It’s easy to imagine Ray Cardwell singing and playing along with old Newgrass Revival recordings. That’s not too much of a stretch given his forceful rock-inspired vocals and his bass playing chops, not to mention his recruitment of guitarist Pat Flynn and resonator guitarist Curtis Burch to join the cast of players on his debut album as a soloist/bandleader. A former member of The New Tradition, Cardwell puts his own twist on the newgrass genre with a dozen tracks, most are originals.
With bluegrass instrumentation matched by a strong drum beat on the majority of the songs, it’s a blend that probably calls for country radio airplay more so than a bluegrass or newgrass set-list. “New Set Of Problems” and “Yeah Love” are unabashed rockers, and the album’s sole a cappella number “Change In My Life” is a four-part overdubbed vocal feature that draws principally from the Doo-wop tradition.
There’s no arguing about the strength of his voice, a powerful force of nature that can tackle anything he wants to try. When paired with an atmospheric original like “Hurricane Rain,” co-written with Terry Herd, or the plaintive waltz “Movin’ On,” a collaboration with mandolinist Danny Roberts, this may be when Cardwell’s singing would be most appealing to a progressive bluegrass audience.
Certainly the contributions of Flynn, Burch, Roberts, along with guitarist Kenny Smith, banjoist Kelsey Crews, and fiddlers David Mansfield III and Adam Haynes do nothing to diminish the appeal of this recording. Listeners whose music collections are comprised of equal parts rock and bluegrass are likely to find pleasure in this release. (www.bonfirerecording.com)HK