The ‘new guy’ with Mountain Heart

Mountain Heart, with new member Josh Shilling (center)There has been much discussion this past few weeks about Josh Shilling, the newest member of Mountain Heart who joined the band when founding member Steve Gulley departed in late 2006. Whenever a major band makes such a prominent change in their lineup, loyal fans feel a knot in their stomachs. After all, they loved the band with Steve – how will it be with the new guy?

Early reports have been enthusiastic, and Josh has been described as an amazingly talented vocalist with real “star power.”

They made their Station Inn debut in Nashville last week with Josh, and we have a report on the show from Jennie Frank, sister of bluegrass picker Ashby Frank. Jennie works for the Tennessee Performing Arts Center and operates a teaching studio, Inspire Reflect Studio, in Nashville.

Here’s Jennie’s review, which she titled Who’s The Fool Now?

Bluegrass staple, Mountain Heart, with new lead vocalist Josh Schilling, packed the Station Inn on 12th Avenue South in downtown Nashville this past Wednesday night. I was one of the lucky ones to catch the show.Now for most in the bluegrass world, this band’s incredible talent is no news to you, but the particular sound emerging from the stage was not one of a typical Mountain Heart performance. It echoed a new voice in bluegrass; one that is guaranteed to grow there for a really long time.Schilling made his debut with the band only a couple weeks earlier on the Grand Ole Opry stage, immediately showcasing his songwriting abilities with self-penned Who’s the Fool Now? – a “melt your heart while it’s breaking” tune that would make Vince Gill contemplate the idea he had a long lost brother. On the Station stage, he topped his Opry crooning, throwing into the mix of the traditional MH sound with soulful, unique renditions of classics such as Soulshine by Warren Hayes and Eric Clapton’s Running on Faith.

Mind you now, the highs of the evening were not carried by the newcomer vocalist alone. Mountain Heart – summing up musicians plus vocalists equals a whole lotta something good – has never been so full of energy. Loved favorites of the band, plus a couple cuts from fiddle player Jim Van Cleve’s self-debut No Apologies, spattered the song list, as one after another were executed in perfect accord. When the crowd cheered for more at the end of the second set, a band member of another well-known bluegrass group whispered to me “gosh, I love this band!” as the group re-entered for an encore.

And encore they did. Van Cleve tore up the last number, blazing half the hairs off of his bow and I do believe a couple audience members’ heads. By the time the show closed, every member glowed with the sweet sweat of a successful, bless your bluegrass heart performance.

So, if you haven’t taken a listen to this band in awhile, I urge you to “get thee to their website” for a listen to Mountain Heart and their new sound with the familiar trimmings. The appeal is quite mesmerizing and the freshness will be well-known in bluegrassland very soon.

Editor’s note: You can hear a live version of Josh and Mountain Heart performing Who’s the Fool Now? on their MySpace page. There is also a video clip on YouTube of them doing a semi-spontaneous cover of Clapton’s version of Nobody Knows You at the Georgia Theater in Cartersville, GA on February 3.

Jim VanCleve said that it was sort of a special feature moment in the show, and that the clip was captured by a member of the audience on a cell phone.

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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.