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Trey Hensley
It Is What It Is Review By Steven Stone
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  Trey Hensley’s second release, It Is What It Is, doesn’t sound like it comes from a performer who wasn’t even alive in 1989. To call Trey Hensley an “old soul” or “throwback” misses the point. His take on country music isn’t merely a neo-traditional re-arrangement of the musical furniture, but a complete gut of the room. Hensley’s ability to include the best parts of traditional country while eliminating the polluting elements of modern Nashville hot-country “radio friendly” fodder demonstrates a level of musical taste and discernment only a very mature musician can muster.

Hensley’s career began early. He started to play guitar at 10 and by 11 he was performing on Grand Ol Opry’s stage with old pros, including Marty Stuart and Earl Scruggs. Stuart called Hensley a “bona fide hillbilly rock star” when Hensley’s first album, Looking at My Future, came out in 2008. From the beginning Hensley was drawn to the classic country of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Hensley performs a mixture of tunes by both contemporary songwriters and earlier country numbers. His ability to distill that classic country sound, regardless of when tunes were penned, makes it nearly impossible to tell which songs are from the 60’s and which were written recently.

Looking at pictures of Trey Hensley, it’s hard to imagine that his vocals really come from such a baby-faced young man. His voice has a particularly rich resonance that oozes certain level of worldliness that’s difficult to reconcile with Hensley’s youth. His vocal style reminds me of the great country singers such as Ferlin Husky, Conway Twitty, and Hank Snow. Hensley is also one mean guitar picker. On Larry Gatlin’s “Willie Jack Willis” Hensley pulls out a passel of hot licks, twisting his telecaster’s strings into musical shapes reminiscent of the late Jerry Reed and Don Rich. Hensley’s use of bass runs to complement his upper register pedal-steel riffs grounds his playing so it’s not techno-flash, but melodically driven.

Is the world of “hot” country music ready for a classic country throwback? Trey Hensley aims to find out. I wish him the best of luck, because It Is What It Is has got more soul in the first ten seconds than you’ll find in an hour on any commercial country music radio station in America.

 

 

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