Bluegrass is a quiet, often subtle, music as a rule, but Mountain Heart is all about power. The six members of the group make a big noise, and when they do a long traditional jam like "Lee Highway Blues," they can turbocharge it like nobody else in the business. But most of their music isn't traditional. Alone among progressive bands, they are most influenced by the sound of mainstream commercial country and Southern rock. Many of their concerts even include an extended version of the Allman Brothers' "Whipping Post," sung and performed on piano by multi-instrumentalist Josh Shilling.
That makes them something of an odd fit for the Ark, downtown's venerable folk club, where the bluegrass tends to run toward the deep Monroe-based music of the Del McCoury Band and, more recently, the jam band influence that started with the Grateful Dead. But fit they do. Mountain Heart has come to town during the slow phases of early January for the last several years and has just about sold out the Ark every time. The synergy between band and audience is obvious to anyone in attendance, and the rafters ring.