Michael Cleveland has packed a lot of music into a few years.
Consider this: He’s been named fiddle player of the year eight times by the International Bluegrass Music Association.
And his band, Flamekeeper, has won the instrumental group award four times since ending Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder’s eight-year reign in 2007.
But he started early.
In 1990, when he was 9, Cleveland won the Kentucky State Championship Old-Time Fiddler Contest and appeared at Bill Monroe’s Bean Blossom Festival.
In 1993, at age 13, he appeared as Alison Krauss’ guest on the Grand Ole Opry.
Six years later, Cleveland joined Dale Ann Bradley and the Coon Creek Girls. And a year later, he was with Rhonda Vincent and the Rage.
In 2006, Cleveland formed Flamekeeper. And his star has been soaring ever since.
“Fired Up” is an accurate name for the band’s latest album.
Most of the songs find Flamekeeper in a fired-up mode.
While the band is primarily known for its instrumental work, Tom Adams is coming into his own as a great lead singer.
He also wrote five songs on the album — “Dixie Special,” a train song; “Big Wide Strum,” a song about a guitar picker who was hotter than Elvis; “I’m Yours,” a ’50s country sound on a song about a lucky man; “Hard Time Banjo Blues,” an uptempo blues; and “Monster Truck,” a song about a monster truck driver with a bad attitude.
Mandolin player Jesse Brock wrote two songs — “Untrue Blues,” on which he sings lead, and the instrumental “Maine Line.”
Marshall Wilborn, the IBMA’s bass player of the year for the past two years, wrote “Bigger Hands Than Mine.” He sings lead on that; the Delmore Brothers’ “I’ve Got The Railroad Blues”; and Tom T. Hall’s “I’m Gonna Ride That Steamboat.”
Jessie Baker, who left the band in January, wrote and sings lead on “Untrue Blues.”
Another good album by a great band.
Can’t find it in stores? Try www.flamekeeperband.com/store.php.