American roots music has seen its fair share of beloved duos over the years—from The Monroe Brothers and Flatt & Scruggs to modern-day pairs like Milk Carton Kids and The War and Treaty—but few leave audiences as amazed as Grammy Award nominees Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley. Built on the interplay of Ickes’s Dobro and Hensley’s six-string guitar, the only thing outshining the virtuosity of this group’s instrumental performances is their singing and songwriting prowess. On February 10th, Ickes and Hensley are set to release a new full-length album via Compass Records, Living In A Song. Featuring ten original tunes plus two timeless covers, and focusing on a classic country sound as heard in contemporaries like Chris Stapleton, Jamey Johnson, Sturgill Simpson, and Jason Isbell, Living In A Song is a love letter to a bygone Nashville and an in-depth look at the wonderful interplay between two masters of their craft.
Today, Ickes and Hensley shared a sneak peek of Living In A Song, the album’s title track which grew out of their experiences as touring musicians. According to Hensley, the song practically wrote itself after a long day on the road driving through Ohio. When Hensley digs into the lyrics there is no question that he has lived the story he is telling, lifted up even further when Ickes’ tenor harmony enters the chorus.
Fans can check out “Living In A Song” today at this link and pre-order or pre-save Living In A Song ahead of its February 10th release right here. Rob and Trey will next take the stage on December 30th in Asheville, North Carolina, with their friends Leftover Salmon. A full list of tour dates can be found below or at robandtrey.com/#shows.
More About Living In A Song: Rob and Trey re-enlisted Grammy-winning producer Brent Maher (The Judds, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson) for the project (they worked together on Rob and Trey’s previous album release, World Full Of Blues). The three-man team wrote several songs together for this project. Additionally, Rob and Trey teamed with other award-winning songwriters to collaborate, which resulted in over 40 songs to choose from when it came time to record. Ickes and Hensley made a conscious decision to focus on their songwriting craft and lean the music in a classic country direction, with some elements of Americana and bluegrass thrown in for good measure. The results of their collaboration show the depth of their musicianship and are nothing short of stellar.
“Deeper Than A Dirt Road” is a radio-friendly, feel-good paean to rural living, evoking life in the tiny East Tennessee town where Hensley was raised. And the duo’s rendition of “Way Downtown” draws its inspiration from Doc Watson’s version recorded 50 years ago on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Will The Circle Be Unbroken album, giving the duo a chance to trade some tasty licks with fiddle virtuoso Stuart Duncan. While a lot of Living In A Song focuses on acoustic instruments, “Moonshine Run” finds Rob and Trey ripping on lap steel and electric guitar in addition to their signature un-amplified instruments. “I had this song pieced together for a few years,” remembers Hensley. “I grew up near a river bridge and had always heard stories from the ‘other side of the bridge.’ It seemed to be a divider for the town I grew up in.” The song’s lyrics put it more bluntly: “That river’s bridge cuts the town in two / Between the common day sinners and the chosen few.” The song that began as Hensley’s collection of stories was finished with Ickes and prolific songwriter Thomm Jutz. The unison vocal and guitar lick that closes out each chorus bring the duo as close to classic rock as they may have ever been. “Hear me roarin’ down the valley on a moonshine run.”
Life’s challenges play a key role in the inspiration for Living In A Song. “Is the World Still Turning” was the first song written for the project and is a gorgeous broken-hearted love song inspired by the historically unprecedented shutdown at the beginning of the pandemic. “I Thought I Saw a Carpenter” is another heartfelt ballad, inspired by Ickes’ father’s words as he lay dying from cancer; the emotion that Ickes captures in his Dobro solo is as poignant as any vocal. The album closes with “Thanks,” a track reminiscent of early Johnny Cash. Hensley wrote words to the melody penned by his friend Lyle Brewer and once he started working on it found that the song arrived quickly, giving him the opportunity to reflect on his love for his family as he put pen to paper. The demo version of the track had such a great feel that it ended up being the master, with producer Maher playing “percussion” on the back of an old Gretsch guitar.
Living In A Song Tracklist:
Living In A Song
Deeper Than A Dirt Road
Backstreets Off Broadway
I’ve Given All That I Can Take
I’m Working On A Building
Is The World Still Turning
I Thought I Saw A Carpenter
Catch Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley On Tour (more dates to be announced soon):
Dec. 30 – Asheville, NC – Salvage Station*
Jan. 23 – Lexington, KY – Michael Johnathan’s WoodSongs at Lyric Theatre^
Feb. 10 – Johnson City, TN – The Down Home
Feb. 16 – Knoxville, TN – Barley’s
Feb. 17 – Cartersville, GA – The Booth Museum’s Boots & Saddles Pre-Gala Party
Feb. 18 – Decatur, GA – Eddie’s Attic
Feb. 22 – Washington, DC – City Winery
Feb. 23 – Philadelphia, PA – City Winery
Feb. 26 – Portsmouth, NH – The Music Hall Lounge
Feb. 27 – New York, NY – City Winery
March 24 – Raleigh, NC – Private Event
March 31 – Phoenix, AZ – MIM: Musical Instrument Museum
April 1 – Tucson, AZ – Tucson Folk Festival
May 11 – Athens, AL – Fiddlers Concert Series
October 14 – Williamsburg, KY – River Stomp Bluegrass Festival
*with Leftover Salmon
^with Jason Carter
For all dates and ticket information, please visit robandtrey.com/#shows.