Fasten Your Seatbelts, Bluegrass Fans

Wide Open (Skaggs Family Records)

Mountain Heart

By Bob Mitchell

Buckle up! A seat belt is required for safe listening to this one. Mountain Heart, one of today's hottest bands, continues to push the bluegrass envelope. Their latest project is a mixture of bluegrass, country-pop and new-grass constructed to showcase phenomenal musical skill. Tight vocal harmonies and incredible musical energy permeate every track especially on "Wide Open," "Deadwood," "Traveler's Prayer," and "I'm Just Here To Ride The Train."

Steve Gulley always pours his soul into a song but his work is particularly noteworthy on "Everyone But Me," "We Are" and "Miracle." Another vocal highlight is Adam Steffey's lead on "A Town That Isn't There." Jimmy VanCleve, one of the industry's most talented and inventive fiddlers, is consistently amazing but no more so than on his original instrumental, "Deadwood." "Deadwood" allows all the band members to strut their stuff.

Rounding out this extraordinary band are Barry Abernathy with his hard driving banjo, Clay D. Jones with jaw dropping guitar support and Jason Moore with his rock steady bass. In short, each member of the band displays incredible musical artistry.

This project is progressive and is marketed as having "no boundaries." That's true and fans of traditional bluegrass may find it too adventurous.

(Special Note: For fifty years I have observed that Bluegrass music has a tendency to make people happy and bring out the best in all of us. The first annual Banks of the Ohio Bluegrass Festival was held in Louisville last month. The most generous moment came as I was speaking with Clay D. Jones in the artist's ready room. A policeman passed through security areas with a young fan (about 14 years old) who wanted to shake Clay's hand. Clay was cordial and very interested in the boy's conversation. When the fan said something about a broken string, Clay reached in his guitar case and gave the boy a set of new strings.)

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