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Jim Van Cleve

No Apologies – 2006 (Rural Rhythm)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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CDs by Jim Van Cleve

On his first solo album, Mountain Heart's Jim VanCleve shows why he's considered one of the best fiddlers in the business.

With his main gig, VanCleve lays down the tasteful solos and backing texture like any good fiddler. Here, he takes charge from the start with atmospheric instrumentals, some well-chosen singing guests and a few surprises.

"Fall Creek Falls" is probably the closest thing to a Mountain Heart tune here. An instrumental, VanCleve infuses his playing with a song-like melodic flow that needs no words to be considered lyrical. His love for more traditional bluegrass shines through on "Let The Big Dog Eat," featuring vocals from Ronnie Bowman, and the blistering pace of "Train 45."

"Scars" is the most intriguing track, with a gorgeous vocal from Sonya Isaacs and a piano-driven arrangement that borders on pop or jazz.

VanCleve has shown both an allegiance to traditional bluegrass and the ability to transcend it when he wants to. (Box 660040, Dept. D, Arcadia, CA 91066-0040)