Fast track about eight years to a Loveless performance at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.Attending the show were Loveless' managers Ken Levitan and Mike Robertson.
"All last year, I had been breaking down and doing the acoustic thing in the middle of a show," says Loveless. "It had gone over so well. When we did the acoustic stuff, (marketing head) Mike Kraski from Sony and some other Sony people were there. After we got through playing the acoustic thing and got a standing ovation, the people were into it and loving it, he said maybe we should do a whole record like this. It was just in talking and speaking. It's not like you're planning at that point. It's just in conversation."
"After the whole thing was over with, Ken Levitan approached Sony about doing a project like this. They said, "Wonderful. Let's do it at a certain budget. It wasn't a very large budget."
Loveless declined to give the figure.
"Sometimes, we tend to put too much pressure on ourselves. When we cut that, we cut 12 songs in 5 days and did the whole thing in 5 days - vocals and everything. It's not your norm of doing a project for a month or even two or three months and getting a project done. That's a lot of bucks."
The 14 songs on the album were collected over many years with some done as part of Loveless' stage show. "I had been doing 'Daniel Prayed' in my shows for years. I had been doing 'Soul of Constant Sorrow,' 'Two Coats.'"
Loveless feels that "You'll Never Get Out of Harlan Alive" evokes memories of her hometown where the coal mining work day rules and not much happens in a small town. Coincidentally, Brad Paisley cut the Darrell Scott as well for his new album, "Part II."
"I didn't know that Brad had cut it until after the fact," says Loveless. "The reason I was so drawn to the song (was) the song just hit home for me. My father was a coal miner. My grandfather was. It's such a wonderful story that I could picture it all. For some parts of the songs, I feel I've lived it. I enjoy doing songs I feel almost like telling a story about myself and where I come from."
Loveless' father, John, eventually died from black lung disease in 1979.
"Someone I Used to Know," a duet with Jon Randall, was familiar to Loveless because it was done by Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton.
Loveless has a longstanding history with Wagoner. She brought him songs she wrote as a teenager and encouraged her to at least finish high school.
Parton was a big influence on Loveless as well.
"That has always been a favorite of mine," Loveless says of the song, adding, "I was wanting to almost copy the same thing they did. That's why I wanted to use Jon Randall as a duet. I love the idea of doing it as a duet. Jon was the voice I thought was perfect for it."
Travis Tritt, who sang with Loveless on "Strong Heart," also participates with a duet on "Out of Control Raging Fire." While considered more of a country outlaw type, Tritt actually has a strong love of bluegrass.
Does "Mountain Heart" signal a permanent musical shift for Loveless?
"I'm going to continue to do what I had been doing," she says shortly before flying to Boise for a concert. "This is sort of like an addition of what I have been, more than one or two songs that had been on my album. If you took all the electric instruments from my record, this is what you would get. Vocally, I'm still the same."
"I just feel really comfortable that I've gotten to where I can do different styles, and it fits the venue. It fits the location. If it's bluegrass, if it's country, if it's rock and roll, country rock is the way I'll put it, blues, that real hillbilly sound to me. I think it's cool to be a hillbilly. It's just from the area where we come from and the are we've been raised on all these years."