnburner. Mickey Harris is such a seasoned pro. He sang lead on that one and all of the harmony throughout. Mickey, like Cody (Kilby) and Jim (VanCleve), are long-time friends from when we were practically kids, so it’s always nice to reunite with them. Paul (Watson) plays with Carley Arrowood and is a stellar bass player. It’s fun to interact with young musicians. Tony Creasman plays percussion on most of Mountain Home’s projects and he’s so tasteful. He’s perfect for bluegrass and a few of these really called for that.”

Wayne stressed, “I think this is a good representation of us as a combo. It’s not exactly like what Kristin has recorded on her own and it’s not exactly like anything I’ve recorded. We have original instrumentals, but we’ve both really spent our careers being band players, so it makes sense that the album has vocals, too.”

“We’ve been married almost 22 years and have never done anything like this, so I hope people like it. COVID changed every family. Work and home life look different now, not for just musicians… everyone. It finally made sense to do this. Also, recording doesn’t require a ton of shows and as a way to sell physical product anymore. In many ways, that’s sad because record sales used to be a big part of what kept bands on the road, but the world has changed.”

Kristin concluded, “You know, neither one of us has ever had a strong desire to play together, for lots of reasons. It really isn’t practical, for one thing, because we are raising our son and if we’re both gone we call on my mom to be with him. There are plenty of days that one of us is home and the other isn’t, so that works to our advantage. We’re not gone at the same time, every time we go to play. Of course, he’s 15 now and has a driver’s permit. He’ll be able to drive alone soon, so we’re both enjoying and grieving the new season of life where he is more independent. So, this is a way to create something musically together that doesn’t tamper with our home life. It’s a totally new endeavor and we’re excited about it. Like Wayne said, it was finally time!”

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.