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Michael Cleveland - "Let 'Er Go Boys!" (CD, 2012)
by Joe Ross, 08/25/2012
Playing Time - 54:36 -- Songs: Old Brown County Barn 2. Night 3. Bright and Early 4. Old Man and His Fiddle 5. Durham's Reel 6. Montana Cowboy 7. Dark as the Night, Blue as the Day 8. Sugar in the Gourd 9. Stone's Rag 10. Hello City Limits 11. Hopelessly in Love 12. Old Mountaineer 13. Flower Blooming in the Wildwood 14. Old Joe 15. Sugar Tree Stomp 16. Miller's Cave 17. Cacklin' Hen
Who They Are: Michael Cleveland has been in 3 top bluegrass bands fronted by women (Rhonda Vincent, Alison Krauss, Dale Ann Bradley). Now he's poised to launch his own band, Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper featuring Audie Blaylock. The three-time Fiddle Player of the Year has the musical and business acumen to take it far.
Little Known Facts: Michael Cleveland hails from Louisville, Kentucky. Blind from birth, he began playing fiddle at age 3. In 1993, he gained national attention at age 12 when he appeared at the IBMA Awards Show with Chris Thile, Josh Williams and other youngsters. There he met Alison Krauss, who invited him to perform on the Grand Ole Opry that same year. Also at the 1993 IBMA events, he jammed with another blind performer, Doc Watson, which became a highlight of the documentary film "Gather at the River." His hobby is collecting pocket knives. In 1999, he graduated from high school and began performing with Dale Ann Bradley and Coon Creek. In 2000, Michael joined Rhonda Vincent and the Rage. In 2001, 2002, won IBMA award for Fiddle Player of the Year. In 2001, re-joined Dale Ann Bradley and Coon Creek. In 2002, won IBMA award for Instrumental Recording of the Year ("Flame Keeper"). In 2004, won IBMA Award for Fiddle Player of the Year and Instrumental Album of the Year ("Live at the Ragged Edge" with Tom Adams).
The Songs: With this 17-tune collection, Michael has assembled some fine talent to guest. Whether sawing the strings with banjo pickers Pete Kelly ("Durham's Reel") or with Charlie Cushman ("Stone's Rag"), Michael knows that making it upbeat and danceable is what it's all about. Then, a carefully cultivated love song like "Hopelessly In Love" (co-written by Cleveland with noted Michigan songsmith Pete Goble) is as compelling as the others are danceable. The inspired and inspiring musicians include Audie Blaylock (lead guitar) and Rob Ickes (dobro). Auspicious moments on the CD occur when lesser-known Bill Monroe instrumentals, "The Old Brown County Barn" and "The Old Mountaineer" are served up. Michael showcases his consummate mandolin skills. Knowing that bluegrass fans expect top-notch vocals too, he invited some critically-acclaimed singers to the party on "Montana Cowboy" (Del McCoury) and "Old Man and His Fiddle" (Larry Sparks) and "Dark As The Night, Blue As The Day" (Vince Gill and Dan Tyminski) and "Night" (Dale Ann Bradley, Jeff White, Audie Blaylock).
The Bottomline Is: Michael's fast playing is potent and thrilling, but it can also offer beautifully slow melancholic moments.
Reviewed By: Joe Ross (Bluegrass Works)