Béla Fleck announces first bluegrass album in over 2 decades

“They nearly always come back,” says Béla Fleck. “All the people that leave bluegrass. I had a strong feeling that I’d be coming back as well.” ‘My Bluegrass Heart’, out September 10th on Renew Records / BMG, is that return the 15-time Grammy winner is talking about – the third chapter in a decades-spanning trilogy that began with 1988’s ‘Drive’ and continued in 1999 with ‘The Bluegrass Sessions’  Produced and composed by Fleck, the album marks Béla’s first bluegrass album in over 20 years.

You can hear the first track from it to be released below, ‘Charm School’ which features Billy Strings on guitar and Chris Thile on mandolin.  “Charm School” started out with a banjo tune in C, using loads of harmonics,” says Fleck.  “‘C harm.’ Get it? In some ways, it’s the wildest and jammiest track on the album, and yet highly melodic and organized.  I feel this was the perfect vehicle for this band and the perfect band for this song. And when you think about us musical dogs that sometimes need to go crazy, yet live in a world where we’re expected to follow the rules, maybe it’s the perfect title, too.”

“In my opinion, Béla Fleck is one of the most important musicians of all time,” adds Billy Strings. “He bridges the gap between bluegrass, classical, jazz, world music, and everything in between. It seems like there’s no limit to what he can achieve on the banjo.”

Fleck described the inception for the record: “It was ten years after the Drive album, and I had been doing the Flecktones for all that time; I was coming back thinking hmm…what have I learned that I can bring back to bluegrass?” he said. “It resonated with me how Coltrane and Charlie Parker, after studying a lot of music from outside of the jazz world, brought some truly great things back to it from the outside.”

Musicians on the album include mandolinist and fellow New Grass Revivalist Sam Bush, fiddle player Stuart Duncan, bassist Mark Schatz and dobro player Jerry Douglas, Chris Thile, Molly Tuttle, David Grisman, Brian Sutton, Edgar Meyer, Sierra Hull, Billy Strings, Tony Trischka, and fiddle avant-gardist Billy Contreras.

The album is dedicated to Tony and Chick Corea, whose classic ‘My Spanish Heart’ inspired the title.  Corea knew about the title.  “He laughed and said ‘Yeah, man. Go for it!” said Fleck.

About Mark Whitfield 2018 Articles
Editor of Americana UK website, the UK's leading home for americana news and reviews since 2001 (when life was simpler, at least for the first 253 days)
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Tony Rice surely doesn‘t play on the new album. He died last year and was unable to play guitar in the last years. The last time he played with Bela Fleck was on ‚Tales from the acoustic planet, Vol.2‘ and that was 1999.