Some albums grab a listener’s attention from the get-go and don’t let up. Sometimes, in a first listen of a CD, you just know “this is something special.” Tennessee Heart, the debut from Shannon Bielski & Moonlight Drive checks both of those boxes and then some.
Bielski and her band bring some bonafides to the table: they won the 2018 Mid-Atlantic Bluegrass Competition and Bielski took first place that same year in the Deer Creek Fiddler’s Convention Songwriting Contest. She put those skills to good use on Tennessee Heart, opening the album with the heartfelt title track. She penned four other songs — “Power Is,” “Without Love” and “Loving You.” It’s clear she’s got a bright future.
Banjo player Rob Benzing has two nifty original instrumentals, “Greenridge” and “Tuscarora.” The latter composition showcases some tight picking all the way around, from Bielski’s fiddle to Kyle Windbeck’s mandolin and Greg Mulley on bass.
Bielski’s vocals are strong out in front of this progressive band, but she’s not just using that great voice, it is backed by her strong writing and the authentic feel this band produces.
Song selection is good on the other tracks as well. “East Virginia” and “Angeline the Baker” get fresh takes. There’s also a Peter Rowan song (“Moonshiner”) and for good measure, David Grisman’s “E.M.D.”
This is easily going to be one of the best newcomer albums of 2021 and one you can let play through a couple of times before you realize it’s done.