Béla Fleck releases My Bluegrass Heart Today

Article Contributed by belafleck.com | Published on Friday, September 10, 2021

Hi folks and welcome to My Bluegrass Heart.

I think of this project as the third chapter in a trilogy which began with 1988’s Drive, and continued with Bluegrass Sessions in 1999.

These two albums featured a core band that included Sam Bush, Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, and Mark Schatz. Mark O’Connor and Peter Rowan were our special guests for Drive. On Bluegrass Sessions some 11 years later, John Hartford, Vassar Clements and Earl Scruggs were our special guests. All three of them sadly are gone today.

We recently lost Tony Rice, at the time of this writing. The loss was immense and began quite a while before his untimely death, as he struggled with performing and recording due to health concerns, eventually dropping out of the scene completely. If I may be selfish for a moment here, this left me in a bit of a pickle. You see Tony Rice was the only guitarist I had met who could make it possible for me to play bluegrass in the way I wanted to. His remarkable ensemble playing allowed me (and really all of us) to spontaneously do things that were impossible in other circumstances, which is why we all considered it a very special occasion any time Tony was present to perform or record. I do want to say it wasn’t just Tony, it took everyone, but his impact on the musicians he played with was magical and profound.

As the years since Bluegrass Sessions began to pile on top of each other, and grow into decades, I began to amass compositions that were consciously and unconsciously designed for this band. And as Tony became less available due to his health issues, I began to wonder if that chapter of my bluegrass life had now closed.

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