Brenda Hough Reviews of “Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers: For The Record”, “The Wildmans”, and “Fireside Collective: Elements”

Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers: For The Record_x000D_

www.radioramblers.com_x000D_
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Song List: That Old Wheel, The Guitar Song, A Folded Flag, Tell Me True, Here and Now, Things That I Like, Acres of Diamonds, O-hio, Dreamers Hill, Bacon in My Beans, I Want to Know More About My Lord, Georgia Slammer._x000D_
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Joe Mullins has literally been in bluegrass his whole life; his father Paul Mullins was a radio personality and a member of the Boys From Indiana and Traditional Grass bands. Joe played banjo in the Traditional Grass and started the Radio Ramblers 13 years ago. This eighth album no doubt helped the band win the 2019 IBMA Entertainers of the Year award, and “The Guitar Song” with Del McCoury won the Collaborative Recording award._x000D_
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Over the years, the band has won many IBMA and SPBGMA awards, and their shows are fine tuned presentations with engaging songs, strong vocal harmonies, and carefully blended instrumentals. Band members are Joe Mullins on banjo and vocals, Mike Terry on mandolin and vocals, Duane Sparks on guitar and vocals, Randy Barnes on bass and vocals, and Jason Barie on fiddle._x000D_
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“The Guitar Song” begins with one of Del’s signature guitar runs, and his distinctive voice narrates the life of a guitar that played with Doc Watson and Lester Flatt. Joe becomes the banjo’s voice and the two have a grand time on the song. Another country boy favorite is “Bacon and Beans,” written by Mark Durant, and the necessity of having bacon with beans is offset by an awareness of vegetables and healthy eating habits. A bacon lover’s delight!_x000D_
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“Tell Me True” was written by Sarah Jarosz, and Junior’s voice and banjo give the song a traditional flavor that belie its recent writing. An added bonus are the instrumental solos on fiddle, mandolin, and banjo. Milan Miller’s “Here and Now” has a wonderful turn of phrasing – then and there events of the past influence the here and now and it is definitely good “to be reminded where our roots first took the ground.” Another moving tribute to those who fought for freedom is “A Folded Flag” and the soldier who “bled red, white, and blue before he died” is not always remembered these days. Joe’s banjo offers a hard-driving introduction to “These Are the Things I Like,” and this classic song from the Boys From Indiana deserves a revival. Glorious gospel harmonies flow from “Acres of Diamonds” and “I Want To Know More About My Lord.” If someone asks you what does bluegrass sound like, this collection will answer that question!_x000D_
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The Wildmans_x000D_
www.thewildmans.net_x000D_
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Song List: You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go, Richmond, Sitting on Top of the World, Monster Ride/Rock of Ages, Rid My Mind, Lost Man in a Foreign Country, Garfield’s Blackberry Blossom, Midnight in Harlem, Falling Up._x000D_
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Floyd, Virginia is a small town with a big reputation as a center for traditional Appalachian music. Siblings Eli and Aila Wildman grew up learning the traditional music styles, and Eli’s winning in mandolin at Galax and Aila’s first place award at the Old Time Fiddlers contest at Galax prove that their prowess is genuine. Victor Furtado is one of a family of musicians; his sister Gina was in the Night Drivers with Chris Jones. Victor is also a Galax contest winner in banjo, and was awarded the 2019 Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. Bassist Sean Newman is also part of a musical family and a member of several other bands._x000D_
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The band may be young in years, but their musical interests have extended beyond the traditional sound to include swing, jazz, funk, and rock influences. The album opens with a cover of the Bob Dylan song “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” and it features Aila’s strong lead vocal that can turn wistful and sultry with a turn of a phrase. The band’s version of “Sitting on Top of the World” has a slower pace led by Victor’s banjo and Alia gives the song a dirge-like feeling. The Gillian Welch “Rock of Ages” song has been done by many artists, but the blend of fiddle, mandolin, and banjo that accompanies the song gives the song a new energy and emotional base. An album highlight is Alia’s vocals in “Midnight in Harlem” that has a blues and jazz vibe that leads off with a fiddle and mandolin blend and flows into a vocal call-and-response. _x000D_
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Instrumentally, the band plays for the instrumental blend instead of the lead solos also found in bluegrass. “Garfield’s Blackberry Blossom” begins with a fiddle melodic statement followed by a banjo undercurrent. The song then becomes free form and the band’s ability to improvise steps forth. Eli’s original instrumental, “Falling Up,” features the amazing blending that mandolin, fiddle, and banjo can achieve in the hands of this talented crew. This group is full of amazing promise and with three of them headed for the Berklee School of Music, the future is sure to bring more impressive musical adventures for the band!_x000D_
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Fireside Collective: Elements_x000D_
www.firesidecollectiveband.com_x000D_
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Song List: Winding Road, Back to Caroline, Circles, Done Deal, Bring It On Home, Waiting for Tennessee, Where the Broad River Runs, Night Sky From Here, Don’t Stop Loving Me, High Time, She Was An Angel, Fast Train._x000D_
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Asheville-based Fireside Collective has had a steady rise in recognition from their beginning in 2014. Mandolinist Jesse Iaquinto formed a band with his Dobro playing buddy, Tommy Maher and bassist Carson White to showcase his original music. The band gained fans as it toured on the East Coast and made the finals at the Telluride Bluegrass Band competition. Guitarist Joe Cicero and banjo player Alex Genova joined and their instrumental blend powers the band’s tremendous wall of sound._x000D_
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All the songs are composed by Jesse, Tom, Joe and Alex, and the different lead vocals and harmonies provide a compelling heartfelt presentation. All five sing on Jesse’s “High Time,” and the choral “high time for riding the wind” balances out the “getting groovy” blend of the instruments. Jesse’s “Winding Road” and Tommy’s “Back to Caroline” are closest to bluegrass with a hard-driving banjo and rhythm chops on mandolin and guitar following the road with a departure and a return (why are so many songs written about returns to Caroline with women named Caroline?) The banjo-powered “Fast Train” switches gears with a stunning Dobro solo and a vocal with Tommy Maher joined by Travis Book (Infamous Stringdusters). “Waiting For Tennessee” flows with a melodic banjo underlying the story of a departed love and ends with an enthusiastic round of instrumental solos. “Don’t Stop Loving Me” written by Joe, was a single release with an appealing Dobro accompaniment to the Joe’s appealing vocal. Another song from Joe is “Done Deal” with a hope that “someone will throw me a line” after I “burned all my bridges long ago” and it’s filled with well placed familiar sayings that work together well. Fireside Collective has managed to forge a blend of melodies and lyrics with an instrumental backdrop that is filled with unique surprises. A collective is a blend of many parts, and this band has energy and creativity that can’t be matched!_x000D_