Get your bluegrass fix this weekend with new album, concert

Joe Mullins discusses the Industrial Strength Bluegrass project while at Memorial Hall in Dayton.

All-star cast helps celebrate Southwestern Ohio’s musical legacy

Joe Mullins spent the last several years producing “Industrial Strength Bluegrass,” the listening companion for the recently published book with the same title about the musical legacy of Southwestern Ohio. The various artists compilation album, which features Vince Gill, the Oak Ridge Boys, Bobby Osborne, Lee Ann Womack and others contributors, is being released on Friday, March 26.

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In normal times, Mullins would mark the occasion with a fully-packed two-day festival but, due to COVID restrictions, the release celebration on Saturday, March 27 is limited to 450 in-person attendees. However, the concert featuring Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, the Isaacs and others is also being offered as a one-day streaming pay-per-view event.

The Isaacs (pictured) and Rhonda Vincent & the Rage are among the acts on the new compilation album, “Industrial Strength Bluegrass” that are marking its release with a pay-per-view livestream concert on Saturday, March 27.
The Isaacs (pictured) and Rhonda Vincent & the Rage are among the acts on the new compilation album, “Industrial Strength Bluegrass” that are marking its release with a pay-per-view livestream concert on Saturday, March 27.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

“We’ve closed the sales for the in-person VIP, dinner theater experience,” Mullins said. “But, whosoever will, anywhere in the world, can watch the concert streaming online that day with high def video and quality audio.”

The concert begins at 1 p.m. and runs until 9 p.m. In addition to performances by Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers and the Caleb Daugherty Band, the program includes the presentations “A Look Inside the ‘Industrial Strength Bluegrass’ Book and Record” and “Is Kentucky Really the Bluegrass State?” The streaming pass is $14.95 and viewing is limited to that day.

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“Over the past 52 weeks, we’ve had to learn how to do this kind of stuff,” Mullins said. “My band has done a couple things that were live streamed. It started out quite primitively almost a year ago. We’ve gotten a whole lot better at it as the months have gone by but we haven’t done anything at this level and we’ve never done anything with pay-per-view.

“There is a lot involved, everything from the legalities to the technicalities, but we’ve got the right people helping,” Mullins said. “We’ve got a company that has been live-streaming events at different spots around the country. They provide the unlimited bandwidth for the day and a couple of technicians for troubleshooting. They’ll help sign up any first-timers and make sure they learn how to enjoy the experience of streaming from a smart TV or any other device.”

“Industrial Strength Bluegrass” (Smithsonian Folkways) is new various artists compilation album and listening companion for the recently published book with the same title about the musical legacy of Southwestern Ohio. Producer Joe Mullins is marking the occasion with a pay-per-view livestream concert on Saturday, March 27, featuring his Radio Ramblers, Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, the Isaacs and the Caleb Daugherty Band. CONTRIBUTED
“Industrial Strength Bluegrass” (Smithsonian Folkways) is new various artists compilation album and listening companion for the recently published book with the same title about the musical legacy of Southwestern Ohio. Producer Joe Mullins is marking the occasion with a pay-per-view livestream concert on Saturday, March 27, featuring his Radio Ramblers, Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, the Isaacs and the Caleb Daugherty Band. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The acts performing on Saturday are just a fraction of the top country and bluegrass talent Mullins assembled for the album, which is being released by the prestigious Smithsonian Folkways label.

“I approached Smithsonian Folkways with the idea first because part of their whole mission is any recording they publish and promote stays available forever, in perpetuity,” Mullins said. “Whatever device folks are listening to music on in 50 or 100 years, they’ll be able to hear this body of work. Plus, it’s also right up their alley to promote a body of historic work with extended liner notes and photos.

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“We’ve also got an all-star cast,” Mullins continued. “We’ve got big names like the Oak Ridge Boys and Lee Ann Womack, Bluegrass Hall of Famers like Doyle Lawson and Bobby Osborne, Grand Ole Opry stars like Daly & Vincent and Americana stars like Jim Lauderdale. It’s a 16-song all-star event and hopefully a Grammy contender.”

Joe Mullins (second from left), president and general manager of Real Roots Radio in Xenia, and his award-winning bluegrass group the Radio Ramblers will perform during the concert. CONTRIBUTED
Joe Mullins (second from left), president and general manager of Real Roots Radio in Xenia, and his award-winning bluegrass group the Radio Ramblers will perform during the concert. CONTRIBUTED

While the album isn’t limited to regional artists, the material is all related to the music and its creators that worked in Dayton, Cincinnati and the surrounding area. As a second generation musician and broadcaster, Mullins is steeped in local bluegrass history, but he admits this project was inspired by the book co-edited by Fred Bartenstein and Curtis W. Ellison and published by the University of Illinois Press.

“I decided to find 15 or 16 songs that connect to this story,” Mullins said. “It’s songs that were written or recorded in the Cincinnati-Dayton area and songs that were performed first here by artists who were stationed here, whether they were here for a little while on the radio or they grew up here like me, Larry Sparks and the Osborne Brothers.

“I was able to mine some of the best songs that represent this ‘Industrial Strength Bluegrass’ we’re bragging about,” he added. “I grew up in the middle of every bit of this so I’m just so thankful to have the opportunity to be the producer on such a special project.”

Find out more about the book, the album and the pay-per-view concert at www.industrialstrengthbluegrass.com.

Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or e-mail at donthrasher100@gmail.com.

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