The Atlanta Times gets down to the brass tacks of it; “Cleveland is as versatile as they come, but when it comes to straight-up bluegrass, whether it’s a ‘boot-stomper’ or a high- and-lonesome lament, his peers are few and far between.” Clearly, this fiery fiddler’s story is just beginning and, as On Down the Line demonstrates, Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper’s future preserving and innovating the bluegrass tradition has never been brighter.
Three albums into their career as a band, Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper have hit their stride with On Down the Line. At the core of Flamekeeper’s approach is trying to find the balance between honoring bluegrass music’s founding fathers while still breaking new ground. The band’s desire to look outward for new ideas and songs while still staying rooted in bluegrass is readily apparent on the new project. The lead off track is a cover of Julian Lennon’s song “Too Late For Goodbyes” and the jaw dropping instrumental trades and racing tempo make this such a perfect fit in bluegrass that it’s hard to imagine the song had a life outside of the genre. As Michael says: “We do want to keep within the traditional way of doing things. But I don’t want to be so traditional that you play only traditional licks. My feeling is that if you’re jamming, and you think of something, no matter where it came from, you play it.” Several original songs from guitarist Josh Richards found their way on to the project, most notably the neo-classic “Johnny Thompson.” Additionally, the CD includes an imaginative reworking of Tex Logan’s classic fiddle tune “Come Along, Jody” and the instantly appealing “Fiddlin’ Joe” which Mark Brinkman penned especially for Michael. There is also a gorgeous solo fiddle rendition of “Jack of Diamonds” and, as a tip of the hat to Michael’s initial inspiration for learning to play the fiddle, a blistering version of “Orange Blossom Special.”
- 10 time winner of IBMA Fiddler of the Year – Most Awarded in IBMA History
- IBMA 4-Time Instrumental Group of the Year
- Performed on Vince Gills CD “These Days” a Grammy Country Album of the Year
- 2002 IBMA Instrumental Album of the Year for Flame Keeper
- 2004 IBMA Instrumental Album of the Year for Tom Adams and Michael Cleveland Live at the Ragged Edge
- 2006 IBMA Instrumental Album of the Year for Let ‘Er Go, Boys!