It must be a challenge at times to be a traditionalist these days, what with so many young bands determined to bend the boundaries and dabble in different genres these days. So credit Mickey Galyean and Cullen’s Bridge for playing their role as an unapologetic bluegrass band maintaining a firm connection to their musical origins without finding any need for a change in tack.
The band — guitarist and lead singer Mickey Galyean, banjo and tenor singer Rick Pardue, bassist and baritone vocalist Brad Hiatt, and fiddler Billy Hawks — even boast about their commitment to the cause, as conveyed in the no-nonsense plea, No Candy in My Bluegrass. It’s one of several songs on the simply stated Songs From The Blue Ridge on Rebel Records, that attests to the band’s absolute assurance and authenticity.
Mostly though, their allegiance comes naturally. The band itself was named for Galyean’s father, Cullen, a lifelong bluegrass guitarist, who introduced his son to those sounds early on. Galyean has said that the band’s mission has always been to pay tribute to his dad’s devotion to the music he grew up listening to. Not surprisingly then, there’s a certain spiritual element which occasionally comes across in ways that are both pointed and poignant. Indeed, You Can Go To Heaven makes that message clear.
“God made it simple so everyone can see, heaven is waiting for the ones who believe,” the song declares.
Not surprisingly then, the old time elements are intact throughout, from the driving instrumental forays imbedded in songs such as Dixieland For Me, Now I’m Losing You, Outback, and Too Say Goodbye to the harmonies that illuminate These Old Prison Bars and She’s Gone. Likewise, Galyean’s stirring vocal on the traditional lament, The Drunkard’s Dream, makes it one of the album’s undisputed highlights.
The truth is, every one of these tracks boasts age-old references and clearly shine as a result. The band’s ode to their native environs, The Blue Ridge Mountains, aptly sums up their sentiments about their music, and the memories that continue to inspire them. It, like the other offerings that surround it, underscores the allegiance this band maintains to a style that’s firmly entrenched in tradition, and shows its reverence through its adroit execution.