RECORD LABEL:Mountain Home Music Company
LOCATION:Greenville, South Carolina
Ask award-winning bluegrass mandolinist Wayne Benson what prompted a recording partnership with his wife, award-winning banjo player Kristin Scott Benson, and the answer is straightforward: “I think we have something to say,” he says. “We share a lot of the same vision musically.”
That may sound simple, but the fact is, getting there took the better part of the 21st century for these veteran players, married since 2000 but only rarely collaborating in the studio, and never as jointly featured artists. Still, as Kristin notes, changes in the business of making records—and a global pandemic that shut down the touring schedules on which both relied for their living—eventually created a new opportunity that the two have embraced through the creation of their duo, the appropriately named Benson.
“The paradigm for recorded music has changed so much during our careers,” she observes. “Success for bluegrass artists used to depend on a heavy touring schedule and selling physical product at those shows. Radio airplay was quite limited. It’s a totally different world these days, and the current landscape allows us the opportunity to share music through streaming, Sirius/XM, and many radio outlets that also include an online component. Certainly since COVID, we’ve all figured out alternative ways to connect with listeners.”
Benson’s first single, “Conway,” serves to validate both Bensons’ observations—thanks to their demonstrably strong shared musical vision, it’s likely to connect with listeners. With an informal-sounding intro that quickly slides into a mandolin statement of the tune’s melody over a funk-grass rhythmic bed supplied by guitarist and long-time friend Cody Kilby (Travelin’ McCourys) and electric bassist Paul Watson (Carley Arrowood Band), “Conway” establishes immediately that it’s the product of a unique interaction between the two principals. From there, the Bensons trade solos with Kilby, with long-time fiddler friend Jim VanCleve (Appalachian Road Show) and, of course, with one another in a strong musical announcement of this distinctive collaboration.
“Wayne wrote ‘Conway’ several years ago, and I remember when he recorded it at home,” recalls Kristin. “It has a nice feel and it’s fun to play. I thought Paul especially did a great job on bass, because this song requires some groove! We left the banjo out at times to give it some dynamics.”
“I wrote this tune in Conway, SC,” Wayne elaborates, “at a bluegrass festival we were playing. It was one of those songs that I wasn’t sure about, but demoed it anyway. The folks at Mountain Home really liked it, so we recorded it and they decided to make it the first single!”
KEY SELLING POINTS
- Benson is comprised of award-winning banjo player Kristin Scott Benson (five-time IBMA Banjo Player of the Year, recipient of the Steve Martin Award for Excellence in Bluegrass and Banjo and member of the GRAMMY-nominated Grascals) and her husband, award-winning mandolinist Wayne Benson (25-year veteran of the seven-time IBMA Vocal Group of the Year, Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out)