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Southern Songs and Stories - They've Got It Covered: The Bluegrass of Darin and Brooke Aldridge

Cover art for Darin and Brooke’s seventh studio album, Inner Journey
Cover art for Darin and Brooke’s seventh studio album, Inner Journey";

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 drawing 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.

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

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Joe Kendrick grew up far off in the woods at in rural Stanfield, NC, where he acquired his first Sony Walkman, listened to both AM and FM radio from Charlotte, went to Nascar races at Charlotte Motor Speedway, attended a small Baptist church, read Rolling Stone, subscribed to cassette clubs, and played one very forgettable season of high school football. From there, Joe studied Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was able to fulfill his dream of being a disc jockey at WXYC. He volunteered at WNCW soon after graduation.