There is power in purity and as Bluegrass moves way ahead of other genres in its innovation and expansion of its sound, finding a collection that honors the source still rings and shines like a golden bell. The cherished traditions of the style can be heard in Blue Mafia, and found on their recent release, Hanging Tree. There is a joy in the spirit of their playing, which the band refers to as ‘unabashedly Bluegrass’. Blue Mafia head down with legions of workers as they back the tale of “Like a Mining Man” with tasty picking and a solid backbeat. Hanging Tree tips its hat to “Sweet Mary of the Morning” with bright rhythms, gives loneliness support with persistent playing underneath “Baby You’re Gone”, offers a hand wondering “Say Won’t You Be Mine”, and puts shourds the melody with darkness as Blue Mafia slowly walk towards midnight on the title track.
Husband and wife team, Dara (mandolin) and Tony (guitar) Wray, formed the core for Blue Mafia in 2011. The pair are part of the triple threat of vocals that includes Kent Todd (fiddle) with Blue Mafia filling out with Mike Gregory on bass and Curtis Bumgarner on banjo. Hanging Tree lets the Indiana-based band shine a light as they hold a torch aloft for Bluegrass. Blue Mafia open with “The Man You Know” in a reverent three-part harmony that leads into a message that faith is what you find when you look inside your own heart and soul. Hanging Tree dials in a radio station to hear its own song as it drives into a lonely “Midnight Rain” and heads back into a youthful past as the memories are reflected in the sparkling picking of “Life” as Blue Mafia borrow a tune from Kevin Hayes to close out the album wondering “Who are You”.