Charlie Cushman to Flamekeeper

How do you make one of the drivingest bands in bluegrass even better? Well, if you’re Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper, you bring banjo phenom Charlie Cushman into the group.

The band has announced this afternoon that Charlie will be their new banjo player effective immediately, filling the spot recently vacated by Jessie Baker.

Cushman has been known for many years as one of the finest five stringers in and around bluegrass, not only for his own approach to three finger picking, but also as an interpreter and preservationist of the distinct styles of Earl Scruggs and Don Reno. He underwent coronary bypass surgery in July of 2009 following a mild heart attack, and is now fully recovered and ready to roll!

Michael is upbeat about his new banjo man…

“It is going to be a blast to play and learn from one of the true professionals in the business! I feel like everything is finally coming together the way I’ve always hoped.”

Michael and Charlie have discussed working together many times, and it looks like the timing is finally right. As Charlie tells it…

“I wanted to go to work with Mike the first year he had his band, but just had so many things going on in Nashville, that I couldn’t take time off to go work with him. Now, I’m working at home doing banjo set up work and don’t have any special place I need to be every day.

I’m honored to be in a band withe these guys, some of whom have been friends for years. It’s a dream come true for me, and I’m so pleased that the timing was right.”

Cushman says that he got a clean bill of health from his doctors a few months ago, and had been doing shows with Jerry Butler & the Blu-Js over the winter.

“My cardiologist told me that if he didn’t know I had had heart surgery, he wouldn’t be able to tell. I’m shedding some pounds I put on while I was recovering, and am in good shape.

I’ll continue to do whatever shows I can with Jerry this year, because I love him and love playing with him. But Michael is at the top of my list now, and it’s going to be magic.”

Flamekeeper also has a new record in the can, Fired Up, which is expected on Rounder this Spring. They plan to debut some of the material at the Station next month.

For fans of hard driving bluegrass, this is exciting news!

Look for Charlie with the band at the next Flamekeeper show, February 18 at Nashville’s Station Inn.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.