Sign up for newsletter

Michael Cleveland

Flame Keeper – 2002 (Rounder)

Reviewed by John Lupton

Subscribe to Country CD Reviews CD Reviews

CDs by Michael Cleveland

Though he's actually been on the bluegrass scene for a few years, to many fans of the music, Michael Cleveland seems to have appeared out of nowhere in the last couple of years to capture the IBMA's Fiddler of the Year award in 2001. It helped, of course, that his regular gig for most of that time was with the Rage, the high-octane band of bluegrass superstar Rhonda Vincent, who was smart enough to give her young fiddler plenty of opportunities to shine.

Cleveland has since left Vincent's band to concentrate on session work, and if this solo release is any indication, he'll be in big demand. Displaying a command of timing, taste and tone that's rare for anyone, let alone someone as young as he is (high school is not that far in his life's rear view mirror), this is much more than a collection of dry fiddle tunes. He relies heavily on the backing talents of former Rage colleagues Tom Adams on banjo and Audie Blaylock on guitar and vocals and Vincent, along with Lynn Morris' mandolin player Jesse Brock for an album that's long on straight-ahead bluegrass.