Reviewed by Dr. Bobby Jones
Mountain Heart comes rocking right out of the box- Jimmy VanCleve almost has an electric Celtic fusion intro - and makes a statement on the first cut. This is not your father's bluegrass, but is modern with an edge and then some. The collection features a variety of tunes and tempos, as well as songs written by an eclectic group of writers. It stays faithful to contemporary acoustic music, but with smatterings of jazz, dark electric fiddle, traces of orchestral arrangements and also traditional breakdowns and bluegrass.
Adam Steffey's mandolin tracks are infused with electric energy, but played with professional precision that effects can not achieve. An old bluegrass hand, he sounds Chris Thile-ish at times, especially on VanCleve's "Deadwood." They move effortlessly from straight ahead driving bluegrass to classic contemporary country cheating songs, such as "Miracle," and do them all with authenticity. The singing is soulful and the harmony arrangements fit the given song, ranging from traditional three part to the Nashville stacked closer, "Everybody But Me."
If you want your bluegrass narrowly defined, this one may throw you a curve. However, if you enjoy acoustic music that pushes the envelope, this CD deserves your study and reflection.