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Mountain Heart

Soul Searching – 2018 (Compass)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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The sound on "Soul Searching" bears little resemblance to Mountain Heart's early albums dating back nearly 20 years, which is understandable as the lineup has been completely overhauled since their debut. Frontman Josh Schilling has the longest tenure having joined the group for 2007's live set "Road That Never Ends." Bluegrass remains at the core of their sound infused with heavy doses of southern rock, blues and soul.

Schilling's piano work supplies much of the rock and blues touch, particularly on the opening "In The Ground" and the Little Feat flavored "No Complaints" and "Festival." Schilling's strong vocals are nicely displayed on "Your Love Won't Let Me Go" and "You Can't Hide A Broken Heart." Schilling's most soulful vocal is on the reflective title track ("Who am I to judge?/Who am I to preach?/Sometimes I wonder what I believe").

A more traditional bluegrass sound is evident when other band members take the lead vocals, as with the cover of "Curly Headed Woman" by Aaron Ramsey. One of the highlights is the Jeff Partin ballad "Stars" featuring Stuart Duncan on violin. Duncan also joins the band on the instrumental "Amicalola Falls."

Produced by Garry West and the band members the musicianship is solid throughout with Schilling (piano, organ), Ramsey (mandolin, upright bass), Partin (upright bass, lap steel, resophonic guitar) and Seth Taylor (acoustic guitar, electric guitar). Scott Vestal (banjo), Ronnie Bowman (harmony vocals), Kenny Malone (drums, percussion) and Byron Larrance (drums, percussion) also help out.. With strong lead vocals, smooth harmonies and stellar instrumentation, this is a thoroughly entertaining effort by the ever evolving Mountain Heart.