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Mountain Heart

Blue Skies – 2016 (Compass)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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CDs by Mountain Heart

It has been five years since a new album from Mountain Heart, and much has changed both in the band's lineup and their sound. Josh Shilling and Aaron Ramsey are the core of the original group, with everyone else added since the last recording. Notably, fiddler and vocalist Molly Cherryholmes of Cherryholmes fame makes her mark here after joining up right before the new sessions, lending both gorgeous violin fills and a feminine touch on the vocal front.

Musically, the smooth contemporary bluegrass sound the band pioneered is still present, but less prevalent. In its place there is a more blues and country feel to many tracks, from the more obvious such as the title song to the piano-flavored pop ballad "Hurting," which closes the proceedings.

In between, the band takes on Bob Dylan's classic "Maggie's Farm" in what ends up being the most bluegrass-sounding tune here despite a prominent piano part and begs the question why this song isn't already a genre standard.

Anyone looking for another reflective, faith-infused bluegrass collection from this award-winning act might be a bit disappointed with the lack of driving rhythms, propulsive banjo or any number of trappings associated with the band's history. Those who stick around will hear a varied batch of well-written songs that lean heavily to the more diverse Americana tag, whether purists appreciate them or not.