Smithsonian Folkways Celebrates SW Ohio’s Golden Age with Forthcoming Album – Industrial Strength Bluegrass


Smithsonian Folkways celebrates the golden age of Bluegrass music in Southwest Ohio with the release of Industrial Strength Bluegrass on March 26. The first single, “Readin’, Rightin’, Route 23” is performed by Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers and will be available to radio on Friday, January 29.

Industrial Strength Bluegrass is the story of bluegrass’ transformation from a music to a movement, carried north by Appalachians seeking a better life in the booming post-WWII factories of Southwest Ohio. The 16-song collection was produced by IBMA Award-winning musician/bandleader Joe Mullins, whose father – fiddler and radio personality Paul “Moon” Mullins – made that journey and helped found the region’s bluegrass scene. The compilation (companion to the new book of the same title from University of Illinois Press) presents Southwest Ohio bluegrass classics remade by an all-star cast featuring Country Music Hall of Famers the Oak Ridge Boys and Vince Gill, Bluegrass Hall of Famer Bobby Osborne, and many of today’s finest bluegrass and Americana artists including Lee Ann Womack, Dan Tyminski, The Isaacs, Sierra Hull, and more.

Pre-order the album HERE:

The album’s first single, Dwight Yoakam’s “Readin’, Rightin’, Route 23,” is a highly personal song detailing Yoakam’s family journey from Pikeville, Ky. to Columbus Oh., but it’s also the story of Mullins’ family and countless more. They arrived in Ohio as immigrants in their own country, dismissed as “Briarhoppers” and ridiculed for their clothes, their food, their dialect and their fiddles and banjos. Instead of abandoning their roots, they wore them as badges of honor, turning poverty into poetry, creating a bluegrass sound heard and loved the world over.
Every Friday after work, thousands packed their old cars to go “down home” for the weekend. Those who couldn’t headed to the bars and honky tonks of Cincinnati, Hamilton, Middletown and Dayton, to be sung back home by bluegrass bands performing on makeshift stages through MacGyvered sound systems. Playing five sets a night for drunken, brawling, homesick Kentuckians, the bands and their music became tougher and louder, blazing through the smoke and noise like a fast-moving train. There, musicians and fans formed the first real bluegrass community and that spirit of adventure in every migrant leaving home for a new life found its way into the music. Southwest Ohio bluegrass was a unique combination of deep tradition and game-changing innovation.

Listen to “Readin’, Rightin,’ Route 23” via The Bluegrass Situation HERE:

Industrial Strength Bluegrass releases on Smithsonian Folkways and will be available everywhere on March 26. “Readin’, Rightin’, Route 23” will be available to radio Friday, January 29. For more information visit