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The Essential Bluegrass Cardinals: The Definitive Collection

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Album Review

This collection does a valuable service in remembering one of the most underappreciated bluegrass outfits of the '70s and '80s. The unit made its mark as a trio, but the list of alumni who have spent time as part of that triad is formidable, including Bill Bryson, Randy Graham, Ernie Sykes, Norman Wright, Mike Hartgrove, Ronnie Simpkins, Bobby Clark, Dale Perry, Greg Luck, and Larry Stephenson. The Bluegrass Cardinals came out of the Los Angeles scene in the mid-'70s led by the evocative vocals of David Parmley (later of Continental Divide), who was only a teenager at the time but sounded like he had lived a few lifetimes. They soon headed east, cutting an album for Rounder in 1976 and following that with their CMH debut. Through consistent lineup changes, the group continued to release strong albums full of strong musicianship and extraordinary vocal work. The group's canon is well-represented here, from ballads such as "Blue Is the Color of Lonesome" (a Cardinals original penned by the Parmleys), "Sweet Hour of Prayer," and a heart-piecing take on Merle Haggard's "Don't Give Up on Me" to more up-tempo tracks, such as "I've Had a Time" and "Knee Deep in Lovin' You." This is not a comprehensive collection, but the selection is excellent, culling Cardinals originals as well as bluegrass, country, and gospel standards. The top-notch vocalizing is worth the price of admission alone.


Formed: 1974 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Country

Years Active: '70s, '80s

The Bluegrass Cardinals came together in Los Angeles in 1974 when banjoist Don Parmley and mandolinist Randy Graham teamed up with Parmley's 15-year-old son, David, to form what was to become a successful bluegrass trio who wielded considerable influence from the latter half of the '70s through the early '90s. Don Parmley and Randy Graham's partnership had preceded the official start of the band by seven years when they started a musical friendship after the demise of Parmley's previous group, the...
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The Essential Bluegrass Cardinals: The Definitive Collection, The Bluegrass Cardinals
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