John Boy and Billy
This CD represents a reunion of sorts, in that Dale and Don Wayne Reno and Mitch Harrell, not surprisingly, spent a fair amount of time together growing up, living next door to one another in Maryland with their fathers forming the legendary Reno & Harrell band. While the Reno brothers helped on Mitch Harrell’s solo project in 2000, Reno Bound is their first release as a bona fide band. Also on this recording are Robbie Wells (fiddle and vocals) and Ron Spears (bass and vocals).
Their fathers would be proud. This is an excellent band with a very strong suit in (not surprisingly) classic Reno/Harrell-style repertoire, especially Don Wayne’s banjo work, but also in the realm of original compositions and more progressive tunes. Unfortunately, there are no individual vocal song credits (all the members sing)—it would be nice to know who is responsible for the great vocal work on a number of cuts here. Don Reno’s “Gift Of Love” and “Mountain Road” are wonderfully done with topnotch harmony. Two Ronnie Reno compositions, “Mister Bottle” and “Big Train,” get very good treatment. The lighter side of bluegrass is well represented in the form of “Ex Misses Jones,” “A Dollar Down,” and Mitch Harrell’s “Watchin’ NASCAR” (which suffers a bit from excess speed, ironically). Harrell also contributes “Verizon To Verizon,” a sweet slow tune, in spite of a slightly quizzical punch line/title. “Black Diamonds” and Bill Harrell’s title cut “Reno Bound” are straight classic bluegrass tunes.
The material for this release has been well-chosen, the instrumental work is extremely good, and the vocals are very strong. This release stands out on its own merits, but fans of the Reno/Harrell sound will be especially happy with a new generation to keep it alive and flourishing. (John Boy and Billy, Inc., P.O. Box 876, Burlington, NC 27216, www.renoandharrell.com.)AW