Throughout its history, bluegrass music has spawned several bands consisting of seasoned musicians that apprenticed with some of the genre’s greatest talent. One of the latest is Roxboro Connection. Made up of veteran sidemen – Ricky Stroud on mandolin, David Nance on dobro, Ronald Smith on banjo, and Cliff Waddell on guitar – their debut release, Making The Connection, shows the ensemble making a bold, confident entrance. Bailey Moore also appears on this recording playing bass, but has since left the group.
From the first few bars of Alone and Broken Hearted by Herschel Sizemore, Roxboro Connection makes it clear they’re firmly grounded in tradition. This is most evident in the band’s vocals, which are somewhat rough around the edges, but in the best way possible.
I’m Gonna Hurt Her On The Radio is drawn from the country music of the 1980s. The band renders it in a fashion reminiscent of J.D. Crowe & The New South. This can be heard clearly in David Nance’s dobro intro and Ronald Smith’s banjo work on this track.
The true standout of this recording is That’s The Sound of a Breaking Heart. Written by Rick Lang and Troy Engle, this piece truly captures Roxboro Connection’s strength as a unit. This song was made for this band. It’s hard to imagine anyone else performing it.
Good Mornin’ To The Lord is one of two gospel selections on this release. Written by Cliff Waddell, this song has a wonderful message of calling on the name of the Lord to get your day started off right.
The other gospel song, Where No Cabins Fall, has been recorded by countless artists over the years. Roxboro Connection’s rendition is patterned after the Country Gentlemen’s a cappella rendition from their 1978 album, Calling My Children Home. It does a wonderful job of displaying their vocal harmonies.
Brown Hill comes from the repertoire of the Lost & Found, and is fittingly sung by Bailey Moore, whose great uncle is Allen Mills. While the group’s arrangement differs in some ways from the original version, there’s no mistaking that Ronald Smith was once a banjoist for the legendary group. That Gene Parker influence shines so powerfully on this track.
Timberlake Shuffle by Ricky Stroud not only demonstrates his clean mandolin playing, but the strong musicianship of all five members of Roxboro Connection. It’s a catchy instrumental.
Roxboro Connection is a powerful configuration of pickers and singers. All of these gentlemen have spent time performing and learning from the best of the best. Making The Connection is evidence of the special chemistry that this band has. It’s a magnificent debut, one that’ll leave you excited for what Roxboro Connection will continue to bring to the bluegrass world.