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Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper

Idioma disponible: inglés
One of the most well-respected fiddlers in bluegrass, Michael Cleveland's remarkable technical skill, sweet and full-bodied tone, and blazing speed have made him a multiple award winner on the acoustic music circuit. Cleveland plays bluegrass in the classic style as created by pioneers such as Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs, but he puts his own stamp on the music with his use of the five-string fiddle, giving him more creative options within the songs. Cleveland's first widely distributed album, 2002's Flame Keeper, showed off his mastery of the instrument, while 2004's Live at the Ragged Edge (with banjo picker Tom Adams) demonstrated that his stage skills were remarkable even at a casual coffee house gig. With 2008's Leavin' Town, he also became a bandleader, debuting his backing combo Flamekeeper, and 2019's Tall Fiddler paired him with a raft of impressive guest stars whose talents did not intimidate him in the slightest. Michael Cleveland was born in Henryville, Indiana on September 18, 1980. He had more than his share of challenges growing up; he was born completely blind and with a cleft palate, and a severe ear infection cost him 80-percent of his hearing in one ear. However, he never allowed his visual impairment to prevent him from doing what he wanted. When Cleveland was four years old, his grandparents took him to a bluegrass festival, and after hearing a fiddler play "Orange Blossom Special," he immediately decided he wanted to play the violin and was soon enrolled in a Suzuki instructional program where he learned to play by ear, and it wasn't long before his aptitude became obvious. When he was nine, he attended the Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival, founded and hosted by bluegrass founding father Bill Monroe, and he so impressed Monroe during an open jam session that they later performed together on-stage. When Cleveland was 13, the International Bluegrass Music Association invited him to join their Bluegrass Youth All Stars group; they appeared at the annual IBMA awards show, and after hearing him play, Alison Krauss arranged for him to sit in with her band during an appearance at the Grand Ol' Opry, followed by an appearance on A Prairie Home Companion. After he completed high school, Cleveland turned professional, releasing a self-distributed solo album, 1998's Sawing on the "C" String. Soon he was playing road gigs with Dale Ann Bradley & the New Coon Creek Girls, and he joined Rhonda Vincent & the Rage in 2000. In 2001, the IBMA named Cleveland Fiddle Player of the Year, an honor he would receive 11 times by 2019. In 2002, Cleveland left Vincent's group to return to work with Bradley in the Dale Ann Bradley Band, and that same year, Cleveland signed with Rounder Records, which issued his solo album Flame Keeper; it was named Instrumental Album of the Year by the IBMA. When Cleveland and banjo player Tom Adams played an informal gig at a coffee house, they recorded their set using a minidisc machine, and they were unexpectedly pleased with the result, so much so that Rounder released the material as a live album, 2004's Live at the Ragged Edge, which earned the duo an Instrumental Album of the Year trophy from the IBMA. For his third solo release, 2006's Let 'er Go Boys, Cleveland stepped away from the instrumental format of his earlier work with guest appearances from vocalists Dan Tyminski, Del McCoury, and Larry Sparks. As Cleveland's popularity rose, he formed his own band in 2007, Flamekeeper, featuring Todd Rakestraw on guitar and vocals, Jesse Brock on mandolin, John Mark Batchelor on banjo, and Marshall Wilborn on bass and vocals. The quintet had already been named the IBMA's Instrumental Group of the Year before they brought out their recording debut, 2008's Leavin' Town, for Rounder; they would take home the same prize in 2008, 2009, and 2010. When their second album, Fired Up, came out in 2011, the band had gone through some personnel shakeups, with Tom Adams replacing Rakestraw on guitar and Jessie Baker taking over for Batchelor on banjo. Cleveland and Flamekeeper jumped from Rounder to Compass Records for their next album, 2014's On Down the Line, which introduced another lineup of the group, with Cleveland joined by Josh Richards on guitar, Glenn Gibson on banjo, Nathan Livers on mandolin, and Tyler Griffith on bass. Cleveland's next recording project, 2016's Fiddler's Dream, was billed as a solo effort, and featured guest appearances from bluegrass and country legends such as Sam Bush, Jerry Douglass, Andy Statman, and Vince Gill. In early 2019, a documentary about Cleveland's life and music, Flamekeeper: The Michael Cleveland Story, received its world premiere at Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame Museum. In August of the same year, Compass issued Tall Fiddler, with Cleveland backed by another edition of Flamekeeper (Josh Richards on guitar, Jasiah Shrode on banjo, Nathan Livers on mandolin, and Chris Douglas on bass) while Bela Fleck, Tim O'Brien, Tommy Emmanuel, and Del McCoury all made guest appearances.
© Mark Deming /TiVo
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