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No Apologies

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Album Review

For his first solo album, fiddler Jim Van Cleve called on the talents of his bandmates in Mountain Heart along with an impressive array of high-powered helpers (including guitarist Bryan Sutton, banjo picker Ron Stewart, and singers Sonya Isaacs and Ronnie Bowman) to realize a pleasingly personal vision of modern bluegrass music. Some of his moves are predictable: there are jazzy, new acoustic-style instrumentals like "Grey Afternoon" and "Fall Creek Falls," most of which are nice enough but have a tendency to sacrifice vitality in the interest of fancy chord changes, and there's also the requisite number of old-school barnburners like "Train 45" and Bill Monroe's rollicking "Wheel Hoss." In between, though, there are some surprises: "Nature of the Beast" is jazzy in a more original way and employs subtle touches of dubwise production, while "Scars" is a flat-out pop song, a quiet and regretful number featuring stellar vocals by Sonya Isaacs. What's interesting is that the album's two most effective tracks are also among the most mainstream: a gorgeous, chugging version of Flatt & Scruggs' "We Can't Be Darlings Anymore," and a swaggering country original titled "Way It Always Seems to Go." Very nice.

Biography

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Self-taught bluegrass fiddler Jim VanCleve was born and raised in Florida, where his interest in bluegrass first blossomed. His family's move to North Carolina then placed VanCleve in the very heart of string band country, and by his teens he was gigging regularly as a fiddler. VanCleve was only 18 years old when he joined Rambler's Choice in 1998. The group put out its only album, Sounds of the Mountains, on Rounder Records that same year, after which VanCleve left to work with Doyle Lawson &...
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No Apologies, Jim Van Cleve
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