Mountain Heart's fiddler Jimmy Van Cleve displays a virtuosic command of a wide spectrum of acoustic music on his debut solo release. From traditional bluegrass through modern acoustic jazz, 26-year-old Van Cleve handles it all with aplomb, making the title, No Apologies, particularly appropriate.
In addition to his bandmates from Mountain Heart - Adam Steffey on mandolin, Jason Moore on bass, Barry Abernathy and Steve Gulley on vocals - Van Cleve recruited Clay Jones and Bryan Sutton on guitars, Ron Stewart on banjo, Rob Ickes on resophonic guitars, Tim Akers on piano and keyboards, and Ronnie Bowman and Sonya Issacs on vocals. Together they sound as if they've all been playing together for years. Leading off with the original composition "The Nature of the Beast," which combines a bluesy melody with a fast paced bluegrass beat, Van Cleve goes on to cover tunes by Bill Monroe, John Paul White, Lester Flatt, Ruby Rakes, and Dennis McEntire, as well as five more originals.
Unlike may great players whose original tunes are just that, tunes, not songs, Van Clever writes songs as well. "Way It Always Seems To Go" has a ragtime swing edge that challenges you not to sing along with the chorus. His instrumentals range from atmospheric pieces such as "Highlands," and "grey Afternoon," to model romps like "Devil's Courthouse." His cover of the Monroe staple "Wheel Hoss" combines blazing speed with some interesting musical twists and turns. But if you want to hear FAST give "Train" a listen. Humans don't play any faster than this. The amazing thing is that guitarist Clay Jones' guitar and Adam Steffey's mandolin solos are as clean as newly starched shirts.
Although bluegrass may be a 70-year-old musical form, young players like Jimmy Van Cleve make it sound as vibrant as the latest urban hip-hop variant. Want to hear what the future of acoustic music sounds like? Pick up a copy of No Apologies for the 411.