Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 4 Reviews
Sunday, Oct. 3, 3:30 p.m.
Reviewed by Chris Streng
Mountain Heart warmed up the afternoon crowd with their uptempo musical virtuosity. These International Bluegrass Music Award winners have a fleet-fingered approach to bluegrass that made them a crowd favorite. After a rocky sound-check, they quickly launched into material from their sixth album, Force of Nature, which was produced by Ricky Skaggs. Their affinity for Skaggs was apparent as songs like "#6 Barn Dance" and "Twister" went by at a blistering pace. Mountain Heart plays their music at two speeds: fast and really fast. Adam Steffey was particularly nimble on the mandolin and Barry Abernathy showed a technical mastery of the banjo despite missing three fingers on his left hand, a disability which he commented on by saying everyone else in the band has too many fingers.
Their jovial between-song banter belied their technical expertise as they espoused the virtues of hand-warmers in their pockets and continually poked fun at each other. According to Steffey, "#6 Barn Dance" was based on the Mel Brooks film Blazing Saddles, but since this was a family environment, he wouldn't elaborate any further. Singer/guitarist Steve Gulley was introduced as "the hairiest man in bluegrass" while the title of "most intense man in bluegrass" was bestowed upon guitarist Clay Jones. Jones lived up to the title by breaking no less than three guitar strings by the end of the set. Even when the pin came out of the bottom of Jason Moore's electric/upright bass, the tempo never lagged. Moore held up the bass with his left hand and reinserted the pin with his right without missing a beat. The rest of the band watched him wrestle with the instrument and cheered him on when he got it back together, all of this happened during absurdly quick instrumental duels!
They received a standing ovation and were called back out for an encore. "Band of the day" was a popular sentiment among audience members and on two separate occasions, people were heard to say Mountain Heart were, "pickin' their ass off."
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