Kenny & Amanda Smith
Kenny and Amanda Smith met while he was in the midst of a six-year stint with the Lonesome River Band. In fact, it was at a Lonesome River Band concert that the couple met. Their enthusiasm for the music and shared outlooks on life, faith, and family made it all but inevitable that they would become husband and wife.
Musically, Kenny and Amanda both brought tremendous talent to their personal and professional partnership. He was a powerhouse guitarist who won awards at Winfield, Merlefest, SPBGMA, and from Bluegrass Now magazine and IBMA. She has gone on to be called “one of the genre’s best vocalists.” The duo was stunned when they were nominated – and won – the IBMA award for Emerging Artist in 2003. The following year, they released the first of four recordings that they made for Rebel.
House Down the Block (Reb-1798) featured a solid cast of pickers and singers. Front and center was Kenny’s phenomenal guitar and Amanda’s expressive and on-the-mark vocals. Added to this was Ronald Inscore’s solid mandolin work, Greg Martin’s steady bass, and banjo builder Steve Huber’s sharp 5-string playing. Songs came from a variety of sources, many of which were penned by some of today’s most prolific bluegrass songwriters, such as Becky Buller and Tim Stafford. Kenny Smith even added some of his own material to the mix. Lending even more variety to the proceedings were a pair of tunes usually associated with western swing icon Bob Wills, “Big Ball in Boston” and “Stay a Little Longer.”
The formula for Kenny and Amanda’s Rebel debut worked so well, they opted not to tinker with success. Always Never Enough (Reb-1811) followed much of the same format. Amanda applied her lovely lead vocals to seven of the songs while Kenny tackled five of them. The recording showed off two new band members, bass player Alan Bartram and mandolin player Jason Robertson. In addition to new fare from Tim Stafford, Steve Gulley, and Becky Buller, the band reprised several bluegrass and country classics from the likes of Carter Stanley, Webb Pierce, and Mel Tillis.
Perhaps Kenny and Amanda’s crowning achievement at Rebel was the creation of their gospel recording Tell Someone (Reb-1821). The disc scored well on a number of points. At the top of the list was the beautiful singing of Amanda Smith that was accented by Kenny’s harmonies. No less important was the wonderful assortment of well-chosen songs, the solid and tasteful picking, and the obvious attention to detail that was provided by the recording studio. The songs ranged from recent compositions to Southern gospel quartet favorites. Noted gospel composer Luther Presley supplied the disc’s opening track, “Shoutin’ Time,” which featured a guest appearance by Rhonda Vincent.
Live and Learn (Reb-1828) was Kenny and Amanda’s fourth disc for Rebel. Ace banjo/fiddle player Ron Stewart was brought in as a special guest. Tim Stafford’s material, which was absent from the previous gospel recording, reasserted itself here in the form of “Changing,” a song he co-wrote with Brandi Hart and Buddy Woodward. Other newer material included songs written or co-written by Kenny Smith, “Words You Use” and “Icicle Canyon.” These played nicely against Norman Blake’s “Randall Collins,” the traditional “Cruel Willie,” and a 1960s song recorded by George Jones and Melba Montgomery called “I’d Jump the Mississippi.”