A little more than eight years ago, Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent uprooted themselves from two immensely prestigious bluegrass bands — Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver for the former and Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder for the latter — to form a duo that would bear their own names.
With 2015 coming to a close, one can see how well the resulting alliance worked. Dailey & Vincent have become a monstrously popular act built on bluegrass tradition but with generous leanings to gospel and country, and a performance style that blends virtuoso picking and harmony vocals with the expansiveness and agility of an orchestra. Of course, back in 2007, Vincent didn’t have much inkling as to what fortunes awaited the duo. In fact, he said, the whole formation of Dailey & Vincent wasn’t even his idea.
“Honestly, I never thought about doing this,” Vincent says. “Jaime had the idea and the vision for all of it. When he was with Doyle, he said, ‘Look, I’ve been here nine years. Financially, we’re never going to get past this mark we’re at today. If we don’t do something out on our own, we’re always going to be here.’
“We had already started a band together, but in January 2007, Jaime said, ‘This is our year to do this.’ He gave Doyle Lawson a year’s notice and I gave Ricky a year’s notice. We said, ‘Look, at the end of this year, we’re going to stop. We’re starting our own thing.’ So we went a whole year not knowing how long we would last. Looking back, Jaime made it to the middle of August with Doyle and I made it all the way to the first of November with Ricky. It was a blessing, but it was also a scary time back then. The bottom fell out of the economy, fuel prices went up. It was a hard time to start a band and start a new business. But we’ve come a long way in eight years.”
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During that time, Dailey & Vincent chalked up 13 International Bluegrass Music Association Awards, a trio of Grammy nominations and accolades for high-energy performances that inspired the CMT network to dub the duo as “the rock stars of bluegrass.”
But from the onset, Dailey & Vincent were as much about instinct as tradition. After releasing the duo’s first three albums in a 19-month period, Dailey felt compelled to devote a record to one of his strongest musical inspirations: the country-gospel vocal group The Statler Brothers. Vincent was game for the idea, but no one at the business end of the duo’s affairs was especially thrilled.
“Our label, Rounder Records, said, ‘Look, you guys are brand-new. This is too early to do a tribute record in your career,’” Vincent says. “Our management didn’t want anything to do with it, either.”
What turned the corner on the project was as an abbreviated set at the Ryman Auditorium, where Dailey & Vincent performed one of the Statlers’ most established hits, the harmony-rich Elizabeth. In the audience were executives from Cracker Barrel, the country restaurant/store chain that also operated its own record label.
“As soon as we got backstage, they had somehow made it back there and said, ‘Look, how can we partner up with you guys? We are open to any ideas you have.’ Jamie just dropped his guitar and said, ‘Well, I’ve got this idea for a tribute to the Statler Brothers I would like for us to do.’ They said, ‘Count us in. We’re on board.’ After that, Rounder said, ‘Yeah, that’s a great idea,’ and our management said, ‘That’s a perfect idea.’”
Vincent lets out a howl of laughter at the recollection. “I love it.” Dailey & Vincent Sing the Statler Brothers was released in early 2010.
Today, the focus for Dailey & Vincent is a new live CD/DVD set called Alive! In Concert. Recorded on the campus of George Mason University in Manassas, Va., the recording underscores the instrumental support of the duo’s backing band but also uses the university’s 50-member orchestra and 100-member choir. What results is an atypically massive sound for a bluegrass project.
“Just being in the moment onstage, listening to the strings plus our band, the music sounded huge,” Vincent says. “It was so beautiful and full of joy. Me and Jaime didn’t want to stop. We were like, ‘Let’s do this again.’ It was wonderful.”
Read Walter Tunis’ blog, The Musical Box, at LexGo.com