A little Bluegrass, now and then

Portfolio (Independent)
Ronnie Reno and The Reno Tradition

By Bob Mitchell

Ahhh, how sweet it is to hear the real stuff - Bluegrass music, that is. This project and the band are appropriately named because each track perpetuates the memory of Don Reno and traditional bluegrass. Portfolio is a perfect showcase for the rich vocal talents of Ronnie Reno. His delivery is consistently easy and confident.

He is comfortable with the classic songs laid down by his famous father decades ago and new tunes such as "Highway of Love" and "I Need That Shoulder After All." When Reno sings "I'm Using My Bible As A Roadmap" and "Freight Train Boogie," a listener is transported back to a simpler time. "Freight Train" still cooks and Daddy would be proud of this arrangement. Reno keeps things moving with an up-tempo original, "Boogie Grass Band."

Portfolio also includes one track from Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner ("Pain Of Loving You") and another track from Merle Haggard ("September In Miami"). Reno's reading of "September" is especially tasteful. Meanwhile, his arrangement of Don Devaney's beautiful "Listening To The Rain" is superb. Five of 14 cuts are Ronnie's originals, but none are finer than a perfectly paced "Highway Of Love," and "Traveling." The often-covered instrumental "Bill Cheatham" is smooth and lets everyone shine for a few bars. There is nothing like a good bluegrass instrumental, and this is indeed a good one. Another personal favorite is "Kneel Down" which features some mighty hot picking.

Reno gets expert support from his band, which features Don Wayne Reno and Mike Scott on banjo; Dale Reno and Danny Roberts on mandolin; Rickie Simpkins, Glen Duncan, and Jackie Miller on fiddle; Heath Van Winkle on tenor vocals and bass; Robin Smith on bass, and Rob Ickes on Reso-phonic guitar. (Ickes is almost everywhere you listen today. That's a good thing for a bluegrass fan, as he is always inventive and supportive.)

Find out more about Reno and his band at