Bluegrass artists Trey Hensley (left) and Rob Ickes caused a stir during a performance Thursday at the Ellen Eccles Theater in downtown Logan.
LOGAN — It was two for a Thursday night at the Ellen Eccles Theater in downtown Logan.
Straight out of Nashville, guitarists and dobro artists Trey Hensley and Rob Ickes performed bluegrass songs celebrating moonlight, dirt roads, heartbroken mothers and all things country, plus tunes instrumentals and interludes hotter than a two dollar gun.
But a pair of local musicians who were invited to be their opening act nearly stole the show.
This surprising duo consisted of guitarist Corey Christiansen, professor of music at Utah State University, and fellow USU professor Braun Khan on double bass.
Between tunes, Christiansen confessed that 28 years had passed since he last performed on the Eccles stage, but his performance clearly demonstrated why the USU professor is fast becoming recognized as one of the guitarists and the most eminent music teachers in the world.
Christiansen and Khan share strong jazz, and their overly brief opening set featured the familiar opening and closing bars of standard tunes, with complex jazz variations in between. These tracks included “Summertime” by Porgie and Bess by George Gershwin and “What’s New”, a 1939 hit by Bing Crosby.
Hensley and Ickes performed a much longer set, mostly tunes of their own composition.
Ickes presented Hensley as a talented guitar picker and singer, as well as a gifted songwriter, which he admitted “is just not fair”.
Ickes and Hensley have been performing as a duo continuously since 2013, but their usual touring schedule came to a screeching halt until recently, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
This break not only gave these performers time to write new original music, but also gave them a chance to reconnect with their own families.
“I was surprised to find out that I had two very beautiful children,” Ickes joked.
Besides cracking jokes, Ickes’ superb dobro playing here at Logan demonstrated why he’s the most awarded dobro artist in the history of the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA). He also received numerous Grammy nominations.
The highlight of the local show was Christiansen and Kahn joining Hensley and Ickes to mix their virtuoso jazz and bluegrass talents to a tune improbably made popular by The Grateful Dead.
This unlikely performance knocked the room down, earning him a standing ovation.
The Cache Valley Center for the Arts is an independent, non-profit organization that promotes the use of public arts facilities in Cache Valley.
These facilities include the Ellen Eccles Theatre, Thatcher-Young Mansion and the Bullen Center.