Galyean Family Records 12013
Mickey Galyean & Cullen’s Bridge’s Rollin’ With Tradition can only be recommended to those who enjoy solid picking, no-nonsense arrangements of strong songs new and old, and good, unpretentious singing. This ensemble with a perfect blend of passion for classic bluegrass and experience consists of northwestern North Carolina and southwestern Virginia veterans who learned the music from their parents. This recording, more than anything else the members have done, celebrates that heritage. Those looking for acoustic covers of pop country hits will not find them. Instead, on “You Better Get Right,” the band takes a Bill Monroe song, puts James King on lead vocal, and gives it a Stanley send-up to great effect.
Guitarist and lead/tenor singer Mickey Galyean had enjoyed significant regional success with the band Rich In Tradition when his father, Cullen, passed away in 2010. Mickey then formed Cullen’s Bridge to dedicate himself to the spirit of Cullen’s music, taking fiddler Jordan Blevins and upright bassman Brad Hiatt with him from Rich In Tradition. Hiatt and underappreciated banjoman Rick Pardue, the newest member, lend the band three songwriters, a major plus for a classic bluegrass group.
Cullen, a banjo player and fiddler, joined James Lindsey and the Mountain Ramblers at an early age and played at various times with Hylo Brown, Ralph Stanley on guitar, and Charlie Monroe, in addition to 25 years off and on with Bobby Harrison and the Virginia Mountain Boys. “May I Sleep in Your Barn, Mister?,” from Charlie Poole, reprises one of the songs Harrison and Cullen recorded on five albums for Folkways. When Mickey demonstrated his precocious mandolin playing, his dad formed Cullen Galyean and The Bluegrassers.
From the two lead-off songs written by Pardue, “Bell Of The Ball” and “Blood On Mama’s Apron,” the listener knows this is committed, passionate old-school bluegrass. Cullen Galyean’s “Lonely River” then comes in sounding like a lost Stanley recording. And so it goes from one strong song to another with just the up-to-date recording quality and occasional modern flourishes, like the kick-off to “Betty Jean’s Last Ride” and the closing harmonies on Hiatt’s “Knee Down,” giving away the 2013 vintage. Original and classic, Mickey Galyean & Cullen’s Bridge’s Rollin’ With Tradition is an early twenty-first century version of the real deal, and a mighty fine version it is. (Galyean Family Records, 8604 W. Pine St., Low Gap, NC 27024.)AM