Since they formed back in 2004, The Grascals have made quite the name for themselves in bluegrass music. They have been consistently among the top sellers in the genre, and they -- as a group as well as individuals -- have taken home many IBMA and SPGMA Awards. Still, their new project, "Life Finds A Way," represents a new beginning for the act.
"We're getting back to us again," confirms member Terry Eldredge. "The last couple of albums we did were great, and they turned out good. We did a collaborations project for Cracker Barrel and a tribute to the 'Andy Griffith Show,' but it involved a whole lot of other people. Now, this is totally us. There's no guests, except for a couple of musicians we brought on," he says.
Mandolin player Danny Roberts says that the change in labels was one that gave the group a renewed energy and new perspective - as well as a new recording venue. "Being on a new label, they had their own studio. It was the first time we went somewhere else to be in the studio. We were there by ourselves, no distractions. It was a beautiful setting. Everything came off like clockwork."
Roberts added that having not recorded new material in a couple of years gave them much from which to choose from. "We had two years worth of material. When it came time to record, everybody kept bringing out songs. It was the first time that the whole band wrote a song together - 'Pretty Melody.' It was just a fun project to do. We're excited about it."
One of the highlights of the album is the ballad "Still They Call Me Love," which was penned by Harley Allen, who passed away in 2011. Eldredge offered that the song really hit him.
"Harley had pitched that to us before on a previous album, but it just fit this time. It hit me at this point in my life. It hit home. There's different ways to look at it. Love is a wonderful thing. It's the best thing in the world, but love can be bad. That's what the song says."
A cut from the album that Roberts is excited about is their take on Elvis Presley's Sun classic "Mystery Train. "One of the things about it is we love traditional songs - whether they are traditional country, traditional rock. That is the second Elvis song we have recorded. We did "Viva Las Vegas" on the first album. It just fits Bluegrass so perfectly, and the guys did three-part harmony all the way through. It came out great."
The Grascals performed 'Mystery Train" during their 116th performance on the Grand Ole Opry. Eldredge said the group loves playing the historic stage, but they do have a little bit of ambition. "We want to members," he states with a smile, so everyone, e-mail Pete Fisher," he says.
Fans that see the Grascals at the Opry, or anywhere else for that matter, will no doubt be enchanted by the three-part harmony from Jamie Johnson, Terry Smith, and Eldredge, who says they were influenced by the best. "We most definitely owe a lot of that to the Osborne Brothers. We're all big fans of theirs, and as far as we're concerned - they were the best in the business. Bobby and Sonny's harmonies were so good. We draw a lot from them."
Though there aren't any special guest vocalists on Life Finds A Way, there are some incredible cameo instrumental performances, such as 2012 Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Hargus "Pig" Robbins on the track Honky Tonk Lullaby," of which Eldredge says "He just fit it perfectly, playing the piano in the background, almost like a ghost sound."
The disc closes with the emotional wallop of "The Road To Surrender." Roberts says the song - as well as performance of Johnson on the cut - speaks volumes.
"We were on the bus, and Jamie played the song. He asked what I thought, and I said 'I think it's awesome.' I think it's his best vocal performance of any he's ever done. Just knowing that you can take it to God and he's going to be there is what it's all about."
Look for the Grascals on the road this spring and summer, but Roberts admits they do try to pace themselves - for a lot of reasons. "When we started the band, none of us wanted to be out on the road for a month at a time. It gets tough having six families, and you're gone for two weeks at a time with the frustration of not being home sometimes spills over into the band - who you might not even have a problem with," he says. That decision has paid dividends, admits Eldredge, who said "It makes you want to stay around." Hopefully, they will for a while!
- Country