It's a real pleasure to have one last recording from the Bluegrass Cardinals. It's been a while, and this recording shows some substantial changes. One of the big questions has to be how they held up with the departure of David Parmley, now teamed with Scott Vestal and Continental Divide. I'm here to tell you that, at least musically, the answer is, "Quite well, thank you."
The Cardinals burst on the bluegrass scene in the mid-1970s and over the course of the next 20 years set a standard of consistency that few bands can match. OnMountain Girl, most of the vocals are handled by Greg Luck, Keith Pyrtle and, of course, Don Parmley, and it still has that patented Cardinal sound. Over the years, the Cardinals have had one of the strongest vocal trios in bluegrass, and their precision and smoothness are still the center of attention on Mountain Girl. Both the title cut and Stone Cold Loneliness would have fit perfectly on any of the Cardinals previous recordings.
In addition to that fabulous trio sound, the Bluegrass Cardinals have built a reputation of working with some of the best songwriters in the business, uncovering (and creating) new gems instead of reworking old chestnuts. They continue that tradition with fine songs by Jake Landers, Ron Spears, Bill Castle and, of course, Randall Hylton. Hylton has been the source of incredible quality and quantity for the Cardinals over the years and no Cardinals' recording would be complete without a couple of his tunes. A Little Love Died is a good example of why bands keep coming back to him for tunes.
The Cardinals have always been, first and foremost, a vocal band. Since their first album, they have had a distinctive touch with gospel tunes, and Cry Out andGrain of Sand show off the quartet in fine form again. Spear's Lord Show Me The Righteous Pathway is a powerhouse, with Herschel Sizemore's mandolin and Clay Jones' guitar providing clean and tasteful backup. Tim Smith's fiddle work is outstanding throughout, demonstrating why he may be one of the best kept secrets in bluegrass. We need to hear more of him.
Kudos to Don Parmley for keeping the standards and craftsmanship high. Mountain Girl is highly recommended.