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Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper

Leavin' Town – 2008 (Rounder)

Reviewed by J.P. Tausig

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CDs by Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper

Fans of hard-driving bluegrass with some modern country influences will really like Michael Cleveland and Famekeeper. It's a no-bones-about-it, in-your-face bluegrass effort with tight rhythms and fast picking. The CD kicks off with the fast driving "Sold Down the River," which is joined by "Troubles 'Round My Door" and the title track. These tunes showcase a fast paced traditional bluegrass sound with tight instrumentals and clear lyrics.

"My Blue Eyed Darling" is a more a modern country ballad suitable for dancehalls. The modern country influence is prevalent throughout the whole album; "In My Mind to Ramble" is a very effective blend of bluegrass harmonies and country.

There are also instrumentals - though only one written by a band member - that showcase Cleveland's great fiddling along with Jess Brock's clean mandolin and guitar wizardry. There's a nod to gospel with "Come Spring "and "Sunday Morning Christian," which tackles the issue of those who don't live the word fully.

Although the songs have tight lyrics and clean instrumentals there's a sameness throughout. Nevertheless, if you like clean fast-picking bluegrass fun, this CD is worth a listen.