Charlottesville, VA -- Rebel Records is pleased to announce the release of The Blues Are Still The Blues, a retrospective containing 15 songs selected from the four recordings made by The Traditional Grass for Rebel between 1992 and 1995. The collection was produced by Rebel’s David Freeman along with original band members Joe Mullins and Mark Rader and reflects their keen understanding of the band’s style, its mission and goals within the bluegrass environment of the period. Physical and digital versions of the album will release on Friday, September 18th.
Bluegrass in the 1980s and 1990s included bands devoted to the original sounds as well as those who were progressing in new and uncharted directions. But there were also some groups who had adopted a sense of creative traditionalism—they played and sang with the same stylistic attack as the pioneers, yet they offered subtle variations along with new material that kept the spirit and flavor of those pioneers alive and vital. This group of artists included The Johnson Mountain Boys, The Bluegrass Cardinals, Hot Rize, Dave Evans & River Bend and The Traditional Grass.
The Traditional Grass’ original songs proved to be some of their most enduring: “The Blues Are Still The Blues,” “A Broken Heart Keeps Beatin'” and “Lazarus” appear on this collection, while “Hard Times, Some Times,” “Lord, Lead Me on Home,” “Rest For His Workers” and “Be True to Yourself” are just a few more of the many original songs which the band contributed to the bluegrass portfolio. “I was always impressed with their writing,” noted acclaimed Nashville songwriter, Larry Cordle. “They were really great songwriters.”
Street Date Of The Blues Are Still The Blues Is Nearly 20 Years To The Day Of Band's Final Show
From the band’s beginnings in 1983, they were intent on recording obscure material from bluegrass music's early days. The Traditional Grass’ connection to the classics was fueled by more than just appreciation; Joe's father Paul "Moon" Mullins had performed with the Stanley Brothers in the late 1950s, had recorded occasionally with Charlie Moore and Bill Napier, and was a founding member of The Boys from Indiana. Through his radio programs Paul had direct contact with nearly everyone in the business, from Bill Monroe and The Osborne Brothers to Jimmy Martin and Red Allen ? he knew them all and had absorbed their music inside out.
By the time the band signed with Rebel Records they had four self-produced cassettes under their belt and had settled on a lineup that featured Paul Mullins on fiddle, Mark Rader on guitar, Joe Mullins on banjo, Gerald Evans Jr. on mandolin and second fiddle, with Mike Clevenger providing the solid bass underpinnings. Their vocal strengths relied on Mark’s impeccable lead, Joe’s tenor and Gerald’s baritone, but they were adept at inverted harmonies and part-switching, depending on the song, to add variety and musical tension whenever they felt the need. Joe explains it this way, “There wasn’t anything that we couldn’t sing. Three of us in the band could sing lead or any harmony part. After a couple of years of that, we got as inventive as we possibly could with trio arrangements. We could switch harmony parts around effortlessly in any combination we wanted to.”
The Blues Are Still The Blues by The Traditional Grass is a wonderful example of how the process worked and how great music was achieved when the roots were firmly in place and honored, but the branches were vibrant with new growth.
Although active for only a dozen years, the music as performed by Paul, Joe, Mark, Gerald, and Mike is as powerfully significant today as it was when they were on the circuit. Several of the band’s songs have been re-recorded by such high-profile artists as Dailey & Vincent, Adam Steffey and Brandon Rickman to name a few, while others have become jam session favorites, heard at bluegrass festivals nationwide.
For those of us who remember the heyday of The Traditional Grass, this compilation serves as a wonderful reminder of why we were excited. For those new to their music: be prepared for a magnificent treat of tone, timing and taste. You will NOT be disappointed!