Mountain Heart – different, but still the same

Jim VanCleve at the Mountain Heart showcase for Rural RhythmAfter dinner, we trekked back up to the Rural Rhythm suite to catch the newest iteration of Mountain Heart perform live. I had heard some live tracks of the band since Josh Shilling joined as a vocalist, but had not seen them perform, and had not heard them at all since Clay Hess stepped in on guitar.

Mountain Heart has always been known for their energy and personality on stage, and even in a small hotel suite, it was there in abundance. In the was room was an invited audience of media types, distributors and event producers, many there to see whether the new band was up to the high standards that the prior lineup had set.

Barry Abernathy bears down one one - Rural Rhythm suite at IBMA 2007Over the course of a short set they demonstrated that Josh could cut the Mountain Heart material, that Clay added a new precision to their lead guitar spot, and that these changes did nothing to affect the spirit and trademark homespun humor fans have come to expect. The show also showcased a new dimension to the Mountain Heart sound, in the gritty, hard-edged blues numbers that Josh has brought in.

Much of the informal show featured songs that are included on their upcoming Rural Rhythm live CD, Road That Never Ends – The Live Album, due for an October 23 release. The bulk of the CD is made up of songs that have been released on Mountain Heart studio projects, with four new songs to boot.

One that will be of particular interest to long-time fans is their a cappella rendition of Gospel Train, recorded in 2001 for their CD, The Journey, but unavailable for the past few years. If you’ve never seen them do it live, the arrangement is full of vocal sound effects as well as tight four part harmony, and Barry Abernathy, unaccustomed to performing it in front of such a close audience, remarked after the second verse…

“This is the most embarrassing time I’ve ever sung this.”

Class Hess with Mountain Heart - IBMA 2007A good time was had by all.

Be on the lookout for a special promotion we’ll be running with Rural Rhythm soon to coincide with the new CD release.

Details coming soon…

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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.