Michael Cleveland at Southland Jamboree, Tuesday

Michael Cleveland on stage at the Festival of the Bluegrass with his eight-string fiddle. © Herald-Leader staff photo by Rich Copley.

Michael Cleveland on stage at the Festival of the Bluegrass with his eight-string fiddle. © Herald-Leader staff photo by Rich Copley.

Count me among the folks who was not prepared for what I heard when Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper took the stage last month at the Best of Bluegrass Festival.

I’ve just started to really tune into bluegrass music in the past couple years and had yet to hear the whole thing about Cleveland being named the International Bluegrass Music Association’s fiddle player of the year NINE times. But that was no surprise after hearing him blaze through a too-short set that impressed with his technical skill and expressive performance.

I was snapping photos that night, and our Walter Tunis was taking the copious notes. He wrote:

Much of his most absorbing work came while underscoring the leaner, lighter Farewell for a Little While and the patiently paced, old-timey charmer Fiddlin’ Joe. But For pure performance dynamics, however, nothing beat Cleveland’s transformation of Shenandoah Waltz into a lovely serenade of slo-mo swing that beautifully complimented the sublime Friday afternoon weather that made the often sweltering festival seem like a springtime escape.

OK, we cannot promise quite the loveliness of weather Tuesday night, when Cleveland plays the Southland Jamboree (Chris Bailey is calling for thunderstorms Tuesday). But Cleveland has certainly proven his fiddle prowess, and you don’t want to miss him twice this summer.

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