Review | Songlines

My Bluegrass Heart

Top of the World

Rating: ★★★★★

View album and artist details

Album and Artist Details


Béla Fleck


Renew Records/BMG


Bela Fleck's paean to the genre in which the banjoist established himself as a virtuosic instrumentalist and innovative composer is the finest bluegrass album of 2021. Wonderfully imaginative, irresistibly entertaining and technically challenging, My Bluegrass Heart features collaborators from early progressive and more recent projects including mandolinists Sam Bush and David Grisman, fiddler Stuart Duncan, bassist Edgar Meyer, dobro player Jerry Douglas and banjoist Tony Trischka.

That line-up alone would be enough reason to all but guarantee an extraordinary result. But what transports Fleck's first bluegrass album in more than 20 years into an alternate dimension is the alchemical melding of talent from the old school with a posse of whippersnappers including mandolinist Chris Thile and banjoist Noam Pikelny; guitarists Billy Strings, Molly Tuttle and Bryan Sutton; multi-instrumentalists Justin Moses and Sierra Hull; fiddlers Billy Contreras and Michael Cleveland; and bassist Paul Kowert. The ensemble playing and soloing are spectacular. The compositions and arrangements effortlessly glide between hot bluegrass, cool jazz, classical urbanity and world music funk. Standouts among the double-CD's 19 tracks include ‘Slippery Eel’, with its madcap tempo shifting élan, and ‘Charm School,’ a complex yet swinging chambergrass jam.

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