Monday, August 22, 2011

Michael Cleveland Adds Banjo Player to Flamekeeper

Michael Cleveland

Michael Cleveland has put the final piece in place for the re-configuration of his band Flamekeeper by adding Glenn Gibson on banjo. Gibson, previously best known as a Dobro player, began his bluegrass career playing the banjo and now returns to that instrument with Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper.  Gibson will play his first show with Flamekeeper at Pickin' in the Pasture in Lodi, NY on Saturday.

Glenn Gibson
  Promo Picture

With the addition of Glenn Gibson, Mike has completed the reconstitution of Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper after the dissolution of his band in June and August.  Mike confidently expressed his conviction the new personnel will fill out the band as he wants it to sound with increased versatility over earlier editions.  Mike has known Glenn Gibson for about a decade and has picked with him over the years. He describes Gibson as "an aggressive Dobro player who's not afraid to try anything."  Often, during their picking sessions, Glenn would take out his banjo, too, and Mike was always impressed with his play, despite Gibson's claims to be rusty on what had been his first instrument.  Gibson has previously toured with Mike in Dale Ann Bradley's band (they appear on a CD of hers together) in addition to touring stints with Marty Rabon and Charley Sizemore.  When Mike called Glenn to audition, he realized he'd have to do some wood-shedding to prepare, and put in several weeks with Mike's material.  He appeared for his audition ready to play and blew the band away with his skill and commitment. Mike comments, "After playing constantly on the road during the next few months, he's gonna' be difficult to beat."  Gibson's strong, mellow baritone voice and his song writing can be heard on his solo project "When Times Are Hard."  Mike says he intends to use some Dobro, a new addition to the Flamekeeper sound, on some of the slow pieces, while Glenn can provide the bass voice for acapella gospel quartets. He expects to find a number of ways to broaden Flamekeeper's repertoire by using Glenn Gibson's added versatility.

With his new roster now complete, Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper appears poised to maintain its reputation for strength at every position in the band, for driving fiddle-centered bluegrass music, and for exciting performances. Furthermore, it has broadened its capacity for a range of sound and musical styles.  Ashby Frank, on mandolin, brings years of experience with Alecia Nugent,  Special Consensus and with the Mashville Brigade as well as having won a number of important mandolin contests while still being comparatively young.  He's long been known in bluegrass as a fine mandolin player as well as a good singer.  Charlie Lawson has had wide experience as front man in his own band and with the Karl Shifflet band.  He's already established himself as a solid emcee, lead singer and guitarist with Flamekeeper.  Blake Bowen, on bass, has played in his family's band as well as with Jesse McReynolds, Michelle Nixon, and Charley Waller & the Country Gentlemen.  Of course, Michael Cleveland is the eight time IBMA Fiddle Player of the Year and the band has been nominated this year for its fifth Instrumental Group of the Year award.  Look for further exciting accomplishments from this band long into the future.

Ashby Frank
Charlie Lawson
Blake Bowen
Michael Cleveland