Red Camel Collective Releases “Roll on Mississippi”

I think Red Camel Collective, a side project for members of the respected Junior Sisk Band, is in an unique position. These four respected stalwarts of the bluegrass community possess the talent to crossover into mainstream classic country music based on their cover of Charley Pride’s 1981 track “Roll on Mississippi”. Their re-envisioning of the cut as a bluegrass track is complete, but never saps the original of its Top 40 country music sensibilities. In fact, Red Camel Collective embraces those attributes and filters them through the bluegrass style with impressive results.


Heather Berry Mabe is the key vocalist in this quartet. Her outstanding vocal prowess leads the way for Red Camel Collective while contributions from multi-instrumentalist Tony Mabe (guitar, banjo) and Johnathan Dillon (mandolin) immeasurably enrich the band’s vocal blend. Each of the Red Camel Collective’s three singers has immense shoes to fill in recalling Charley Pride’s distinctive timbre, and doing an admirable job makes for an even better track. They bring a sense of joy and discovery to the lyrical content transforming it into a thoroughly contemporary listening experience.

The instrumental skills on display are powerful. I’m quite taken with Johnathan Dillon’s mandolin playing. The song isn’t strictly a vehicle for him to demonstrate his mandolin gifts, though the arrangement of “Roll on Mississippi” provides him with ample opportunity to flex his instrumental skills. His playing has an exuberance that leaps out at you from his first appearance and sustains the tune in marvelous ways.

His bandmates are equally up to the task. Tony Mabe’s banjo playing deserves fulsome plaudits for its natural facility. He provides stunning accompaniment throughout the tune that diversifies the song’s appeal. The guitar has a much more low-key presence in the performance than the other instruments but plays a meaningful role. Curt Love, a multi-instrumentalist in his own right, steadies the song’s engine room with pivotal bass playing that supplies excellent ballast for the performance.

The song’s duration may seem a bit long for followers of the form. It allows Red Camel Collective to announce their arrival without ever succumbing to self-indulgence. I hear nothing but sharp tastefulness defining this song; there’s no wasted motion. They do a great job putting their individual stamp on the performance while still remaining faithful, after a fashion, to Pride’s intentions with the song’s original version.

It likewise shows their immense knowledge of music to reach back into the early 1980s and pluck this song out of relative obscurity. Pride landed scores of hits on contemporary country radio during that era and earlier, and “Roll on Mississippi” offers us a pleasant and lively reminder of his immense contributions to the genre. Red Camel Collective’s respect for his work is abundant. However, they never treat the song as an ornate museum piece. Instead, their version of “Roll on Mississippi” delves deep into the enduring spirit of the track and makes it an invigorating ride you shouldn’t miss. I expect it’s the first entertaining salvo from a musical project that will be around for some time.

Gwen Waggoner