Mike Block and his lonesome cello on Walls of Time

One of the many benefits of bluegrass’s greater exposure in the wider music world these days is the lure it offers to talented performers from outside our realm. Musicians trained in other disciplines are trying their hand at the mountain sound, bringing us new ways of thinking about bluegrass and old time music.

As I’ve said many times before, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every recording artist felt that they needed to make a bluegrass album before they died?” This is becoming truer than ever, with the lines between our beloved bluegrass and the wider pop music world blurring year over year.

One new example is Walls Of Time, from noted cellist Mike Block. Trained as a classical musician, Block has enjoyed a career exemplified by genre-crossing innovation, involving both his unorthodox approach to his instrument, and with his considerable vocal talents. On this new project, he re-imagines well known songs from the folk music canon, including the iconic Bill Monroe/Peter Rowan classic which names the record.

In this music video taken from the session, we see Mike with his strapped cello, supported by Zachariah Hickman on bass, Bruce Molsky on fiddle, and Mark Erelli on harmony vocals. The song takes on a different feel in this all-strings setting, but Block and company maintain the eerie, chilling vibe of Monroe’s recording by bringing the lonesome. At the end, they tack on a nice run through the old timer, Glory In The Meeting House.

In discussing Walls Of Time, Mike explained a bit about what he had in mind for this project.

“After my first album of American Folk music, Final Night at Camp, I wanted to go deeper with the exploration of incorporating musicians from different cultures and styles into the re-imagination of what traditional American music could sound like, using a combination of timeless songs like CC Rider, Blackest Crow, and Wayfaring Stranger; traditional old-time fiddle tunes like Forked Deer, Julianne Johnson, and Old Sledge; bluegrass standards like Walls of Time and Old Dangerfield; while also throwing some unexpected things in like Roll Over Beethoven (Chuck Berry), Lay Down Your Weary Tune (Bob Dylan); and a new original of mine, How ’bout going to the creek?”

In addition to his performing career, Block is a renowned educator, teaching now at both Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.

Walls Of Time is available now wherever you find music for sale online.

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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.