By Larry Stephens
Danny Paisley, the Stanley Brothers, James King, Dave Evans: singers covering the history of bluegrass and never varying from the original, the traditional sound from its early days. Add Cullen’s Bridge to that list. Mickey Galyean started the band to honor the music of his father, Cullen Galyean, who was a respected bluegrass musician in the Appalachians and recorded several albums with different groups including his own group, the Virginia Boys. One of their albums was Folkways FW03839_101 (1980) (see the liner notes) that included “Charming Betsy.” This new CD includes a rousing version of the song riding on Rick Pardue’s banjo with a hot fiddle break by Billy Hawks as different members take turns on a phrase of the lead.
The recently departed James King, renowned as a bluegrass storyteller and with a deep love for the Stanley Brothers, joins Galyean to sing Carter Stanleys’ “We’ll Be Sweethearts in Heaven” and the band also recorded a King composition, “It’s a Cold, Cold World,” both as traditional as Martha White’s biscuits. Galyean’s voice will remind you of Paisley’s singing but with less twang, but just as powerful. He turns on the angst with Dave Evans’ “One Loaf of Bread:”
Oh Mommy and Dad, they lived down the street
And they’ll go out a-drinkin’ when there’s nothing to eat
And the children they’ll cry, for they’ve never been fed
That’s why I broke out the window for one loaf of bread
You can easily imagine Evans belting that out with a tear in his eye and his voice and Galyean does it as much justice. They turn to Merle Travis’ “Dark As a Dungeon” and sing the chorus with excellent harmony. They show their skills as musicians on a Hawks’ composition, “Trail Blazer,” with Brad Hiatt tying down the beat on bass. Besides playing banjo, Pardue shows his skills with a pen with several compositions. “I Found My Daddy’s Grass” (with Jayne Pardue) is a play on words as he finds his daddy’s old bluegrass collection, but his touch with classic bluegrass and wrenching your heart comes with the plea of a dying mother to “Please Take Care of My Babies” and the reassurance that Jesus has said it will be alright from a child with cancer as he says “Mama, I Saw Jesus Last Night.” If these songs don’t make you stop to think about life then your heart is made of stone.
If you love classic bluegrass then do yourself a favor and latch onto a copy of this CD. It’s a good one.