- Joe Kendrick
No survey of current bluegrass is accurate without mention of Darin and Brooke Aldridge. The husband and wife duo, whose first album came in 2008, are now at the center of what contemporary bluegrass does best. And they have the hardware and chart hits to attest to that, for starters: Brooke is the 4-time, reigning IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year, and their 2019 album Inner Journey rose to the top of the charts, surprising no one on both counts.
That they are among the best at what they do is a given, but their proximity to and influence at the core of the bluegrass community is perhaps less obvious. As flag bearers, they are helping lead the overall sound in new directions that some may not have foreseen. Taking in outside influences comes naturally to bluegrass as a rule, but taking on material outside of the canon of American authorship can be crazy or genius, depending on who does it. Darin and Brooke Aldridge play songs written by themselves, as well as songs by colleagues and collaborators like John Cowan and Vince Gill, but their song IQ seems highest when it comes to putting chestnuts like “Tennessee Flat Top Box” or “Tear-Stained Letter” into sharp focus. By sticking the landing every time, they elevate and give new context, both to bluegrass and those originals.
I spoke with Darin and Brooke over a video call (linked here), where we talked about their knack for making great covers, what projects they have going on now, their work life outside of music, how they would pitch bluegrass music to someone who had not yet heard it, and a whole lot more. They also have a new song for Christmas called “Light Of the Stable”, which is part of music featured on this episode.
Thanks for visiting Southern Songs and Stories, and I hope you might tell someone you know about the series. You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, TuneIn, and all other major platforms. And once you subscribe, it really helps when you give it a good rating and a review. Southern Songs and Stories is a part of the podcast lineup of both public radio WNCW and Osiris Media, with all of the Osiris shows available here. You can also hear new episodes of this podcast on Bluegrass Planet Radio here. – Joe Kendrick
Songs heard in this episode:
“Foggy Mountain Rock” by Darin & Brooke Aldridge from Live at Red, White and Bluegrass!, excerpt
“Emmylou” by Darin and Brooke Aldridge from Inner Journey, excerpt
“Light Of the Stable” by Darin & Brooke Aldridge
“Someone’s Everything” by Darin and Brooke Aldridge from Inner Journey