Kenny & Amanda Smith Band
Kenny and Amanda Smith first met at a Lonesome River Band concert in 1985 when Kenny was playing guitar with that band. Since then, they have gone on to create a partnership that garnered the IBMA (International Bluegrass Musicians Association) 2003 Emerging Artist of the Year award for their musical efforts. As far back as the early 1990's Kenny Smith's reputation put him up with the first rung of elite bluegrass guitar players. Luthier Randy Lucas used Kenny's 1937 D-18 as the model for his Kenny Smith signature model dreadnought. I was a proud owner of one of these instruments, so I can attest to its excellence.
House Down the Block represents Kenny and Amanda Smith's second album. Steve Huber on banjo, Ron Inscore on mandolin, and Greg Martin on bass, join Kenny and Amanda on guitar to form a unit that is both tight and euphonious. Amanda handles most of the lead vocals. Her alto voice has more midrange power than many female vocalists. Tinged with a slight southern lilt, her direct but rhythmic phrasing gives the band's songs drive and momentum. Steve Huber's banjo and Ron Inscore's mandolin solos show they are quite capable of keeping up with Kenny Smith's guitar pyrotechnics. The band's version of “Big Ball In Boston” showcases their ability to play with both lightening speed and creative innovation.
Three original songs by Kenny Smith join material from Dee Shelton (I Know Where Love Lives,) Alan Bartram (Without a Trace,) Bobby Harrison (It's not the Wind,) Tim Stafford (All She Ever Wants,) Mike Evans (I've Traveled down this Lonesome Road Before,) Becky Butler (Why Don't Yo Just Say Goodbye,) Tommy Duncan (Stay A Little Longer,) and Buck Owens (House Down The Block.) I especially like Kenny's instrumental “Song for Emily;” it has a lyrical grace that belies its technical difficulty.
The Kenny and Amanda Smith band fills the musical space halfway between the male bonding of Del McCoury's band and the singularity of bluegrass Diva Rhonda Vincent. They prove that you can have an egalitarian bluegrass band with a female lead that has both rhythmic drive and stellar musicianship.