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Jul 20, 2015

Dailey and Vincent bring rock attitude to bluegrass

Greenville News

Donna Isbell Walker, [email protected] 1:36 p.m. EDT July 17, 2015

Dailey and Vincent have been called the rock stars of bluegrass, but don’t look for tales of rock ’n’roll debauchery from the duo.

In fact, Darrin Vincent laughs long and hard — a hearty cackle that rises a couple of octaves and trails off into a giggle — when asked just how rock ’n’ roll they can be.

“The sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll thing doesn’t apply,” Vincent said in a recent phone interview. “But as far as us doing an entertaining show and doing it to an extreme level, keeping the bar high, always putting out great music — I think that’s where that rock star (label came from). ... We try to give the fans a great experience, something they can’t get anywhere else. ... As far as the stigmas and that other stuff, believe me, it doesn’t apply.”

Never mind driving cars into swimming pools; the craziest thing Vincent can remember was the time they stacked a nursery’s worth of potted plants in front of a bandmate’s hotel room door, making it tough for the guy to leave his room the next morning.

Dailey and Vincent, who play the Peace Center’s Rock the River series on July 30, are far more interested in honing their musicianship than securing a spot in the pantheon of rock star misbehavior. Over the past eight years, the duo has notched up critical accolades and a trophy case full of awards, including 14 from the International Bluegrass Music Association.

While bluegrass is the foundation of Dailey and Vincent’s music, the threads of gospel are woven throughout the songs. That makes sense, Vincent said, because gospel was the foundation on which bluegrass was built.

“Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass, he’s the one who really birthed this music, and his very first song was a gospel song. ‘What Will You Give in Exchange for Your Soul?’ was the very first song he recorded with his brother, Charlie Monroe. ... And he’s always incorporated secular music and mixed in the gospel message with the secular music, and it’s just something that’s stuck,” Vincent said.

The uplifting messages of gospel music are also important for Dailey and Vincent, and they always try to focus on the brighter side of life in their songs. That’s largely because of their strong Christian faith, Vincent said.

“We can sing a positive message that reflects our beliefs and something that we think will help people, without beating them over the head,” he said. “There’s different ministers and different ways of getting the gospel out, but we choose to do it through the subtleness of the song.”

Even so, Vincent doesn’t want to be pigeonholed into a specific genre. Some fans and critics consider them traditional country, but they’ve found their music sometimes appeals to listeners who don’t think they like bluegrass, Vincent said.

“They’ll come up to me and say they hate the twangy music and the bad songs and all that kind of thing. But yet they like what we do because we do such a variety of music, and the entertainment factor, the laughter, the comedy stuff that we do, and the message in the songs, it goes back to that,” he said.

Dailey and Vincent are also taking their career down a slightly unconventional path. For the past few years, they have released their albums through the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain. Their latest is a live CD and DVD release called “Alive.”

It’s been a great experience, and a chance to reach new audiences, Vincent said.

“We’re, I believe, the first artist to have three exclusive CDs through Cracker Barrel’s music program,” he said. “That really was a big hit for us, emotionally and just career-wise, it was a big hit to be able to say that. Having a million people walk through your store, as an unknown act — I mean, we’re not Taylor Swift or anything like that — for our genre of music, we’re not going to get radio play like they do. So really, that was our No. 1 hit, getting in that store.”

Bluegrass is known for the often extraordinary instrumental skills of its performers, and Vincent spent several years playing with one of the genre’s most revered artists, Ricky Skaggs.

As a member of Skaggs’ band Kentucky Thunder, Vincent saw up-close the level of craftsmanship and care Skaggs put into his music. It left a lasting impression.

“The musicianship and the quality of music that you do is very important. I think that’s one of the reasons Ricky’s had such longevity in music, that people just crave what he does,” Vincent said. “He’s always got incredible musicians around him, and he always puts out great music. And I think that’s what I’ve learned from being with Ricky, is those two important elements: keeping great musicians around you and always keeping the bar high when you put out music. ‘Cause it’s forever; once you put it out there, you can’t take it back.”