Heartache and Stone (Independent)
Monroe Crossing

By Bob Mitchell

Known as the "Midwest's Premier Bluegrass and Gospel Quintet," Monroe Crossing plays upbeat traditional bluegrass and gospel. Their web site confirms a busy touring schedule and even though Kentucky (the birthplace of Bluegrass) is not one of their stops, this band understands and respects the musical principles laid down by Bill Monroe.

They are the only bluegrass band ever nominated as "Artist of the Year" (2004) by the Minnesota Music Academy. Monroe Crossing won the 2003 MMA "Bluegrass Album of the Year." In 2007, not only were they selected as a showcase band for the annual gathering of International Bluegrass Music Association, but also, they were inducted into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame. Band members are Art Blackburn (guitar, lead and harmony vocals), Lisa Fuglie (fiddle, mandolin, lead and harmony vocals), Matt Thompson (mandolin, fiddle, and baritone vocals), Mark Anderson (bass and bass vocals), and Benji Flaming (banjo).

Heartache and Stone, the band's 10th release in as many years, represents their best effort to date. Arrangements are fresh and creative. The recording contains five new songs from Fuglie, two originals from Blackburn and an unreleased Becky Buller ballad. The most unusual selection is a Prince cover, "Purple Rain."

Highlights include "Coming Home to You," the charming "Do You Love an Apple," "When You Are Lonely" (a first rate cover of the Bill Monroe and Lester Flatt classic), "Patience," "Four and Twenty," and two feisty instrumentals: "Mason Harris" and "Mississippi Stringer." All in all, it is an enjoyable project loaded with a satisfaction.

For more information go to monroecrossing.com.