I entered the Ogle Center unsure of what to expect from this highly applauded and abstractly described band. Mountain Heart made me tap my feet, clap my hands, and want to jump up and dance. Slamgrass is the best definition of this Nashville band's sound. A sound that is similar to favorites like Trampled by Turtles and Old Crow Medicine Show with a dash of something from the past. The result is nothing less than astonishment and I am now a new fan.
An opening of a remake of "Hey Joe" by Hendrix captured my imagination with possibilities. Unexpected in a so called bluegrass environment, I was impressed. Hard to believe as it is this was topped by a piano and acoustic version of "Changes". Along with these new acoustic treasures were old faithfuls of bluegrass such as "Little Sadie" and some Tony Rice hits. The show was topped with a cherry by a quartet number at the end; something I had never seen. The final number that was played was my favorite by the band, the Allman Brother's "Whipping Post". Rocking out on stage, I felt as if I were watching some extremely talented friends jam out. The audience interaction with the band members and camaraderie of the band made the setting intimate and fun; a mark of excellent showmen.
The six men that make up Mountain Heart are widely talented and incredibly in touch with their fans. The youngest member, Jake Stargel, is 19 and plays the guitar with a talent beyond his years. Original member Barry Abernathy plays the banjo with only one finger on his left hand and banters with the rest of the band keeping the audience and band light as the show moves on. Josh Shilling is the lead vocals and is no doubt talented. Singing a song off of his solo album “Hurtin’”, I believe was the name; the two men beside me were moved to tears. I am a fan of the mandolin and was blown away by the talents of Aaron Ramsey who seems to be a musical genius with a rough southern voice who recorded his solo album alone in his basement. Rounding out the band were the fiddler, Jim VanCleve, who was the second part of the original band and bass player, Jason Moore, who kept the beat with his upright bass all night.
Following the concert a meet and greet was held where the band shook hands signed autographs and just hung out. I was lucky enough to speak to the band and they expressed their desire to play for Louisville audiences and share their love of all acoustic instruments, which between the six of them, they have mastered. I was truly impressed by this Slamgrass Band and hope to see them again soon, this time across the river in the 'Ville.