Bluegrass artists Trey Hensley (left) and Rob Ickes brought down the house during a performance Thursday at the Ellen Eccles Theatre in downtown Logan.

LOGAN – It was two-for-one night Thursday at the Ellen Eccles Theatre in downtown Logan.

Straight out of Nashville, guitar and dobro artists Trey Hensley and Rob Ickes, performed bluegrass songs celebrating moonshine, dirt roads, broken-hearted mothers and all things country, plus instrumental tunes and interludes that were hotter than a two-dollar pistol.

But a pair of local musicians who were invited to be their opening act very nearly stole the show.

That surprising duo was guitarist Corey Christiansen, a music professor at Utah State University, and fellow USU professor Braun Khan on double bass.

Between tunes, Christiansen confessed that 28 years had passed since the last time he played on the Eccles stage, but his performance clearly demonstrated why the USU professor is fast becoming recognized as one of the world’s pre-eminent guitarists and music educators.

Christiansen and Khan share a jazz forte and their all-too-brief opening set featured the familiar opening and closing bars of standard tunes, with complex jazz variations in between. Those tunes included ”Summertime” from Porgie and Bess by George Gershwin and “What’s New,” a 1939 hit by Bing Crosby.

Hensley and Ickes performed a much longer set, primarily of tunes of their own composition.

Ickes introduced Hensley as a talented guitar picker and vocalist, plus a gifted song-writer, which he admitted “just ain’t fair.”

Ickes and Hensley have been performing continuously as a duo since 2013, but their usual schedule of touring came to a crashing halt until recently, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

That hiatus not only gave those performers time to write new original music, but also gave them a chance to get reacquainted their own families.

“I was surprised to discover that I had two pretty nice children,” Ickes quipped.

Besides cracking jokes, Ickes’ superb dobro-playing here in Logan demonstrated why he is the most awarded dobro artist in the history of the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA). He has also received numerous Grammy Award nominations.

The climax of the local show was Christiansen and Kahn joining Hensley and Ickes to blend their virtuoso jazz and bluegrass talents on a tune improbably made popular by The Grateful Dead.

That unlikely performance brought down the house, earning a standing ovation.

The Cache Valley Center for the Arts is an independent non-profit organization that promotes the use of Cache Valley’s publicly owned cultural arts facilities.

Those facilities include the Ellen Eccles Theatre, the Thatcher-Young Mansion and the Bullen Center.



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