Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers – For The Record

There’s no need for debate – disciples of the bluegrass faith will be rejoicing this spring to the melodic drawl of Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers’ new album For The Record.

Mullins and his band of brash string players smother us in their vividly produced harmonies as soon as we press play on “That Old Wheel,” and through “The Guitar Song,” “A Folded Flag,” “Tell Me True” and “Here and Now,” it becomes next to impossible for us to break stride with the mammoth mysticism being dispatched in every groove.

The second half of For The Record opens with the hard and fast “Things That I Like,” and though it’s flanked with an explosive tempo that makes a sudden mad dash from the darkness with impunity, it doesn’t set the tempo for the final six songs that will lead us into the LP’s cinematic conclusion.

There’s so many twists and turns in Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers’ new record that it can occasionally feel like we’re traveling on an unpredictable Blue Ridge Mountain highway, but don’t let the ambitious framing of this album’s substance fool you – For The Record is as accessible a bluegrass effort as any you’re likely to come across this year.

There’s a spike in country grit in this LP that wasn’t there in past albums by this group, and it’s most prominently recognizable in “O-hio,” “Acres of Diamonds” and “Bacon in My Beans.” The Grand Ole Opry’s very own Del McCoury spins some countrified crooning into the yarn that is “The Guitar Song,” but I can’t say that it’s as defining a factor in the aesthetical composition of the track as the interplay between his guitar and Mullins’ banjo is.

The duality in the Radio Ramblers’ play is exotically highlighted in “I Want to Know More About My Lord” and “Dreamers Hill,” and what’s perhaps most intriguing is that even with all of the melding of influences in these songs, they never get to feeling like hybrids searching for their place in modern music. With all of the experimentation going on in country music lately, it’s nice to see a bluegrass band like this one chasing after the same lofty goals, but with an admittedly sharper creative means of going about it.

Whether it’s the stampede of “Things That I Like,” the cathartic emotion in “Here and Now,” the straight up freewheeling fun of “Bacon in My Beans” or “The Guitar Song,” or just the decadence of the overall production quality that For the Record enjoys, this is a bluegrass album that you should consider essential to your collection.

Records like this one don’t ask a lot from us in exchange for an endless array of engaging rhythms and immortal melodies, and I’ve found that regardless of whatever else is going on in their scene, this is the caliber of content that we can anticipate out of Joe Mullins anytime he announces an upcoming release.

He and his group have convinced me that their music won’t be going out of style anytime soon, and in this ever-changing cultural landscape known as modern America, that’s about as rare as finding a unicorn amongst a band of horses.

If you enjoyed a preview from Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers’ For The Record, check out their official website by clicking here. Give them a like on Facebook by clicking here & a follow on Twitter by clicking here.

Eric Jarvis

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