Drop the needle on any song on World Full of Blues — there’s not a bad song here simply because Dobro player Rob Ickes and guitarist and singer Trey Hensley are two of the finest musicians playing today. The two play off each other so well that it’s sometimes hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. On this album, Ickes and Hensley wander over a wide musical territory, moving fluidly from the blues to country to rock to jazz, layering horns, piano, and B3 over their smoothly flowing guitar and Dobro runs.
The duo delivers its best Chuck Berry vibe on “Suzanne,” which Hensley co-wrote with Larry Cordle and Larry Shell. Hensley and Ickes swap instruments here, with Hensley playing a resonator guitar and Ickes playing his grandfather’s Montgomery Ward guitar. Mike Bub’s bass drives the song along, and Jim Hoke’s sax blows in with gale force on the chorus. The slow country weeper “There’s Always Something to Remind Me of You” waltzes along Ickes’ shimmering Dobro and Pete Wasner’s floating B3 chords. Ickes and Hensley toodle off St. Louis-style on “Nobody Can Tell Me I Can’t,” a swinging number fueled by Hoke’s clarinet, Bill Huber’s trombone and tuba, and Wasner’s juke joint piano. The song marches off with a New Orleans’ flourish.
Ickes and Hensley display their canny virtuosity on the rapid-fire instrumental “The Fatal Shore,” on which John Jorgenson lays down a resonant B3 foundation. Taj Mahal provides a growling introduction to the title track before the duo launches into a Memphis soul blues, featuring transcendent background vocals from Vicki Hampton and Wendy Moten. Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter would certainly be proud of Ickes and Hensley’s straight-ahead, jaunty version of the Dead’s “Brown-Eyed Women.”
Hensley’s crisp, always-the-right-note guitar riffs and leads weave in and around Ickes’ equally never-waste-a-note shimmering Dobro chords and runs. World Full of Blues illustrates Ickes and Hensley’s musical ingenuity, their deep love for their instruments and the music they play, and their ability to meet each other on a common musical ground, depart from it to explore other lands, and circle back to the place where they started.