Blue Skies

Mountain Heart

Compass Records, 2016

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


As their name might lend you to believe, Mountain Heart is a band that embraces bluegrass in the traditional sense. However, on this first album in half a decade, the outfit have added country, R&B, folk-pop, and a healthy dose of singer-songwriter balladry. With a new lineup of musicians to accompany frontman Josh Shilling and Aaron Ramsey, it's no wonder that Mountain Heart moves into different directions here. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The album leads with the title track “Blue Skies,” which is a soulful, acoustic feel-good song with positive themes and playful violins and guitars. “Miss Me When I'm Gone” follows and is more keys-based and introspective, where sweeping mandolins set the mood well. “Maggie's Farm,” originally a Bob Dylan tune, picks the pace up into a bluegrass barnyard romper that could easily incite an impromptu dance-off amid a slew of farm animals.

The middle of the album brings us the soft, graceful balladry of “No One To Listen” before the fuller, yearning and powerful “She'll Come Back To Me.” “Addicted” is a lush, freewheelin' album highlight, and “The Bad Grounds,” which is entirely instrumental, showcases the string acrobatics of the talented players involved.

The end of the album offers “Have You Heard About The Old Hometown,” which hints at the classic sounds of Whiskeytown. The listen exits on the gentlest offering here, the soft keys and calm melodies of “Hurting,” but not before the frisky, upbeat, shuffling of “I Can't Get Over You.”

Recorded and produced by the band in the studio sans any overdubs or studio magic, Blue Skies is filled with rich instrumentation, forthright song craft, and vulnerable moments amid sounds that could soundtrack a backyard party. While this particular collage of Americana, alt-country, and indie jam band sounds is certainly more prevalent than ever in 2017, Mountain Heart is definitely a stand out.

Rating: B+

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