Mountain Heart live CD – and trading Clays

Mountain Heart - Road That Never Ends, The Live AlbumThere is much to report from the world of Mountain Heart. We have news on their upcoming CD, and a new member of the band to announce.

First, the CD… When Mountain Heart announced back in May that they were starting work on their first live CD project, it wasn’t clear when it might be released, or with whom. They were looking for a record label, tearing up the road, and knew that they wanted to capture the energy of their live shows – and their hot new lead singer – for a live recording.

Well, the project is now complete, as are the the behind-the-scenes machinations. Road That Never Ends – The Live Album will be released in October on Rural Rhythm Records. It was recorded May 26 at The Ark in Ann Arbor, MI in front of a boisterous, and highly appreciative audience.

There are several brand new songs – including Who’s The Fool Now, the Josh Shilling song that has been a show stopper for the band on stage – plus some songs that will be familiar to Mountain Heart fans. Look for live versions of Gospel Train, Here to Ride the Train, God and Everybody, Devil’s Courthouse, #6 Barn Dance and Heart Like a Roadsign on this upcoming release.

On top of mixing and mastering a new live CD, the band is also enacting a personnel change. Clay Hess is coming onboard after September 1 to play guitar, taking the spot of Clay Jones who has left the band. Hess is a former member of Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, and had recently been playing mandolin with The Mark Newton Band.

Clay is certain to do a fine job in Clay’s stead, and is eager to get started.

“I am looking forward to being the newest member of Mountain Heart. They are great vocalists, musicians, and people, so what more could you ask for in a band? I am also looking forward to making my contribution to what I think is one of the most exciting and musically creative situations there’s been in years!”

The other members of the band are happy to have Hess joining them, as well. Banjo picker Barry Abernathy shares the consensus on “the new guy.”

“He is an amazing musician and very versatile, so of course, we are very excited to have him joining Mountain Heart.

Fiddler Jim VanCleve is likewise pleased to have Clay in the band.

“I remember being knocked out by Clay Hess the first time I saw him with Skaggs a few years ago. Now we’re good friends and I am constantly impressed with his musicianship every time we play together. I am really excited to be adding such a powerhouse to the mix!”

Brian Stephens will be filling in on guitar until Clay is available in September.

We also had a chance to talk to the guys about the new live CD. Jim mentions several reasons why Road That Never Ends is special for him.

“It was something this band has been needing to do for quite some time, really. We’ve had hundreds if not thousands, of people asking for a Live Recording or a DVD after seeing the energetic stage show, which has become somewhat of a Mountain Heart calling card. I’m glad to finally get that energy to tape, and make it available to these people who’ve asked for it. I’m especially glad that we were able to capture Josh (Shilling) singing some new material as well as some of the ‘hits’ the band has had down through the years. As well, this was Clay Jones’ final recording with Mountain Heart, and he just killed it. He’s an amazing guitarist and he definitely brought his A-Game for this project. In fact, all the guys really played and sang their butts off, and it’s been a neat experience mixing down, and getting to be an audience member, instead of the fiddle player onstage!”

Josh Shilling, previously the new guy in the band who stepped in as lead vocalist when Steve Gulley departed, is likewise excited about appearing on his first Mountain Heart project.

“As I’m finding out night after night, Mountain Heart fans ask for live recordings at every show. This band is great in the studio but its live performances are as exciting as any rock and roll show out there. There’s enough energy on stage to power a small city and I think that energy comes across on our live CD. I came to the group last January, and since then we’ve written and added some great new songs that really seem to highlight all of what the band is capable. Everything from grass songs played at their best, to a dead ahead blues tune, to a piano vocal feature, to crowd favorites such as Gospel Train and Mountain Man are featured on this project. Also included are four new songs written by members of the band and two of Mountain Heart’s blazing instrumentals.

This show was recorded with a very high-energy crowd present. Like every other show with Mountain Heart, I look across the stage and, one after another, I see incomparable musicians playing their instruments. There’s magic that happens every night and that night we recorded was no exception.”

Look for Road That Never Ends to hit the streets on October 23, 2007. The title track, written by Jim VanCleve and Josh Shilling, was sent as a single to bluegrass radio this week, so keep an ear open for that.

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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.