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Mountain Heart - In Concert
Review By: Jim Moulton, CSO Staff Journalist
Photos: Craig Benedict

Mountain Heart has been around quite a while as an excellent bluegrass band, they are in the process of changing into a country rock, southern rock jam band, The newest member, Josh Schilling, has performed with several types of bands, and I read he has a separate project on the side, which would not surprise me. This is exciting, I thought I was going to a bluegrass show last and it turned into a Bluegrass show plus some country, and Southern rock flavored songs, some new songs for the new CD that they are working on. Mountain Heart is currently looking for a new label, but their manager Brian says they are going on with or without a label. They can get some distribution help and keep on touring. They are already working on the CD. He gave me a three song demo CD, I can't let anyone hear it, but he said I can tease you about it. Here's a tease for ya, if your good, I will give you another tease at end of review; this CD has drums on it!

I arrived at the Sellersville Theatre right after the first act, Fitzmaurice, was done, I heard they were good from the nice couple behind me, sorry I missed them. Thanks to Craig Benedict for sending us some nice photos of the show which are displayed on this page.

A little about Mountain Heart, in a big way, their sound changing may disturb some folk. They have a real big discography and successful bluegrass track record. On the other hand, when I talked to fiddle player Jim VanCleve, he is excited about it. The band knows how great Josh Schilling is, there is a tremendous chemistry in the group, everyone plays together. Josh Schilling could take them places, his vocals are so mature and strong. I heard a youtube of him singing the national anthem with the rest of the group, fantastic. Plus he is an incredible keyboard player, reminds me of a young Chuck Leavell.

I really was not prepared for what I heard that night. I was expecting a show like the Ark, but I got like a Alt/ bluegrass band. They started out playing an instrumental. It was good, one of the many short ones the group does. After that, the small crowd in the front started chanting, Louder!! Louder!! The Mountain Heart sound guy complied and from then on, it was real loud. The Theatre behind me was not full, but the room had lots of noise, and The Crowd that was there was very much into the show.

Next, I heard a very familiar bass thump and the ride began as Jason Moore, on bass played the intro to "Whipping Post" by the Allman Brothers. They virtually nailed the song note for note, in an acoustic way. The hi guitar parts were played by Jim on fiddle. The difference is Josh slows it down in the middle and does some scat singing with his electric piano. Aaron Ramsey, their new mandolin player really is great and adds a lot to the show.

They did an a cappella gospel number and I thought it was weird that 2 members went into the side stage.

The show was pretty much focused on the very talented Josh Shilling, who has a great voice, is a great guitarist and played a lot of electric piano this night. I'm listening to the Ark show as I write this, the group seemed more like the old Mountain Heart that night. In tonight's show they are sort of prowling the stage. That show was over three years ago and I also miss Barry's ongoing dialog with the crowd at the Ark.

The band jams on and on, and for a while, they settle down and do a few really nice songs. All of which will be on the new CD. They do a real great version of Bruce Hornsby's "That's Just the Way it Is", that one really caught me off guard as it is really different music.

Also, their version of Stevie Wonder's "Very Superstitious" (with some wah), caught me off guard. I did notice a couple of people leave during the show, as they were expecting bluegrass, I mean, we are in a small town, in rural, PA. This is a country/bluegrass group venue where the group is playing mostly rock and jam oriented music, besides the bluegrass material. They ended with more jamming, and left the stage, I mean, you knew they were coming back. Pretty soon, Josh and the bass player Jason come back and and Josh sits at the keyboard for another Allman brothers song, a newer one "Soul Shine".

And that was it, that's just the way it goes. The group sticks around to sign some CDs and take pictures, I talk to Brian and Jim, very nice, down to earth group.

If you like a more free spirited type of Bluegrass with some new flavors, you should love the new disc, the material is excellent.



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