The more progressive facets of modern bluegrass music have been getting a lot of attention lately. Artists have been expanding the definition of bluegrass music by both stretching boundaries that previously defined the genre and by incorporating traditional bluegrass instruments and motifs into other musical styles. That is why the new collection from traditionalists Junior Sisk and Joe Mullins, a 13-song tribute to music made famous by members of the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame, feels like a breath of fresh air.
Sisk, a guitar player and 2013 International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Vocalist of the Year, and Mullins, a noted banjo player and IBMA award winner, are unapologetically traditional and proudly display and honor their heritage by giving straight reads to songs by Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, Doc Watson, Del McCoury, the Carter Family, the Osborne Brothers, Mac Wiseman, Red Allen and the Stanley Brothers, to name a few.
The genius about this collection is that Sisk and Mullins pulled lesser-known gems from the catalogs of these genre giants, resulting in a collection that is infinitely more interesting than a simple regurgitation of widely-known bluegrass classics.
From the reconciliatory promises of Jimmy Martin's I'll Drink No More Wine to the longing imagery of Doc Watson's railroad ballad Greenville Trestle High and the exuberant gospel of both Jimmy and Jesse McReynolds' They Can't Love Jesus More Than Me and Reno and Smiley's I'm So Happy, this collection is packed with top-notch musicianship and an obvious traditional aesthetic.
To help bring this tribute to life, Mullins and Sisk recruited some incredible talent. Jesse Brock (mandolin), Jason Carter (fiddle), Dudley Connell (guitar), Marshall Wilborn (bass) and Roc Ickes (Dobro), all winners of IBMA awards, join Mullins and Sisk in forming one of the hottest bluegrass ensembles in recent history. In doing so, the duo succeeds in creating a homage to bluegrass pioneers that is both fresh and memorable - a reminder that traditional bluegrass is alive and well.