The modern bluegrass band Dry Branch Fire Squad is dedicated to bluegrass, old-timey, and Southern gospel music traditions. Mandolin player and comedian Ron Thomason founded the Fire Squad in 1976. The earliest incarnation of the group included guitarist John Baker, banjo player Robert Leach, and bass player John Carpenter. Two years later, Mary Jo Leet became the group's vocalist. Dry Branch Fire Squad released a series of independent releases before signing with Rounder in 1978; they would stay with the venerable roots label for the rest of their career.
The Fire Squad continued to release albums on Rounder throughout the 1980s; standouts included Good Neighbours & Friends (1985) and the gospel-flavored Golgotha from a year later. By 1996's Live! At Last, the group included Thomason, guitarist Adam McIntosh, and banjoist Dan Russell; Mary Jo Leet was joined by her husband, Charlie, on harmonies and acoustic bass. The live album displayed the Fire Squad's penchant not only for traditional bluegrass and other Americana styles, but uproarious comedy as well. Memories That Bless & Burn appeared in 1999. The record mixed older material with new, and featured vocalist Suzanne Thomas. The band followed with 2001's Hand Hewn, and continued to be a favorite on the bluegrass and folk festival circuit. A second live album, the double disc Live at the Newburyport Firehouse, was released on Rounder in 2005. In 2007 Rounder released Thirtieth Anniversary Special, a retrospective that included four new tracks, followed by the all new Echoes of the Mountains in 2009. ~ Johnny Loftus