When we arrived in St
Croix, GB and Sarah said they were going to a concert in aid 'Kids of
Notability' (a non profit charity here on the island that takes music and
composition to school kids), "would you like to go if you can get tickets". Yes
- we haven't been to a live gig for nearly a year. No idea who were are going to
see, should be interesting. Sarah phoned a local bookshop, got two tickets held,
sorted. So after our morning at Buck Island, lunch ashore with some really good
mudslides and painkillers we were looking forward to something new
that evening. GB and Sarah and picked us up and off we headed with the aid
of SArah's antipodean GPS to the Island Centre, a semi-natural theatre - half
open, half covered.
The opening act was
Mark "Big Poppa" Stampley. This Chicago born
multi-style guitarist and vocalist calls his Carriblujazzean music a reflection
of his musical journey that had had him performing and recording blues, jazz,
reggae, soca, calypso, rock, hip-hop, salsa, merengue, bossa nova, folk and
gospel music. So good was his blues we went straight home and bought "Here come
big Poppa Stampley" on ITunes.
Mountain Heart was next, featuring Jim van Cleve on fiddle,
Josh Shilling on guitar, Barry Abernathy on banjo, Jason Moore on bass, Jake
Stargel on guitar and Aaron Ramsey on mandolin. The band originally formed in
1999, and have gained legions of fans. We are now counted in that number. Our
first band with no drummer..........
As one of the most
highly awarded ensembles ever assembled, Mountain Heart, or members of the band,
have either won or been nominated for multiple Grammys, ACM, CMA, and IBMA
Awards. They have appeared on the revered stage of the Grand Ole Opry in excess
of 100 times and have shared the stage with acts ranging from Lynyrd Skynyrd,
Montgomery Gentry, George Jones, Merle Haggard, and Brad Paisley to Alison
Krauss, Tony Rice, Travis Tritt, Yonder Mountain Stringband, LeAnn Rimes and
Barry: Winner of 1997's Banjo Player of the Year
award from the Society for the Preservation of Blue Grass
Music in America, Barry began his musical career performing bluegrass gospel
with Silver Creek, but first came to national attention as a member of one of
the decade's hottest bluegrass bands, IIIrd Tyme Out. From 1994 to 1998, the
Georgia-born banjo player/lead vocalist was a featured member of Doyle Lawson
& Quicksilver, recording five albums with the award-winning ensemble before
leaving to form Mountain Heart. Barry's heartfelt and earthy vocal tones are in
perfect compliment to Josh's soaring tenor lines and his banjo playing defies
logic, considering he was born with no fingers on his left hand. Barry's
on-stage demeanor and his ability to relate with his audience is one of the
cornerstones for Mountain Heart's exciting live performances. Wow.
Aaron Ramsey: At the age of 26 Aaron has been
immersed in playing music for over half his life. Bass was his first instrument,
but mandolin is his musical love. Aaron began playing mandolin at the age of 12
and by 13 was participating in his Dad's Gospel group, Damascus Road. Then, he
won the MerleFest mandolin competition at the age of 17 in 2002. He was a
founding member of The Linville Ridge Band, playing mandolin and guitar from
2002 through early 2006. In March of 2006, he became a member of Randy Kohrs'
band, the Lites, playing bass. Later that year, he moved to the mandolin and
recorded mandolin and bass on several cuts of Randy's two most recent
recordings, I'm Torn and Old Photographs. As a member of the Lites, Aaron also
got to contribute his mandolin playing to the 2006 IBMA Album of the Year,
Celebration of Life: Musicians Against Childhood Cancer.
the fall of 2007, Aaron was called on to fill-in for Adam Steffey with Mountain
Heart. Later, Barry Abernathy said given the short notice, he could not have
asked for Aaron's playing to have been any better. Barry was impressed. In
December of 2007 Aaron followed Josh Shilling's lead, from earlier that year, as
he played his first official gig with Mountain Heart, on the stage of the Ryman
voice is so deep, surprising for his frame but we loved the song he sang 'Little
Josh Shilling: Lead vocal, piano and guitar. Now
based in Nashville, Josh boasts an impressive combination of experience and
musicianship belying his youth. Only twenty six, he joined the band in 2007, his
robust vocals, evolving signature piano stylings and nimble guitar work enhance
the group's rich acoustic sound. Half way through the bands set the band did a
few numbers with Big Poppa Stampley and his voice really showed a mix of
range, later on in the set, he sang and played Superstition by Stevie
Wonder and it was truly awesome, next he sang It's Just The Way It Is by Bruce
Hornsby and the Range and the crowd loved it.
Jim VanCleve: has got to be one of the world's best
fiddlers. At thirty four he has performed, as one of the most in-demand top-call
session musicians in Nashville. He has played for Willie Nelson, Jonny Cash,
Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and many, many more. His solo album "No Apologies"
in 2006 earned him a Grammy nomination and IBMA Fiddle Player of the
Jason Moore: Bass player. He has a truly
infectious and ferocious bass line and is the anchor of the band. He played a
funny looking electric bass that looked like a skinny guitar rather than a full
sized instrument. So it was rather novel to see him cavorting around the stage
instead of being rooted to the spot.
Jake Stargel: Guitar, hit his strings so hard he
shredded a few. Unbelievably he is only twenty and the newest member of the
group. He first came to national attention five years ago playing with the
Lovell Sisters, the The Greencards. His guitar solos really rocked.
individual members of the band had overwhelming talent, but together they made
for a really special sound and so versatile tripping through many different
genres. We will certainly look out for them as we meander up the East Coast. As
soon as they had finished on stage they were at the top of the hill by the
refreshments chatting to anyone who wanted to meet them. I wandered over to look
at the CD's for sale and yapped to Barry for a while, he asked that we email and
let the boys know where we were on Beez Neez and how we were getting along.
Charming, simply charming and so friendly and approachable.
bought this cd for Sarah as a 'thank you' and me. Barry signed it - and I was
ALL IN ALL I COULD EASILY BECOME A BLUE
NEW TO ME AND A LOT OF