Fiddler Michael Cleveland breaks it down in Evanston | Bleader

Fiddler Michael Cleveland breaks it down in Evanston


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Michael Cleveland
  • Michael Cleveland
Though it once seemed like they played at FitzGerald's every other week, I've never seen or heard Nashville duo Jeff & Vida. From what I've read, they juggle bluegrass, honky-tonk, and rockabilly, among other iterations of Americana. The group is playing at the Evanston American Legion Hall on Saturday as part of the always reliable Bluegrass Legends series, and the reason they've got my attention this time is that they'll be joined by shit-hot Indiana bluegrass fiddler Michael Cleveland.

Last month the blind musician scored two prizes at the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards—one for fiddler of the year (the ninth time the 31-year-old has won it) and another for instrumental of the year (his performance of "Goin' Up Dry Branch," a tune written and originally recorded by the great Jimmy Martin in 1966—check out Cleveland's version below). That song comes from Fired Up (Rounder), the sixth album he's made with his group Flamekeeper and a solid collection of mainstream bluegrass top to bottom. It mixes new tunes written by members of his band and vintage material by the likes of Webb Pierce, the Delmore Brothers, and Tom T. Hall, and it's an uncomplicated pleasure to soak up the band's nonchalant virtuosity, ensemble sound, and (natch) Cleveland's scorching solos, which ought to be a highlight of Saturday's gig.

photo: Darwin Davidson

Today's playlist:

Chad Eby, Broken Shadows (Cellar Live)
Dr. John, Babylon (Atco)
Junior Mance Trio, Happy Time (Jazzland/OJC)
Pedro Miranda, Pimenteira (no label)
Tin Hat, Foreign Legion (BAG)