Vince Gill has been called a “musician's musician,” but I’m not entirely sure what that means. I haven’t played a guitar in years, so I’m not certain that I’m a musician. But I do know what sounds good to me and that is Vince Gill’s voice and guitar playing. He’s one of the best at what he does.
Gill will be playing the first of two shows Thursday at 8 p.m. at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino. There are only a handful of tickets left, but, the Beau releases any additional tickets for shows at 6 p.m. at the box office, so there's always a chance you can score some seats.
To say that the country star is anything other than prolific would not be truthful. Gill still continues to release his own material, play on the records of others and then there’s his “night job” as the guitarist in the traditional western swing band the Time Jumpers.
Gill and the Time Jumpers recently backed Willie Nelson on several tracks on “For the Good Times: A Tribute to Ray Price.” If you think you’ve heard every version of “Faded Love,” you haven’t heard Willie do it with Gill singing harmony vocals. It’s a stunning version of the beloved song.
The Dire Straits rumor
I remember when I first heard about Gill in the 1980s. I knew he had been in Pure Prairie League and he had a hit with them with “Let Me Love You Tonight.” I had always heard the rumor that Mark Knopfler was so impressed by Gill’s guitar playing that he had asked him to join Dire Straits. I first heard this in the days before the internet and it was hard to find a definitive answer. So, I had the opportunity to ask Gill himself.
“Man, that was long time ago, but yes, it happened,” he said. “I think it was about ’89 — it’s really interesting because I had been making records for about seven or eight years from RCA and I wasn’t having any success and I was pretty frustrated and I kept trying,” Gill said. “I was having trouble paying my bills -- paying for my house and taking care of my family and all of that — Mark saw me play in New York City and he asked me if I go out and play with them on their world tour — it would have solved all of my financial problems, I love the way he plays, and as a musician, man, I was more than ready and willing to do it, but I had spent seven years trying country and no one else was going to believe in me if I didn’t, so I told Mark that I need to keep doing this country thing because I didn’t want to bail on it and I think I had something to offer and I didn’t want to be a failure at country music.”
Gill said that he really didn’t have any reason to think his career was going to turn around, but then he released “When I Call Your Name,” which was Gill’s breakthrough album. It went to No. 2 on the charts.
“With a little bit of hope and belief in myself and a little luck, things changed,” he said. “I worked on a lot of Mark’s records, anyway, so it worked out perfectly — Mark’s a dear friend, he’s one of my heroes and one of my favorite people.”
Go rest high
In 1995, Gill released “When Love Finds You,” which features the hit “What The Cowgirls Do.” It also features a song that has become a gospel standard — “Go Rest High on That Mountain.”
My lifelong friend Scott Wilemon sang it my Papaw's funeral in 1998. It would be neither the first time nor the last time the song would be played at a funeral.
“I wasn’t even going to record it,” he said of the song he wrote for his brother, who died in 1993. “I was grieving over my big brother and this song came and (producer) Tony Brown heard it and said that I had to cut it and so we did — it will be the one song that I’m remembered for and it wasn't the biggest hit — the fact that I created something that people used when they were at their most vulnerable and in their most painful moment, the fact that they leaned on something I created is the greatest feeling in the world.”
Watch Vince Gill perform “Go Rest on That Mountain” with Mark Knopfler, Ricky Skaggs and Patty Loveless