Music News & Reviews

The voices of experience: that's Dailey & Vincent

The bluegrass duo Dailey & Vincent — Jamie Dailey, left, and Darrin Vincent — has released four albums in less than three years.
The bluegrass duo Dailey & Vincent — Jamie Dailey, left, and Darrin Vincent — has released four albums in less than three years.

Sure, they front one of the most commanding bluegrass bands of the day. But it's best not to buy into every claim that falls from the mouths of Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent.

Take, for example, how the two artists met. Both were backstage at the 2001 International Bluegrass Music Association's annual awards show in Louisville.

"I walked up and introduced myself," guitarist/vocalist Dailey said by phone. "He wouldn't even speak back to me. I thought, 'What a snob.'"

A single beat of silence followed. Then a roar of laughter ensued that was made doubly uproarious by the fact that bassist/vocalist Vincent was also on the telephone line and in on the joke.

It's just another day on the road for what has become the biggest bluegrass success story in ages. In less than three years, the duo has cut four albums, snagged almost every major IBMA award and gained more than a little attention from the country music market.

"We had no idea things would take off as they did," Vincent said. "We just had a good feeling about our vocal blend, so we put our best foot forward by doing our very best shows."

Maybe one of the reasons Dailey & Vincent has been accepted so readily by bluegrass audiences is because many fans already were versed in their individual talents.

Dailey, 35, spent a decade as a bassist-turned-guitarist and vocalist for the staunchly traditional bluegrass ensemble Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver. Vincent, 40, was playing to audiences when he was 6 years old as part of his family's band, The Sally Mountain Show. Then came Grammy-nominated production work for albums by sister Rhonda Vincent that overlapped his extensive tenure with Ricky Skaggs' band Kentucky Thunder.

Today, they credit these associations for helping set the stage — not just musically, but also in bandleading, managing and producing — for what became Dailey & Vincent.

"Discipline, discipline, discipline," Dailey said when recounting what he picked up from his time with Lawson. "He really taught everyone in his band to be disciplined in their singing, in their playing and in their stage performance."

"I guess it was all a good training ground," Vincent said of his pre-duo days. "You can never be prepared for everything. But experience has been key for us. Our manager (Don Light) has always said, 'There is no substitute for experience and only one way to get it.'"

That way, of course, is simple hard work. Dailey & Vincent's self-titled debut album was released in January 2008. Brothers From Different Mothers followed in March 2009, with a gospel session, Singing From the Heart, hitting stores just seven months later. Incessant touring also helped to fan the musical flames, not only in expected bluegrass strongholds such as Virginia, the Carolinas and, yes, Kentucky, but in more unlikely ports, including New York.

In a review for The New York Times, Jon Caramanica called a 2009 Dailey & Vincent show at Joe's Pub "a sharp performance that they treated with dignity and, ultimately, joy."

"We have a good chemistry," Vincent said. "We have a lot of the same beliefs and the same likes. Heck, we eat the same foods. It's really like what that record title says: brothers of different mothers. We have a really close bond with the same outlook and goals in life. And I don't think something like that just happens by chance."

The fourth and newest album, released in February, was a project that fell outside the projected trajectory of most commercially minded bands. The title says it all: Dailey & Vincent Sing the Statler Brothers. It was a tribute to the popular '70s and '80s country-gospel group known for its vocal harmonies.

"Our management wasn't thrilled at the time with us doing that kind of record, because our career was so young," Dailey said. "They thought it might send mixed signals."

It didn't. The album debuted at No. 1 on Billboard magazine's bluegrass albums chart and, perhaps more surprisingly, No. 19 on the top country albums chart.

The duo's next recording will enlist veteran Nashville producer Garth Fundis. Does that mean an even deeper country direction is in the offing?

"I wouldn't expect that it would," said Dailey. "I think we're just going to do Dailey & Vincent music."