Rick Stanley and Bad Ridge introduced their new album, You Can’t Smoke the Bluegrass, Thursday (June 29) during a two-hour “happy hour” show at Nashville’s Quality Inn Hall of Fame motel. The group will continue to perform at the Music Row venue on Thursdays from 6 to 8 p.m. for the next several weeks.
Stanley is a cousin of bluegrass master Ralph Stanley and the husband of former Atlantic Records artist Donna Ulisse. Both provided harmony vocals to various tracks on the album, as did Larry Cordle, the co-writer of “Murder on Music Row.” Stanley, who sings lead and plays rhythm guitar, was backed by Gina Jess, bass; Brian Bush, banjo; John (Chippy) Cisco, fiddle; and Matt Raum, mandolin. Unlike most bluegrass bands these days, Bad Ridge specializes in tightly woven ensemble playing instead of round-robins of dazzling and long-drawn instrumental breaks. The band’s sound is closer to the mellowness and warmth of Flatt & Scruggs than it is to the high mountain chill of the Stanley Brothers or Bill Monroe.
Besides playing most of the songs on the album, Stanley and his band also gave a short course in the best of bluegrass and country music (with a couple of pop tunes sneaked in for variety). The program included “Nobody’s Love Is Like Mine,” “I’ll Go Steppin’ Too,” “Dark Hollow,” “Bear Tracks,” “If I Lose,” “The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde,” “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke and Loud, Loud Music,” “I Still Miss Someone,” “Love’s Gonna Live Here,” “Little Maggie” and “Peggy Sue.”
Ulisse joined the band to sing “There Goes My Everything” and “Stuck in the Middle With You.” Stanley wrote or co-wrote 10 of the 11 songs on the album and co-produced it with Ulisse and Brian Bush.
You Can’t Smoke the Bluegrass is on Nashville-based Honey Camp Records.