Country singer Skeeter Davis once made an album with the bar-band NRBQ called “She Sings, They Play.” Darin & Brooke Aldridge both sing and play, but their dynamic has a similar division as far as heavy lifting.
Darin is an outstanding picker who can play pretty much anything, whether you’re talking instruments or styles. That made him “the go-to kid to fill in” when he was growing up in Western North Carolina, leading to stints in the Country Gentlemen and Acoustic Syndicate.
As for Brooke, she has one of the best and most expressive voices in the roots-music universe, a sassy and versatile twang that can pull off everything from straight-up gospel to the pop-leaning country that made up most of last year’s album “Flying” (Organic Records).
“Love Does,” a track from “Flying,” is up for best gospel recorded performance in this year’s IBMA Awards.
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Brooke cut her vocalist’s teeth singing gospel with her two older sisters as a child, blossoming as a singer in her mid-teens.
“It’s always been in my blood to be a singer, more so than a player, but I love both,” she says. “Then Darin and I met and we took it to the next level, making a sound for myself in the bluegrass world. People knew him from the Country Gentlemen, but they did not who I was because I’d not been around before. I was about 15 when I realized I could really sing.”
“Yeah,” Darin cracks, “you’ve always been little and loud.” They both laugh, and Brooke adopts an exaggerated drawl to sing a Martina McBride song.
“I’m puny, short and little, but I’m loud.”
As Brooke sings, the Aldridges are seated on the second floor of Shelby’s Earl Scruggs Center. Darin played a behind-the-scenes role with two of the center’s displays, the “Banjo Breakdown” of different banjo styles and the “Common Threads” table that allows visitors to virtually “strum” along to different songs.
Darin was a fitting choice for this because, in addition to being a fine musician, he actually knew Earl Scruggs (who died in 2012). They met when Darin was playing with Flint Hill, Earl’s brother Horace Scruggs’ band.
“When Earl would come back to Shelby to visit, we’d have jam sessions at Horace’s house,” Darin says. “So I’d get to go visit, pick and eat dinner with Earl and Horace.”
“Flying” is the most pop-leaning of the Aldridges’ five albums, and it picked up plenty of “beyond bluegrass”-type reviews (especially for the cover of the Nanci Griffith-penned Suzy Bogguss hit “Outbound Plane”). But they promise that their in-progress sixth album, which should be out in 2015, will be slanted back toward bluegrass.
“There’s a piece of bluegrass and gospel in everything we’ve done,” Darin says. “Our next album will have a lot of favorites from our past, a couple of Bill Monroe songs. Also an old Country Gentlemen tune and an Acoustic Syndicate song. ... It ought to be our most traditional-sounding record in awhile. Maybe ever.”