I just wanted to take a second to thank you for the tickets to the Mountain Heart/Tony Rice show at the Paramount Center last night. Winning the tickets was only the first of a series of surprises and thrills. A surprise opening act, Barry Scott and Second Wind, used a 25 minute set to open the show. If you haven’t heard this group you’re missing some of the best bluegrass gospel I’ve heard. The harmonies are tight, with fantastic musicianship from everyone. During the last chorus of When He Comes Down, the guys hit a high note that got everyone in the crowd excited. We came out of our seats before the song was over! Another big hit with the crowd was 15 year old banjo player Zane Petty.
Having seen Mountain Heart numerous times I thought I knew what to expect when they took the stage. Once again, I was surprised. I hadn’t seen the band since Aaron Ramsey joined them on mandolin. He fills the enormous shoes of Adam Steffey admirably with incredible rhythm, solos and vocals on Mountain Man. Mountain Heart continues to explore music that is outside the borders of traditional bluegrass, but they cannot be topped for energy, enthusiasm and ability. As they hammered out their fast-paced set I kept asking myself how the evening could get any better.
When Tony Rice joined the band on stage at around 9:45, I found out just how great this show was going to be. Barry Abernathy told the crowd that this show was unrehearsed, but that they planned to jam and have fun. Mission accomplished! Guitar player, Clay Hess, who normally plays scorching lead solos but sings few songs, stepped forward literally by helping Tony with song selection and by singing lead on most of the numbers for the remainder of the show. Clay revealed that his first record EVER was Manzanita, and that Tony’s play on that album started Clay down his life’s path of playing music. Mountain Heart took on another personality while performing the Rice tunes, with Clay singing lead, Barry Abernathy singing mostly tenor, and Aaron Ramsey stepping to the mic to add some harmony vocals. Clay and Barry sang until their voices were nearly gone. It was obvious that everyone in the theater had a great time, and when the time came to wrap things up, it still seemed too early.
Thanks Moutain Heart. Thanks Tony Rice. Thanks Paramount Center. And a big thank you to Bluegrass Today. It was a night to remember!