Why You Should Care: Benson is the latest creative endeavor of award-winning banjo player Kristin Scott Benson (five-time IBMA Banjo Player of the Year, recipient of the Steve Martin Award for Excellence in Bluegrass and Banjo and member of the GRAMMY-nominated Grascals) and her husband, award-winning mandolinist Wayne Benson (25-year veteran of the seven-time IBMA Vocal Group of the Year, Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out). This distinctive collaboration — their first as jointly featured artists—serves to bring a shared musical vision of the Bensons to life, as they embrace the modern music landscape of streaming and other digital outlets. Benson’s first single, “Conway,” is a musical announcement of this powerhouse duo sure to connect with listeners.
For their second single from a yet-to-be released project, the powerhouse duo of Benson — that’s award-winning banjo player Kristin Scott Benson and her husband, acclaimed mandolinist Wayne Benson in their first collaborative setting — make clear that they have more than virtuoso picking in mind. A powerfully intimate reflection on doubt and grace written and first recorded by contemporary Christian artist Matthew West, Benson’s take on “Oh Me Of Little Faith” (Mountain Home Music Company) is a musical marriage of artistic maturity and deep faith rooted in the pair’s personal and professional life together.
With its gently rolling pace, the track centers on West’s message — a confession of the narrator’s challenges in faith, hope, peace, love and strength delivered by Heath Williams, a church friend from whom the Bensons first heard “Oh Me Of Little Faith” — with Kristin and Wayne alternating subdued, sympathetic touches of accompaniment for most of the track before allowing the spotlight to shine briefly on a characteristically tasteful solo from Kristin that leads to the song’s final verse and chorus. Backing, both instrumental and vocal, comes from a group that includes longtime friends and colleagues Cody Kilby (Travelin’ McCourys) on guitar and harmony vocalist Mickey Harris (Rhonda Vincent & the Rage), along with the acclaimed Tony Creasman (drums, percussion), Appalachian Road Show fiddler Jim VanCleve and supportive bassist Paul Watson (Carley Arrowood).
“This might be my favorite cut we've done so far,” says Wayne Benson. “Heath Williams knocked the lead vocal out of the park, and it's a song that really means something. Kristin loves to play banjo on anything with this kind of feel. It's fun to arrange because you can just let it glide along while the lyrics do all the work. I was happy with how it turned out.”
Adds Kristin, “I related to ‘Oh Me of Little Faith’ as soon as I heard it. Some people may know the story in Mark where a desperate father tells Jesus he believes, but asks for help with his unbelief. There are a fair amount of songs that reference that, including bluegrass ones, like Ron Block's ‘There is a Reason.’ But I always thought, ‘That's not all I need help with! I need help with everything else too!’ That's exactly what this song is about.”
Benson is a collaborative effort between two of bluegrass music's most treasured instrumentalists: Wayne and Kristin Scott Benson. With decades of experience in top-tier bands, both have established themselves as stalwarts in the community. After years of paving separate musical paths, the two finally decided it was time to integrate their identities and create something new together. Benson is their first combined effort, despite having been married for over 20 years.
Wayne Benson is a 25-year veteran of the seven-time IBMA Vocal Group of the Year, Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out. He is on the short list of mandolin players who have signature models with Gibson Musical Instruments.
Kristin Scott Benson is a five-time IBMA Banjo Player of the Year and recipient of the Steve Martin Award for Excellence in Bluegrass and Banjo. She has been a member of the GRAMMY-nominated Grascals since 2008.