As far as popping up on other people’s records is concerned, I can’t think of many other collaborators as active as Vince Gill. Over the past four decades, the 58 year old has worked with the likes of Eric Clapton, Dolly Parton, Patty Loveless, Mark Knopfler, Reba McEntire, Willie Nelson, Barbara Streisand, George Jones, John Anderson and most recently, Chris Young.
The artist himself, married to fellow singer/songwriter Amy Grant since 2000 and inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame (along with Mel Tillis and Ralph Emery) in 2007, estimates the number of sessions on which he’s played at somewhere close to a thousand.
Not only does Gill lend his sublime singing voice and virtuoso guitar skills to friends and other musicians, he also occasionally sits on the other side of the glass. Ashley Monroe‘s last two albums, Like a Rose (2013) and The Blade (2015), for example, were produced by Vince and Justin Niebank. His most recent LP was Bakersfield, a critically acclaimed collaboration with famed steel guitarist Paul Franklin released in 2013.
Down to My Last Bad Habit is the Oklahoma-born star’s 18th solo album and special guests this time around include Alison Krauss, Cam, Sheryl Crow and Little Big Town. The record is made up of 12 tracks, all of which were written or co-written by the 20-time Grammy Award winner, and I started by asking him to name a few of his favourites.
“One of my favourite tracks on this record is a song called ‘Me and My Girl.’ Just the breeziness of that I think makes it unique,” he opines. “Ellie Holcomb, who’s married to an artist named Drew Holcomb, sang on it. There’s a song called ‘One More Mistake I Made’ that Chris Botti, the great jazz trumpeter, came and played on. It’s hauntingly beautiful what he did…
“My youngest daughter Corrina – who’s 14 – is on it too. She’s becoming a force to be reckoned with as a young singer. She’s unbelievable. I told Amy, I said, ‘I think at 14 she’s the best one the family’s ever produced!’ The uniqueness of her voice is really special.”
A definite highlight for me is the steel guitar-laden “Sad One Comin’ On,” a moving tribute to Gill’s great friend, George Jones, that features the unmistakable vocal talents of Alison Krauss.
Vince and Patty Loveless memorably sang “Go Rest High on That Mountain” at the Possum’s funeral in 2013 and I wondered whether he felt he was doing a reasonable job of “filling the shoes” of some of the country legends who are sadly no longer with us.
“Oh, I hope so… I love that song. ‘Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes’ was written by a guy named Max D. Barnes, who I had the great fortune of writing a few songs with before he passed. One of those was one of my best known songs, ‘Look At Us.’
“I heard a young kid come out and say, ‘I don’t know if I could be someone who could fill those shoes, but I’d just like to have a chance to try them on!’ I always thought that was pretty funny… When you’re a student of these greats like Haggard or Ray Price or George Jones, I don’t think anybody has the mindset that they can fill them.
“You’re inspired by their greatness and you do what you do to the best of your ability. That’s the way it is for me. I just try to sing as good as I can and write songs as good as I can and play the guitar as good as I can – see where it all falls.”
Down to My Last Bad Habit will be out on February 12 and can be pre-ordered from iTunes.
For more information on Nashville icon Vince Gill, visit his official website.