I had the opportunity to attend the record release party for Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper’s new album Tall Fiddler the week before street date. Held at Analog inside the Hutton Hotel in Nashville the evening was one of celebration and anticipation for IBMA winner and Grammy Nominee Cleveland. Special guests were hinted at and after looking at the artists who played on the album I was giddy at the prospect of who would join the band on stage.
Cleveland and company came out to an appreciative crowd and went right into “Son of a Ramblin Man.” Great way to get the night started as the harmonies worked well together and Cleveland’s fiddle play filled the room. “Beauty of My Dreams” kicked it up a notch! Banjo player Jasiah Shrode kept the track moving as Nathan Livers on mandolin showcased his talent. The fun thing to watch was no matter who stepped up, Cleveland complimented their playing before taking back the reigns with the sweet sound of his fiddle.
I have never seen the band before and the opportunity to hear them live was a real treat. Somewhat familiar with Cleveland and his work, I was blown away by how effortless he made things look. The bow moving so quickly, yet his fingers working almost casually, and the sound was so sweet and perfect that you just had to smile. It was truly a joy to be in the audience and behold an artist at work.
Special guests included Tim O’Brien, Tall Fiddler producer Jeff White, and Tommy Emmanuel for the set closing “Tall Fiddler.” Now that was a performance. Emmanuel was having a great time as he and Cleveland dueled back and forth, two world class talents trading licks and leaving nothing in their wake. The band kept up admirably as they gave Emmanuel and Cleveland room to run. Stopping on a dime with Emmanuel’s grin spread ear to ear, it was truly one of those “only in Nashville” happenings that you typically read about and wished you had been there for. Standing there just shaking my head at how hot of a performance they gave I was thrilled to have been witness to the magic on stage. Cleveland seemed humbled by the rapturous applause which was interesting to see.
I had a chance to chat with him after the show and he was genuinely kind and appreciative that I came out to cover it. I have never seen someone play the fiddle the way he does and deliver the quality of music he delivered. If you have a chance to catch them on tour do so, I have a hunch you will walk away more than happy. https://www.flamekeeperband.com