Monday, May 10, 2010

He's not fiddlin' around

Michael Cleveland uses instrument to lead bluegrass band

By Erik Rolfsen, The Province May 10, 2010

Michael Cleveland doesn't know exactly what it is about a searing fiddle solo that whips audiences into a froth, but he remembers the first time he experienced it.

He was a preschooler tagging along with his grandparents at a bluegrass jam in his native Indiana when he heard one of the local fiddlers launch into "Orange Blossom Special."

"Once I heard that, I just had to do it or die," says Cleveland, now 29 and appearing Thursday night at Vancouver's St. James Hall with his band, Flamekeeper.

Cleveland has been known at various times as a child prodigy and a great blind fiddler. Now he is known simply as leader of the hottest instrumental band in bluegrass.

At last year's International Bluegrass Music Association awards, he was named fiddle player of the year for the seventh time in eight years. His mandolin player, Jesse Brock, and bass player Marshall Wilborn also won in their categories. Guitarist Tom Adams and 19-year-old banjo whiz Jessie Baker round out the band, whose version of Bill Monroe's "Jerusalem Ridge" from 2008's Leavin' Town won instrumental performance of the year.

Cleveland first arrived on the bluegrass scene as part of a young supergroup put together by banjo great Pete Wernick for the 1993 IBMA convention. Wernick wanted to prove to doubters that the future of bluegrass was in good hands. That band included mandolinist Chris Thile, who went on to gain fame with Nickel Creek, and current Ricky Skaggs sideman Cody Kilby.Read more:

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