Mountain Heart fan for years. I have a few of their of their albums (as well as Jim VanCleve's and Clay Jones' solo albums) and and have been to many, many of their shows. They are among the best in the business when it comes to live performances, and I can't begin to convey the energy that their live shows have.
That said, I have not seen them in probably three years. I have heard mixed reviews from friends concerning the new lineup/style, mostly from fans of the traditional bluegrass sounds. I, however, appreciate a band, especially in the bluegrass genre, that tries to evolve and add something new to the music. Hey, J.D. Crowe was scorned (I hear) when he brought in drums to the New South in the late 80's, and he is one of my favorites. There are thousands of great bands that play the same old covers, but I respect a band that writes it's own music (or at least finds some original songs).
About half of the songs on their new EP, That Just Happened, are written by vocalist/guitarist/(gasp!..pianist) Josh Shilling (who replaced Steve Gulley, but if you are familiar with Mountain Heart you already know that) and/or fiddler Jim VanCleve. The covers aren't the typical bluegrass standards either. Okay, one of them is, but it is done quite nicely, and the other two are a Greg Allman cover and a David Allan Coe cover. To be completely honest, I did not care for the title cut that opens the album, "That Just Happened." It is very slick, very catchy, and very power chord pop sounding, so much so that it is something you are likely to hear on modern country radio. It doesn't seem to fit the band or the rest of the EP, but I suppose it goes along with the new sound/image they are creating. I would have picked "Same Old Heartache" as the song to push, but what do I know?
Anyway, ignoring the title cut, the rest of the EP is a good listen and is a snapshot of band that is evolving and could possibly be on the verge of creating another new-grass/progressive movement in the genre, one that may translate well to the modern country crowd. The band has all the pieces necessary. Everyone is a master of their instrument, and Josh has a very good voice that blends well with Barry (Abernathy) and the others. All Mountain Heart has to do is keep writing/finding good songs. If you have the chance to see these guys soon, you should do so. They have more energetic shows than a lot of rock acts I've seen. Just remember: it ain't exactly grandaddy's bluegrass. Check out two tracks from That Just Happened below.
Mountain Heart - Same Old Heartache (from That Just Happened EP) (Buy)
Mountain Heart - The Ride (you know, the one David Allan Coe made famous but didn't write)