The Pocahontas County Opera House welcomes Kenny and Amanda Smith to its stage on Saturday, Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m.
Winners of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s prestigious Emerging Artist of the Year award in 2003, the Kenny and Amanda Smith Band combines gutsy, heartfelt vocals, brilliant instrumental talents and a powerful, contemporary sense of song choice and arrangement into one of the most compelling new sounds in bluegrass today.
A creation of the intensely personal musical and romantic connection between Kenny and Amanda, the band shares an all-too-rare sense of intimacy and cohesion where each musician feels an almost telepathic connection. Musicians call it being in the groove, where the group collectively accents each beat in precisely the same way. With Kenny leading the way on guitar, this band never has trouble finding the groove.
Originally from Nine Mile, Indiana, Kenny is widely considered one of the most important and influential flatpicking-style guitarists of his generation. A two-time International Bluegrass Music Association “Guitarist of the Year” award winner, his professional credits include six years with the popular Lonesome River Band and an exceptional solo CD, Studebaker, released on Sugar Hill Records in 1997.
Kenny is in great demand at guitar workshops and master classes, teaching at the renowned Roanoke Bluegrass Weekend series and at guitar workshops at major events such as IBMA. He has just released a two-DVD instruction set on AcuTab Publications.
Born in the small town of Davisville, WV, Amanda grew up singing in church choirs and participating in talent contests at local fairs.
“I always sang, my mom and dad said, even before I can remember,” she says.
She started playing guitar in high school to accompany herself, and soon discovered bluegrass music through female artists such as Rhonda Vincent and Alison Krauss.
Amanda met Kenny at a Lonesome River Band concert, and the couple began dating and playing music together almost immediately.
“I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight, but there was definitely something there,” she says.
Their shared Christian faith, love for bluegrass and desire to perform together led them to record a debut CD, Slowly But Surely, in 2001. Recruiting several of their favorite players for the session, the album surged up the bluegrass charts on the strength of their hit song, “Amy Brown.”
Winning IBMA’s Emerging Artist Award came as an unexpected thrill for the band.
“We were blown away just to be nominated; we didn’t know whether anyone was even paying attention to what we were doing” says Kenny. “So, to hear our names called and to go up on that stage was just amazing.”
Tickets for their Opera House performance are $10 for adults and free for anyone 17 years old and younger. Tickets are available at pocahontasoperahouse.org, the Fourth Avenue Gallery in Marlinton, and at the door the evening of the performance.
Performances at the Opera House are informal, family-friendly and open to all. The entrance and main seating are accessible to persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities are encouraged to attend; special accommodations can be arranged upon request by calling 304-799-6645.
The Opera House Performance Series is presented with financial assistance through a grant from the WV Division of Culture and History and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the WV Commission on the Arts. Support is also provided by Pocahontas County Drama, Fairs and Festivals and the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau.