Mountain Heart with Tony Rice

Mountain Heart with Tony Rice at IBMA - Clay Hess, Tony Rice, Jason Moore, Barry Abernathy, Jim Van Cleve, Josh ShillingLast week, Brance posted a few photos of Mountain Heart performing with Tony Rice at the Keith Case suite on Wednesday of IBMA week.

They also did a main stage show during Fan Fest, and fiddler Jim Van Cleve sent along a report with some photos.

“Fan Fest was just incredible!

We had done a short set earlier in the week, and it had gone very well, but it was in a conference room suite, and they just couldn’t fit any more than a few hundred people in there. It was really packed that night.

Tony Rice performing with Mountain Heart at IBMA 2008 (Jason Moore also pictured)At Fan Fest, on the other hand, they could fit a LOT of people in there for the show, and though I couldn’t see them from the stage because of the lights, I could still HEAR them! It was a GREAT audience, and the show got an insane response! Tony was really playing like the legend he is, too…wow.

There were even people crowding up in the aisles up front, taking pictures and such. It was a lot of fun, and I’ve already seen a lot of pictures from friends, fans, and even family, from the show that night. Tony is smiling in almost all of them!

That means a lot to us, to see that he’s enjoying playing with Mountain Heart…since we certainly are enjoying playing with him!”

The Fan Fest show was scheduled as the closing act on Friday’s (10/3) bill, and Mountain Heart also had a slot on The Grand Ole Opry that same night. Jim describes how an impulsive, last minute notion brought Tony to the Opry stage as well.

Mountain Heart with Tony Rice on The Grand Ole Opry - October 3, 2008“Over the last few years, Mountain Heart has had the honor and privilege to sort of reach the ‘regulars’ status at the Grand Ole Opry. We’re very grateful to them for this, as they will often call when they see openings in our itinerary. Of course, it’s always a huge honor to play there and represent bluegrass music on such an important stage, so we really do cherish the opportunities when they come about. I must admit, this one was even more special than usual, though!

This particular time, we had been asked about a week or two in advance if we could play there, as they’d seen on our itinerary that we were going to be in town. So, we checked our schedule at IBMA Fan Fest (where we were already scheduled to play with Tony) and saw that it was probably possible to be in both places that night.

Backstage at The Grand Ole Opry: Barry Abernathy, Jason Moore, Tony Rice, Clay Hess, Jim Van Cleve, Josh Shilling, Aaron RamseyBarry, just on a whim, mentioned to the folks at the Opry that we were playing later that night with Tony, and asked if they would be interested in having us come together to perform, just as we were doing later that night. They were very receptive to the idea and we called Tony and Keith Case to get everybody’s thoughts.

All the stars must have lined up just right, because we got yeses all around”

I wondered whether the audience at The Opry recognized what a special treat they were witnessing when Tony came out with Mountain Heart…

“I wouldn’t think that each person in the audience was completely aware of what was going on and who Tony was, but Eddie Stubbs did a really nice job of prefacing the whole thing before we started. A lot of times, at the Opry you have a touristy-type of crowd, and sometimes you get the impression that the only music they’re aware of is either classic Country artists that have been there in residence for a long time, or the current radio stars. On those nights, you strive to make them never forget you, if at all possible. Either way, It was a really special night for us.

We played two straight-up, hardcore bluegrass songs on the Grand Ole Opry that night with Tony: Blue Ridge Mountain Home and Freeborn Man, and when we finished, we received a standing ovation from the Opry crowd. That’s always a great feeling, but it was really a memorable experience to do it with Tony there with us!

The pictures we got from that night are going to find their way to a frame somewhere in my house, I think.”

There are a few YouTube videos posted which captured the Tony Rice/Mountain Heart set at fan Fest. The footage is a bit shaky (hand held camera), but you clearly see how jazzed both the performers and the concert goers were by the show.

“I got to see some video that was taken of a few of the songs that night, and I got goose bumps all over again. I’ll never forget what I was thinking while on stage: I am up here, at IBMA (and earlier that night, the Grand Ole Opry), playing the songs I grew up listening to, with probably the biggest musical influence of my life, in the flesh! Somebody pinch me.”

Mountain Heart is scheduling shows with Tony for 2009 and beyond, and a number of shows together remain during the rest of ’08. You can find the dates (and new ones as they are added) on either the Mountain Heart or Tony Rice web sites.

Jim also dangled a tease about a tour with Tony in the works…

“We have some very cool news coming up very soon. We’re really excited about it all and can’t wait to make some of these announcements!

It’s been an awesome summer and an especially huge last month or so for Mountain Heart. We’ve had shows all over the country, have done the Grand Ole Opry twice, and played with Diamond Rio, Confederate Railroad, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Tony Rice, all in the span of about four or five weeks!!”

Photos/video courtesy of Aleah Dillon.

Share this:

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.