It’s not uncommon for bluegrass bands to claim an association with tradition. Some are based in it, some are influenced by it, some have built upon it, while others seem to have completely forgotten about it. One Mt. Airy, NC-area band, however, is “rich” in it. Rich in Tradition has recently released their fourth album (and second for Mountain Roads Recordings), Lonesomeville, and do a fine job convincing listeners their name is well-deserved.
The band has a great neotraditional style, with strong vocalists, tasteful arrangements, and musicians who surely know their way around a set of strings. The tradition they’re following, however, seems to be a little more Crowe than it is Scruggs. There are only a few songs on the album that most would call traditional bluegrass, pulled from the Stanleys and Flatt and Scruggs, and updated just a bit. The group takes a page from the 1975 edition of the New South with Some Old Day, and kicks things into high gear on a straight ahead version of Long Journey Home. A highlight of the album is Carter Stanley’s Let Me Walk Lord by Your Side. It’s one of the best versions of this number that I’ve heard, with particularly strong banjo from Jay Adams.
The album’s other Gospel songs, both band originals, are also standouts. Glorious City, which was written by Adams, has a Southern Gospel vibe and nicely done harmonies. Adams and mandolin player Greg Jones collaborated on God Has Been So Good to Me, an enjoyable song of thanks to God for his help in our lives and the gift of salvation. The title track is another band original, this time from guitarist Ronnie Edwards. It’s a clever take on the classic bluegrass theme of heartbreak.
The group pulls from country music for several tracks, although the songs are given a bluegrass treatment. The classic convict’s lament, Branded Wherever I Go opens the album with a straightforward modern traditional sound. There are also two Steve Wariner covers. Rich in Tradition has done a good job translating Wariner’s late eighties country originals to midtempo contemporary bluegrass, both on Where Did I Go Wrong (which features some nice mandolin work from Jones) and the earnest Life’s Highway.
Rich in Tradition might not be known on the national bluegrass scene yet, but they’ve got a good grip on the essentials of the genre. Adams (banjo), Jones (mandolin), Edwards (guitar), and Jacob Harbour (bass) are talented musicians who have offered fans a great selection of songs with their latest album.
Lonesomeville is out now from Mountain Roads Recordings, and can be purchased from a variety of online music retailers.