Bluegrass Today - By Braeden Paul
Along with founders Rick and Josie Grant on mandolin and rhythm guitar respectively, Rock Ridge further consists of Dale and Suzanne Adkins on banjo and bass. The vocals are largely centered around Dale and Josie, as evidenced from the opening and title track of the project, The Flood. Written by Suzanne Adkins, this metaphorical song about lost love packs a lot of punch. Chad Manning from Berkeley, California guests on fiddle on this and several other songs on the project.
Sleeping Cold by Kasey Chamber and Shane Nicholson, once again displays the strong vocal blend of Dale Adkins and Josie Grant. This haunting piece has somewhat of an old time feel and features Dale on tenor guitar. Forget The Hard Times by Suzanne is performed in a similar vein, and contains smooth fiddling from Greg Spatz of Spokane, Washington along with great baritone vocals from Rick Grant.
Climb That Hill is a driving piece written by Dale that captures the band’s instrumental and vocal intensity at its finest. Blue Night of course comes from the pen of Kirk McGee. Rock Ridge’s rendition captures the wonderful vocal blend of Suzanne Adkins and Josie Grant. I personally hope we hear more duets from them on future projects.
Farmer’s Lament by Rick Grant is a melancholy piece that tells the common tale of a farmer’s struggles and trials. Played in a minor key, the instrumental performance along with Josie’s lead vocals convey this story beautifully.
Don’t Let the Stove Go Cold again comes from the pen of Dale Adkins. This upbeat track talks of escaping a viciously cold day in winter. This piece in particular features a great vocal harmony stack with Dale on lead, Suzanne on tenor, and Josie on high baritone.
Most listeners will be familiar with John Pennell’s composition Foolish Heart as it was originally recorded by Alison Krauss on her 1987 Rounder debut, Too Late To Cry. The rendition here sticks fairly close to Krauss’ arrangement. Even so, it’s really well done.
Rock Ridge is a band with a lot of promise. Not only are their vocals and musicianship top notch, but there’s several great songwriters within the group. It’s evident that they have spent a lot of time refining their identity as an ensemble. The Flood is a fruitful result of their productivity.
"With their stunning vocals, dazzling instrumentation, reimagined standards and terrific original numbers, Rock Ridge is the premier voice of the Northwest traditional bluegrass sound." Linda Leavitt
Oregon Bluegrass Association
Editor, Bluegrass Express
Creative Director, Banjos West, 2023
"The Flood by Rock Ridge is a recording of exceptional quality featuring beautiful harmonies, superb material, strong instrumentation and a keen attention to detail. This is a recording that should put Rock Ridge firmly on the bluegrass map. You owe it to yourself to check it (and them) out. " Gareth Jenkins, KBOO Radio Bluegrass DJ, 2023
Album Review Rock Ridge: The Flood
by Gareth Jenkins
Rock Ridge is a hard-driving tra-
ditionally based bluegrass band that is blessed with outstanding vocalists and superb instrumentation. Their latest release, The Flood, is filled with great material and dynamic performances.
Each of the Rock Ridge members is a
veteran musician, having played in some
of the best bands on the west coast. During that time they each gained a deep experience and appreciation for bluesy vocal-based deep-groove bluegrass music. They bring all the chops and lessons they have learned to this band and to this recording.
Now based in Sisters, Oregon, Rock Ridge
has been working on their sound for quite a few years and were ready to make their move in 2020 with a full schedule of live shows, only to have COVID-19 hit and
force them to postpone. In the interim
they have continued to work hard and
have jelled into a band that is ready to
make waves in the bluegrass world.
I have enjoyed the opportunity to observe them at festivals, jam sessions and in other settings over the past few years and have been greatly impressed by how their sound has tightened and become even more exciting. I was recently afforded the opportunity to listen to some of the earlier mixes of The Flood in Dale Adkins’ Big Owl Studio and it was apparent from each experience what a special band this is and what a special recording The Flood is.
To make a truly memorable recording that rises above the available mass of recordings, a band needs to have—of course—a finely tuned facility with their instruments (both stringed and voice). They also need to have great material, and that rarest of all factors, a cohesive group personality that can perform
together at the highest level while also drawing in the listener. This only comes from experience and the awareness of the importance of “listening.” They don’t simply play a part, but listen and react to each other in a way that helps create their joyful group energy, tasteful instrumental interplay and their vocal blends.
At the forefront of the Rock Ridge sound
are the voices of Josie Grant and Dale
Adkins. Whether singing lead, harmony
or in tandem, they have that vocal blend
that makes a song take wing and makes
the listener sit up and take notice. Josie,
besides being a powerhouse vocal talent,
plays driving rhythm guitar while Rick
Grant plays mandolin and adds strong
vocals to the mix. Suzanne Adkins is a
rock-solid hard-driving bass player who
also adds harmonies while Dale provides
his expert banjo, guitar and tenor guitar
playing while also serving as the recording engineer. The final touch is provided by their wonderful guest fiddlers, Chad Manning and Greg Spatz.
The Flood is a blend of songs from the
bluegrass songbook as well as from other artists the band members admire. However, many of the best songs come from their own formidable songwriting talents. The title track was written by Suzanne Adkins and was earlier heard on the wonderful 2019 release Mackenzie-Adkins (with Kate Mackenzie). It is a song that will garner a great deal of radio play and is also the first single released from The Flood. Suzanne also wrote another one of the standout tracks, Forget the Hard Times, which features the beautiful duet singing of Dale and Josie. Dale contributed two songs to the recording, one of which, Climb That Hill, was recently covered by Kenny and Amanda Smith, while Rick wrote Farmer’s Lament, the second single released, sung beautifully and soulfully by Josie with Dale on the harmony vocal.
The other material includes personal
favorites such as Cullen Galyean’s Lonely
River featuring Dale on lead vocal and
Josie on tenor with some tasteful driving
banjo work by Dale and mandolin by Rick. Johnny Williams’ What Will Become Of Me has Josie providing a powerful lead
vocal and some spirited fiddling by Chad
Manning. There are also songs from John
Pennel (Foolish Heart, made famous by
Alison Krauss and beautifully sung by
Josie, Rick and Dale), Ronnie Bowman
and Tim Massey (Enough On My Mind),
Ralph Stanley (Your Worries and Troubles
are Mine) and Kirk McGee (Blue Night).
There are many great performances on The Flood but two of the strongest tracks are sourced from the amazing Australian duo of Shane Nicholson and Kasey Chambers and their recording, Rattlin’ Bones. They are Sweetest Waste Of Time, a slower-paced duet by Dale and Josie; and the superb Sleeping in the Cold, a haunting bluesy number which is another perfect vehicle for an exquisite yet powerful duet by Dale and Josie, and sweet tenor guitar playing by Dale.
The Flood is a rare gem of a recording that reflects this band’s talents and their deep love of this music. The Flood will bring a smile to your face, keep your foot tapping and will, as with all really good recordings, bring you back time and time again, discovering new things with each listening. This is mature, heart felt dynamic music by a talented and exciting band that you need to know about. Keep an eye on Rock Ridge because they could be going places.
Gareth Jenkins lives near Sisters, where he builds guitars. You can hear Gareth every third Saturday on Music From The True Vine on KBOO-FM radio, 90.7, or listen online at kboo.fm
“The band was perfect for my event. They could not have been more professional and accommodating. High recommendation for the Rock Ridge Band!!” -- Beth T, Glen Ellen, CA, 8/4/2012
“The band was on time, professional, well dressed and very talented. They were fun, polite and easy to work with. EVERYONE at the celebration loved their music and they absolutely made the event special. I will definitely hire them again and recommend them to others.” Lisa J. Roseville, CA 7/15/2016
"Rock Ridge was perfect for our event. Josie and the band are professional, personable, and talented. In addition to a strong repertoire of bluegrass standards and originals, they welcomed the opportunity to stretch out musically and learn a few cover requests ranging from a Jerry Douglas instrumental, which was a recurring song throughout the ceremony and reception, Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra to Waylon Jennings and The Talking Heads -- and they nailed them! I wouldn't think twice about hiring Rock Ridge for my next event." John D, 2017
"The Rock Ridge Bluegrass Band was a major reason my daughter's wedding was such a fabulous event. I was initially skeptical, but from the beginning of their performance all doubt evaporated. They are not only very talented but thoroughly professional in every way. As background sound they were not in any way intrusive; their music was well chosen and suited the atmosphere to a tee. As the primary music for the ceremony itself and the reception afterward, they were a pure delight. Their rendering of "Rock Me Momma" to which the newly-weds danced the first dance was for me the highlight of the reception. Josie's voice is absolutely beautiful; her intonation and interpretation of the music were perfect. I was able to speak with a couple of the band members and was struck with their genuine friendliness and their love for what they do as musicians. I highly recommend them." Robert Curtis, 2014