A prolific songwriter, Cardwell’s powerful, four-octave voice is in large part what has caught the ears of some of Nashville’s most respected bluegrass musicians, several who lended their substantial musical expertise to studio sessions in Nashville in late 2015. “One of the most interesting things about Ray is his range,” said Pat Flynn, the highly respected guitar stylist, songwriter and member of New Grass Revival now sitting in the producer chair at Ray’s sessions. “He has a very diverse musical background. We have a bluegrass foundation, but we’re doing everything from blues and gospel a cappella to straight-up bluegrass. I like the fact that Ray is able to embrace a lot of different styles…and pull them all off. His vocals are very distinctive, as well as his bass playing; that sets the stage for us to do a lot of things acoustically with modern bluegrass as a base.”
Cardwell has the kind of voice and stage presence that leaves an audience spell-bound and makes converts wherever he plays. As a band leader, music director or sideman, Ray has performed and toured extensively with bluegrass, Americana, country, jazz, reggae, blues, musical theater, rock, Motown, choral and rockabilly groups. The Cardwell Family bluegrass band, from the Missouri Ozarks, performed in America’s heartland in the late 1970s. In the ‘80s Ray was into rock & reggae, followed by a move to Nashville as a member of the critically acclaimed bluegrass/gospel group, the New Tradition in 1994. Then he returned to Missouri to raise a family, where he earned accolades as an award-winning vocal and instrumental music teacher with ensembles.
“Playing bluegrass in Nashville again is something I have dreamed about,” Cardwell said. “My time in the studio this past fall is exceeding my wildest expectations. To be playing alongside musicians I have admired for many years makes me feel as if life really can come full circle. And following your heart can lead you through open doors you never dreamed were possible.”