Personnel: James Taylor , Alison Krauss (vocals); Russ Barenberg, Mike Marshall (guitar); Jerry Douglas (dobro); Mark Schatz (banjo); Sam Bush (mandolin); Mark O'Connor , Joshua Bell (violin); Yo-Yo Ma (cello); John Mock (pennywhistle); John Jarvis (piano, keyboards); Eddie Bayers (percussion).
Liner Note Author: Thomas Goldsmith.
Arrangers: James Taylor ; Mark O'Connor ; Edgar Meyer.
In 1995, Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, and Mark O'Connor joined forces on Appalachia Waltz, the first of a series of Sony Classical albums celebrating the varied musical textures of Americana. Over the course of six years, several albums were cut, among them Short Trip Home, Liberty!, Uncommon Ritual, and Midnight on the Water, in addition to the Grammy-winning Appalachia Waltz. Each project may have had its own specific instrumental focus, although the shared theme was clearly to obfuscate the genre lines that separate classical and traditional American music on a 200-year journey from the concert halls of Britain to the Shenandoah Valley. Heartland: An Appalachian Anthology is a carefully plucked and eclectic amalgam of these recordings. Featuring swinging waltzes, Baroque chamber music, Celtic reels, and Yankee ballads, this compendium serves as a stylistic hub of the European strain in American music. It passes as a refined bluegrass recording that is easily digested by less stodgy classical devotees, and the roster alone should be enough to cue the listener that dazzling instrumental interplay is the pièce de résistance. "Sliding Down," a Meyer composition featuring Bela Fleck (banjo) and Mike Marshall (guitar), "BT," and "Death By Triple Fiddle" (Sam Bush, Joshua Bell, and Marshall) are just a few prime examples. "Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier" and "Slumber, My Darling," which showcase the vocal nuances of James Taylor and Alison Krauss, respectively, round out the radio-friendly end of the album. Heartland is a mere crossroads, a refreshing spin on two timeless idioms. It's safe to say that it lends credence to both, but the album's greatest asset may be the unknown direction it will springboard the listener. ~ Brian Kelly
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