If you’re looking for sublimely solid, no-frills heartland bluegrass, you need look no further than Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers’ sixth album. The Story We Tell is charged with top-notch yet understated picking and singing. The songs—written or co-written by Alton Delmore, Mel Tillis, Jim Ed Brown, Larry Cordle, Ronnie Bowman, Junior Sisk, Jerry Salley and other notables—are marked by imaginative narratives, inventive lyrics, and heartfelt everyday realism.
Two of the many fine songs—“Songs That Will Get ’Em” (penned by Gerald Evans, Jr.) and “If I’d Have Wrote That Song” (Larry Cordle, Larry Shell, and James Silvers)—highlight from two distinct perspectives just how deeply popular music, particularly bluegrass and country, is woven into the fabric of our everyday lives, dreams, ambitions, and sorrows.
The Ramblers feature three strong vocalists in Mullins, mandolin player Mike Terry, and guitarist Duane Sparks. From one song to the next, they switch off adeptly in various lead-tenor-baritone configurations that provide an added texture of variety to their stalwart harmonies. Their collective vocal prowess shines brightly on the soulful ballad “Neighbors” (Charles Sandage and Thomas Simmons) and “When God’s In It,” a moving gospel number co-written by Ronnie Bowman and Jerry Salley. (Rebel Records, P.O. Box 7405, Charlottesville, VA 22906, www.rebelrecords.com.)BA