Album Review

Kenny & Amanda Smith Band - House Down The Block

Kenny & Amanda Smith Band - House Down The Block

When two-time IBMA Guitar Player of the Year Kenny Smith left the Lonesome River Band in late 2001, it took him no time at all to decide to put a band together with his wife Amanda. After self-releasing a strong debut, the new group won the IBMAs Emerging Artist of the Year award, and now have followed it up with the release of their first CD for Rebel Records an album that is, in almost every respect, a winner. For those not familiar with the group, the most surprising elements are likely to be the winsome vocals of Amanda Smith and the powerhouse mandolin picking of Ronald Inscore, who has occasionally filled in for Mountain Hearts mando monster Adam Steffey but is generally underrated. Suffice it to say that he has been a credible substitute, and on this album he shows why. As for Amanda, her vocals might best be described as akin to Rhonda Vincents in their clear, unaccented tone, but not overwhelmingly so. When she tackles well-written contemporary songs such as Alan Bartram and Becky Bullers Without A Trace or Tim Staffords All She Ever Wants Is You, she brings her own distinctive, pleasing touch. Indeed, much of the strength of House Down The Block comes from thoughtful song selection. Stafford, Buller and Kenny Smith each contribute two songs, and theres an inspired resurrection of the regional favorite Its Not The Wind. The disc also includes some nicely selected covers, including the title track (from Buck Owens) and a couple of numbers associated to one degree or another with western swing giant Bob Wills. Add to that Kennys fluid, inventive guitar leads, Steve Hubers nifty banjo picking, and stout, in-the-pocket support from bassist Greg Martin, and theres more than enough to make the IBMA voters look pretty sharp.