NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CRAIG HAVIGHURST) -- If you watched Michael Cleveland play the fiddle without hearing him, you’d be hard pressed to imagine a beautiful sound coming out.
His bow flies around and slashes at the strings like a crazy conductor’s baton. But somehow, he achieves a touch and a tone so outstanding that he’s won ten fiddle player of the year awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association.
Cleveland recently released Fiddler’s Dream, his first solo album in ten years. The album brings together some of Nashville’s finest bluegrassers. He pairs his fiddle with that of Del McCoury Band veteran Jason Carter for Tall Timber, a cut that highlights Cleveland’s sheer fiddling speed and power.
Elsewhere on the album, the tune Sunday Drive shows Cleveland’s lyrical side as well as his inventiveness and emotional touch. He’s clearly one of the finest improvisers in American music.
A child prodigy from Kentucky, Cleveland was born blind. That fact only heightened audience fascination when Alison Krauss brought him on the Grand Ole Opry in 1993.
Cleveland has released six albums since 2002, three of them with his touring band Flamekeeper.
On his solo projects such as Fiddler’s Dream, the artist arranges mostly self-written tunes with hand-picked guest musicians. They include mandolinist Sam Bush, dobro player Jerry Douglas, Vince Gill and many others.
Cleveland has always been surrounded by such bluegrass greats. Because they’ve always recognized greatness in him.