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Bela Fleck – Back To Bluegrass

Béla Fleck’s New Album

Béla Fleck – Photo: LTTL

Banjo Maestro Béla Fleck – First Bluegrass Album In Over Twenty Years

‘My Bluegrass Heart’

Out 22 September 2021

“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 10, 2021 on Renew Records / BMG, is that return. The fifteen-time Grammy winner gives us the third chapter in a decades-spanning trilogy that began with 1988’s Drive and continued in 1999 with The Bluegrass SessionsProduced and composed by Fleck, the album marks Béla’s first bluegrass album in over twenty years.

Fleck’s new song lifted off the album is “Charm School” featuring 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.”

“Charm School” is out now on all streaming platforms and My Bluegrass Heart will be available on all formats. 

“In my opinion, Béla Fleck is one of the most important musicians of all time. 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.”

Billy Strings

Fleck will be touring My Bluegrass Heart  throughout 2021, including a special night at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville on January 7, 2022 with Sam Bush, Michael Cleveland, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Sierra Hull, Edgar Meyer, Justin Moses, Mark Schatz, Billy Strings, Bryan Sutton, Chris Thile, Molly Tuttle and more to be announced. 

Tour dates and ticket information can be found at belafleck.com

When the endlessly curious Fleck prepared to make The Bluegrass Sessions, he contemplated some other musical wanderers: “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.” 

More than anything, it was this group of musicians that drew Fleck home to bluegrass.  His core group of bluegrass comrades, including mandolinist and fellow New Grass Revivalist Bush, guitarist Tony Rice, fiddle player Duncan, bassist Schatz and dobro player Douglas, appear on the earlier albums and all except for the late Rice are featured on My Bluegrass Heart. 

The album is dedicated to Rice and Chick Corea, whose classic My Spanish Heart inspired the title.  Other guests include Chris Thile, Molly Tuttle, David Grisman, Brian Sutton, Edgar Meyer, Sierra Hull, Billy Strings, Tony Trischka, and fiddle avant-gardist Billy Contreras.  

Photo: William Matthews

“This is not a straight bluegrass album, but it’s written for a bluegrass band,” Fleck explained. “I like taking that instrumentation, and seeing what I can do with it – how I can stretch it, what I can take from what I’ve learned from other kinds of music, and what can apply for this combination of musicians, the very particularly ‘bluegrass’ idea of how music works, and what can be accomplished that might be unexpected, but still has deep connections to the origins.” 

The Flecktones, the project that immediately followed New Grass Revival, recently celebrated thirty years of melding acoustic with electronic and bluegrass with jazz and funk. There’s also Fleck’s duo albums and tours with jazz legend Corea and his life partner Abigail Washburn, the Brooklyn Rider String Quartet, three classical banjo concertos, an a collaboration with Indian musical royalty: Zakir Hussain, Rakesh Churasia and old friend/bass maestro Edgar Meyer, also on My Bluegrass Heart.

“My dirty little secret is that I don’t play that differently from genre to genre. It’s about the musicians I surround myself with. Bluegrass though – it’s central to everything I do.”

Béla Fleck

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Béla Fleck’s New Album

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Author: Rob Dickens

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