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Artist of the Month: Michael Cleveland

Mar 1, 2023

Artist of the Month: Michael Cleveland

Michael Cleveland is likely the most awarded fiddler of our era. Along with a Grammy for best bluegrass album and dozens of IBMA trophies, he’s also won our admiration and respect. You can hear the joy in his fiddling, while his friendly disposition helps him stay on the first-call list for bluegrass recording sessions. He’s gathered an impressive list of collaborators for his sixth studio album, Lovin’ of the Game, releasing this month on Compass Records. Guests range from Jerry Douglas and Béla Fleck, to Vince Gill and Charlie Starr of Blackberry Smoke.

Cleveland titled the new album after a Judy Collins classic that he recorded with his band, Flamekeeper. “The song is about prospectors and gamblers,” he has said, “but for me, the ‘loving of the game’ has always been loving being a part of the musical community and all that being a musician has brought to me.”

Beneath his calm demeanor, though, Cleveland is driven to create. Born completely blind, he’s also lost 80 percent of his hearing in the left year. Nonetheless, he’s been making albums for 25 years, toured with legends like Rhonda Vincent before stepping out with Flamekeeper, and collected all-star admirers like Billy Strings and Bryan Sutton. Vince Gill, who lends his voice to the true blue heartbreaker “I Wish I Knew Now What I Knew Then,” counts himself among a legion of fans. “He plays fearless and it’s intoxicating to play with him because he makes you play fearless,” Gill says. “He takes no prisoners but he plays with restraint and a soul. He plays without abandon.”

As we celebrate Michael Cleveland as our BGS Artist of the Month for March, we’ll unveil a brand new performance video filmed in Nashville, as well as exclusive career-spanning interview. Because we’ve been fans for a long time, we’ll also share some of our favorite moments from the Bluegrass Situation archive (like the time he picked his desert island fiddler for us.) Meanwhile, enjoy our BGS Essentials playlist with Michael Cleveland below.

Photo Credit: Amy Richmond

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Artist of the Month: Michael Cleveland
Artist of the Month: Michael Cleveland