Album Reviews

Blue Mafia

Hanging Tree

Artist:     Blue Mafia

Album:     Hanging Tree

Label:     Pinecastle Records

Release Date:     12.09.2016

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Formed in 2011 by Dara and Tony Wray, Blue Mafia has released their second release for Pinecastle, Hanging Tree. Showcasing more of their original songwriting skills, Blue Mafia again brings their excellent harmonies and engaging playing to the table for a satisfying serving of heartfelt music.

Dara Wray grew up with bluegrass and has musicianship in her DNA. She began learning guitar from her father at age 17 and now plays mandolin and sings in the band. Tony Wray provides guitar and vocals and rounding out the band are: Calib Smith on banjo, Kent Todd on fiddle and vocals, and Mike Gregory on bass. There is a high degree of skill and self-control from all concerned. Solos are musical and well-crafted and the rhythm and support are right on the money.

“The Man You Know” is a fine song by Dara. Starting with an in-tune and buzzing A capella three-part harmony intro, Dara’s lead vocals are soft, with controlled sliding into held notes over the waltz time. The storyline is prodigious and Tony’s guitar playing is supportive and strong.

“With Body & Soul” is the stand-out track for me—admittedly I like my grass at least in the medium tempo neighborhood, and here, Blue Mafia delivers. The harmonies are superb and they convey the train whistle very nicely. The solos are top-notch, Tony and Calib really turn in outstanding choruses. Nice to hear this standard given a new twist.

Blue Mafia has a well-oiled release with Hanging Tree, distinguished by a consistently high level of sweet and proficient singing and harmonies, a wide-ranging assortment of interesting tunes, and support from a talented band whose collective focus is on playing great tunes and playing them well.

—Sylvannia Garutch

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