ALBUM REVIEW: Award-Winning Husband & Wife Roots Duo Benson Shine On ‘Pick Your Poison’

After over 20 years of marriage, the previously separate musical paths of Wayne and Kristin Scott Benson have finally converged in the form of Benson.

Their beautifully curated new 10-song album, Pick Your Poison – released on Mountain Home Music – celebrates the bluegrass and roots music for which both artists are widely renowned. The duo has combined their passion and talents to craft a selection of songs that captures the infectious energy and heart of bluegrass. 

Celebrated mandolinist Wayne Benson has been playing with Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out for over a decade, earning himself magazine covers, numerous awards, and the development of a signature mandolin model with Gibson. 

Winner of the Steve Martin Award for Excellence in Bluegrass and Banjo and a whopping five IBMA Banjo Player of the Year awards, his wife, Kristin Scott Benson, has steadily made a name for herself in the industry as well. Since 2008, she has been playing banjo for The Grascals, a GRAMMY-nominated bluegrass band from Nashville. 

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Pick Your Poison

It’s no secret that many musicians saw the pandemic as an opportunity for reflection and creativity, and the Bensons are no exception.

The talented couple touts it as the reason for this album’s existence. “For us, we thought the chance to record together with the downtime would be a good idea,” says Wayne Benson. True of any stellar album, Pick Your Poison required the collaboration and talents of numerous artists who helped bring the Bensons’ vision to life. The album features the musical stylings of friends and colleagues including Cody Kilby, Mickey Harris, Jamie Johnson, Jim VanCleve, and Jon Weisberger. 

Opening with a bang, the album’s first track, “Icy Cold,” is a song of reminiscence, looking back on life as it changes with the seasons. With jaunty instrumentals and crisp, clean lyrics, the song calls to mind sweet memories of home and hard work. 

“Icy Cold”

Wayne Benson is the mastermind behind the album’s three instrumental songs, “Riverside,” “Conway,” and “The Feast of Rudy.” Each one has its own unique bluegrass sound, yet “Riverside” is perhaps the most enchanting track. Building complex layers of sound, the melody rises and falls like a mountain stream as it rushes over the rocks. 

The duo’s stirring rendition of Matthew West’s “Oh Me of Little Faith” is simply beautiful. The song reaches new heights when accompanied by that somber bluegrass flair that fuses warmth and emotion that is liable to move something deep inside you with every listen. The duo also breathes new life into The Beatles’ “I’ll Follow the Sun,” which is a bit more melancholic than most of the tracks. 

Though both Wayne and Kristin Scott Benson are continuing with their own careers, perhaps this treasure of an album will inspire more musical collaboration between the hubbies in the future. 

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