Customer Reviews: Heartland: An Appalachian Anthology
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on July 13, 2001
I must admit, when I first saw this CD, I was skeptical. Frankly, Yo-Yo Ma and Joshua Bell are not names that I readily associate with Appalachian music. Fortunately, their imaginations were not so limited as mine, and the result is this perfect collection of music that is at once new and familiar.
When a group of artists like the ones who made this album come together, the results have to be impressive, but this album is absolutely amazing. An anthology pulled from several earlier albums, this is a musical journey through Appalachia. It swings from the delicate vocals of Alison Krauss and James Taylor (on "Slumber, My Darling" and "Johnny Has Gone For A Soldier," respectively) to the jubliant exuberance of the charmingly named "Death by Triple Fiddle" (the "fiddles" in question being those of Bell, Sam Bush, and Mike Marshall.) Add Mark O'Connor's haunting fiddling on "Amazing Grace" and "Song of the Liberty Bell" and several wonerful trios by O'Connor, Ma, Edgar Meyer, and you have a CD that defies labels and belongs in every collection.
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on July 27, 2001
"Heartland: An Appalachian Anthology" is something of a "Best of" package gathering melodies from "Uncommon Ritual" (Edgar Meyer, Bela Fleck, and Mike Marshall), "Midnight on the Water" (Mark O'Connor), "Appalachia Waltz" (Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, and Mark O'Connor), "Appalachian Journey" (Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, and Mark O'Connor again), "Short Trip Home" (Joshua Bell, Edgar Meyer, Sam Bush, and Mike Marshall), and the soundtrack to "Liberty" (Mark O'Connor). If you're familiar with these CDs, then you know that the musicianship and composition is uniformly excellent and truly innovative.
Most of the melodies included in "Heartland" are upbeat and catchy- the kinds of tunes that feel like they've been around for centuries (indeed a few, like "Johnny has Gone for a Soldier" and "College Hornpipe," have). Those who have the original CDs know that they're also quite eclectic- "Contrapunctus XIII from The Art of the Fugue" on a banjo? You won't find the most experimental tunes here. Neither will you find some of the more reflective pieces, which strike me as musical mood swings. As suggested by the title, the compositions in "Heartland" are aimed at the heart, and not the head. It's a dead-on bulls-eye.
I came to these works from a bluegrass-acoustic music perspective, but have found that even diehard classical aficionadoes (especially fans of chamber music) love them also. I'm always tickled by the thought of Sam Bush and Joshua Bell fiddlin' on the same stage- if that ain't fusion I don't know what is! If you like what you hear, then I strongly suggest that you pick up the originals, and then move on to similar works like "Skip, Hop, and Wobble" (Douglas, Barenberg, and Meyer) or "Telluride Sessions" (Bush, Douglas, Fleck, O'Connor, and Meyer).
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VINE VOICEon November 6, 2001
This compilation draws from various Sony albums that feature popular and classical artists collaborating in presenting traditional American music, as opposed to the glitzy stuff mainstream country-western has become. It is thoroughly enjoyable. Joshua Bell and Yo-yo Ma ease right into the general tone of relaxed geniality alongside Mark O'Connor, Edgar Meyer and others, though Bell on the whole seems more comfortable with the traditional idiom. Only on a few of the more repetitive fast numbers is there a bit of a sense of too much musicianship being brought to bear on too slight material. But this is more than compensated for by some of the heartbreakingly beautiful slow tracks, among them Edgar Meyer's hypnotic "Sliding Down" and Mark O'Connor's moving take on the familiar "Amazing Grace," done unaccompanied. As if there weren't enough talent among the instrumentalists James Taylor and Alison Krauss contribute two vocals in their inimitable styles. All in all, "Heartland" is a music-lover's feast.
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on August 26, 2001
My introduction to these musicians (except for Yo-Yo Ma, of course) and to this type of music was through PBS. I had the TV on in the living room one day and was working in the back room, when I had a "soul alert" -- I heard the most amazing music and zoomed to the livingroom to find out what I was listening to. It was one of the selections played in this Heartland Anthology. I ran to and bought a copy. And also checked at the local library online and put Appalachia Waltz and Appalachian Journey on hold. Also, found a video called TOKYO WALTZ (I'm told it shows the early rehearsals for the Appalachia Waltz concerts/CD) to put on hold as well. I was amazed at how much this music speaks to my classical/choral/liturgical music background. Two things: First, I love this CD (listened to it 3 times clear through and back again the day I got it). The parts that I've seen played on PBS (and soon too, I hope, on video, e.g., Tokyo Waltz) have really made a difference too. Keep your eyes open for more televised concerts from this group of musicians. Most recently, I watched a performance of SLIDING DOWN on PBS and only then realized that it was not only a haunting piece, but also an exercise in seeing how seamlessly these guys can change instruments -- Watching Edgar Meyer start on the piano and then move over to the Bass (oh so quietly and carefully with nary a squeaking floorboard) leaves an image that stays in the mind's eye while listening to the CD! Second: I think that my copy of the Heartland CD has some other tune at the number ten spot than what is listed to be there. The "menu" lists Mark O'Connor on solo violin playing FANCY STOPS AND GOES. What I have on my CD is nothing like that, more like banjo and something else. Can anybody who has this CD tell me what it is I'm listening to? Whatever it is, I like it!
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on January 11, 2009
To be sure, this is a beautiful compilation, with rich sounds and familiar tunes. But I'm afraid that it's a bit too "clean" to be anything close to the Appalachian music tradition I'm familiar with. It's sterile, it's perfectly rendered, there's no messy strings and gritty heart. I just am not sure that Joshua Bell and Yo-Yo Ma really "get" the intonations and imperfections of Appalachian music. The cover is deceiving, with its distressed and grungy typography and sepia photo of a person in the hills. This CD has nothin' to do with all that, the style of which you're likely to hear in some bar deep in the hills of Appalachia. To me, THAT is "heartland" music.

This is beautiful, make no mistake, but it's very simply too rehearsed, too pristine, to be an "Appalachian Anthology." It sounds...well, it sounds like a classical violinist playing traditional Appalachian tunes. If that's what you're looking for, then this is your CD. If not, I'd recommend something closer to Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular, etc.
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on May 3, 2002
Didn't expect an outstanding cd, don't know exactly why i got it,maybe because of yo yo and bela, but every piece is played
beautifully, even the vocal piece by James Taylor. The album is almost too good to be called Heartland, every piece is a class act. Bravo!
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on November 8, 2001
I drive alot commuting to and from my job. This music has served as the perfect backdrop to an lovely Indiana fall! I'm sure I'll recall those colorful images as I continue to listen to this CD through the colorless days of winter!
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on September 10, 2015
Highly recommended by a friend and I've recommended it to others. The musician in my life loves this album and kept a couple of the tracks looping in the car for months while raving about chord progressions and such. Having only ridden together a dozen or so times during that obsession I never got over the haunting beauty of those pieces. I don't know that I would have liked them so much after constant daily play, but then I'd have listened to the rest of the album too.
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on May 1, 2016
This is a great collection. There is enough variation in music that the songs do NOT become monotonous and all sound the same. High quality performances by top- notch musicians. High quality sound reproduction delivered. I love listening to this in my car while driving to and from work. For a CD of mostly instrumental music - it doesn't get any better than this.
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on February 16, 2011
I wasn't familiar with this genre until I heard a selection on my local fine arts station, and quickly purchased this CD, and was very, very pleased. This opened the way for me to explore more artists in this area, especially the works of Mark O'Connor.
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