For most bluegrass fans, the name “Reno and Harrell” instantly brings to mind the 1960s band fronted by bluegrass legends Don Reno and Bill Harrell. However, some folks may have caught that name popping up once again at bluegrass shows, such as the recent Wide Open Bluegrass street festival in Raleigh, and wondered who exactly was going to show up onstage.
No, it’s not some sort of tribute band – not exactly. Instead, the 2010s version of Reno and Harrell is Dale and Don Wayne Reno with Mitch Harrell, longtime musicians and friends since childhood who are following in their fathers’ footsteps. They’ve recently released their first album, Reno Bound, featuring classic covers from Don and Bill as well as a few newer tunes.
The twelve tracks on Reno Bound are, for the most part, strongly traditional and performed with an ear towards the original Reno and Harrell. The album opens with the title track, an upbeat Bill Harrell-penned number about a man who is picking up and heading out of town after the one he loved cheated on him. This is a toe-tapper that fans of the traditional, driving sound are sure to enjoy. Gold Digger is another Bill Harrell original about a cold-hearted woman. This time, she’s used the singer for his money, and he wishes her “a fate worse than death – a gold digging man.” The song has a nice guitar opening and fine harmonies.
Don Reno’s songwriting talents are also represented, with pieces like the sweet love song Gift of Love, which has a classic country sound and tasteful banjo throughout from Don Wayne Reno. There’s also Mountain Road, an enjoyable classic number in the “you can’t go home again” vein.
Black Diamonds is a bouncy coal mining song about the hard life of a miner, which was also recently recorded by another legend’s son, Ralph Stanley II (on his Born to Be a Drifter album). One of the most lonesome tracks on the album is Mister Bottle, an ode addressed to the only thing in the singer’s life that never lets him down.
Mitch Harrell has contributed two new originals to the album. Verizon to Verizon is not the novelty song its title might suggest, but a tender piece with a ’90s country sound about a man who knows he can’t be with the one he loves right now, but plans to keep their love alive through the telephone. Watchin’ NASCAR, on the other hand, is a humorous come back from a husband who won’t let anything, especially a nagging wife, get in the way of his favorite pastime.
All of the musicians in the 2013 version of Reno and Harrell are certainly talented, and they’ve included excellent traditional touches throughout this album. Mitch Harrell offers smooth lead vocals, while Don Wayne Reno contributes banjo and Dale Reno plays mandolin and guitar. They’re joined by Robbie Wells’ fine fiddling and Ron Spears on bass. Special guest Clay Jones joins in on guitar for the title track.
Bluegrass fans who still love spinning Reno and Harrell records from the 1960s should enjoy Reno Bound and its numerous classic tracks. These sons of bluegrass know their fathers’ music, and do a fine job interpreting it.
For more information on Reno and Harrell, visit their website at www.renoandharrell.com. Their album can be purchased from several online retailers.