Back in the 1990s, one of the most popular young bluegrass acts was a band called New Tradition. Over their roughly ten year tenure, a number of now veteran artists were part of this group as adventurous young players and singers. The band recorded a total of seven albums for Brentwood Music, Pinecastle Records, and Mountain Home Music, before going their separate ways in 2000.
A good many long time grassers along the east coast and in the southeast may not be deeply familiar with these guys, as they played mostly in the central US, or on the west coast, even though they were based in Nashville. But their many recordings won them a loyal following for their newgrass-inflected bluegrass gospel sound.
This May, the Salmon Lake Park in Grapeland, TX has put together a reunion performance of New Tradition for their Bluegrass Gospel Music Festival. Appearing together for the first time in 23 years will be Danny Roberts on mandolin, Richie Dotson on banjo, Daryl Mosley on bass, and Jamie Clifton on guitar.
We spoke a few days ago with Danny, now serving as mandolinist with The Grascals, to discuss this reunion, scheduled for May 27 at the festival.
He said that though all the members have remained friends and stayed in touch, they hadn’t all picked since the group disbanded.
“The last time we played together was probably in 2000. We have had several requests for a reunion, but it was never able to work out.
The Grapeland festival director contacted me recently and asked what it would take to get a reunion together. I asked her who she wanted, and she said me, Richie, Daryl, and Jamie. I made the calls, and it’s on!
Since the announcement I’ve had more people contacting and messaging me saying, ‘We’ve got to do this in Tennessee… we need to do it out east.”
Danny tells us he wasn’t surprised that this request came from Texas.
“We used to work so much in Texas and out west. We hardly ever played as much back east.
The Grascals have never played Telluride or RockyGrass, but New Tradition played there several times.”
Shortly after the second New Tradition album was released, Danny was one half of a big bluegrass match, as he and Andrea Campbell of Petticoat Junction were wed in 1991. Both have remained in bluegrass, and their daughter, Jaelee, is now a member of Sister Sadie.
Talking about family reminded Roberts of how hard they were going back in the day.
“I remember the year Andrea and I got married, we played 230 dates, mostly festivals and churches. We played all the time, but never could crack the eastern festival scene.
Here’s a funny thing… I guess it was right before COVID, we were at Richie’s house and we started singing some stuff, with Andrea, Jaelee, and Richie’s son. And it really clicked, liked we had been doing it all the time. So we sort of had a dry run then.
Everyone is so busy, but it will be fun. The old stuff does come back.”
He is also eager to get back on some of their big gospel numbers.
“We loved doing acapella stuff so much, so we’re really going to try and feature a lot of that. This is a gospel festival, so it’s a perfect fit.”
The notion of a reunion of this edition of New Tradition brought up the idea of putting other combinations of the band back together for similar outings.
“I talked to Aaron McDaris last weekend, and mentioned maybe we could do it again next year and he could be the banjo player. Kenny White and Ray Cardwell talked a bit about doing a reunion with that configuration.”
But for now, it’s Danny, Richie, Daryl, and Jamie in Grapeland in late May. Tickets are available for the festival now online.
Not many of us get an opportunity to relive glory days from our youth, and Roberts says that all the guys are psyched.
“We’re all off the charts excited about it. And I’ve heard from so many people who wish they could come.”