Joe Mullins & Junior Sisk
Hall of Fame Bluegrass!
5 stars (out of 5)
By Donald Teplyske
The common exclamation is bound to repeatedly come to mind while listening to this destined-to-be-classic outing honoring (select) pioneers of this music called bluegrass.
Junior Sisk is the reigning Male Vocalist of the Year according to the professionals within the International Bluegrass Music Association, but he could have justifiably received the award at any point during the past decade. Joe Mullins is a bluegrass industry all his own: radio station owner, vocalist, bandleader, banjo player. As they both record for Rebel, it makes perfect sense that they should come together to record a baker’s dozen certified bluegrass classics, paying tribute to their industry’s forebears who have made their way into the IBMA’s Hall of Fame.
This set would have IBMA 2014 Recorded Event of the Year written all over it if entire album projects were still eligible for the recognition. As it stands, with thirteen superior cuts of bluegrass splitting potential votes, such is not assured but certainly this 38-minute collection is worthy of such.
Each and every track on this album has something about it that could make a listener declare with no shortage of fervor, “That’s the best thing I’ve heard this week!”
“Wild Mountain Honey,” made famous by the Osborne Brothers & Red Allen and the album’s lead track, has rightfully received a great deal of attention from radio programmers: the song is a sparkling example of up-tempo bluegrass. Jason Carter’s contribution to this song is just the first of several examples of why he has been among the most significant fiddlers of the past two decades.
On Doc Watson’s (okay, James Jett’s) “Greenville Trestle High” it is the pairing of Sisk and Mullins’ voices, complemented by either Sisk’s or Dudley Connell’s lead guitar—the credits do not distinguish between the two, not that it matters a lick when it comes to listening. Further vocal showcases are provided within “Single Girl, Married Girl” and Don Reno’s “I’m Sorry Happy.”
While paying tribute to Jimmy Martin and J.D. Crowe by recording the pitiful “I’ll Drink No More Wine,” it is Jesse Brock’s mandolin that emerges alongside the foundation created by Mullins’ 5-string, and Mullins ensures that “No Blind Ones There” is made all the more powerful with the punctuation he provides. Rob Ickes’ Dobro naturally comes to the fore on “No Doubt About It.”
Marshall Wilborn handles the bass in his customarily enviable fashion. I wouldn’t have minded a bit had he contributed some harmony singing.
While Sisk and Mullins—who also co-produced this superior recording—have touched on many of the most prominent members of the IBMA’s Hall of Fame, there remains many to choose from when it comes time to revisit this noble concept within the anticipated Volume 2.