Pinecastle Records

After the dark comes the light. Blue Mafia has been self-described as “dark” and “bloody” and “dirty” and, in reviews, as “edgy.” Listening to their first two recordings confirms such. Now comes their third and, while much of that dark and edgy quality is still front and center, most notably on the slow coal worker’s song “Like A Mining Man” and on “Hanging Tree,” which came from the film The Hunger Games, there is a ray of lightness and hope beginning to emerge.

Tunes such as “Sweet Mary Of The Mountains,” about a rambler caught by love and forced to settle down, and the rippling backing and descending melody line of Dara Wray’s “You Belong With Me” stand in sharp contrast. For every “Loneliness & Desperation,” once made popular by Del and The Boys, or the remake of the Stanleys’ “Say Won’t You Be Mine,” there’s a tuneful tune such as “Midnight Rain,” sung by fiddler Kent Todd, or the slow and airy Wray original, “Life.” In fact, the recording even ends on a rather positive, somewhat light tune, “Who Are You.” Now don’t be frightened by all this “light” talk. There is plenty of darkness to go around.

The other change to the group is that Cody Looper has turned over his banjo job to Calib Smith. He doesn’t miss a beat, being very much a driver with a healthy dose of melodic style mixed in. And he brought in the aforementioned “Like A Mining Man.” Otherwise, it is pretty much business as usual with Blue Mafia. Tony Wray is still one of the hidden gems of lead guitar (and mandolin and banjo). The pulse from bassist Michael Gregory is every bit as solid. The harmonies are still fascinating, and Kent Todd still alternates on lead vocals with Dara, both sounding excellent. In short, they’re still making great music. (

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