–by Michael Pierce
FLAMEKEEPER: THE MICHAEL CLEVELAND STORY. Available on Amazon Prime Video.
Michael Cleveland was born blind. A severe ear infection, at an early age, left him nearly deaf.
And he is the best fiddle player in the world.
FLAMEKEEPER tells his story, from birth to the present day. The story is told by friends, family, and his collaborators in the world of bluegrass. It is a story told with love, admiration and, sometimes, brutal honesty.
At the age of four Michael was enrolled in the Kentucky School for the Blind, and it was here that he began his early education in music. He tells us that, for as long as he can remember, he wanted to learn to play the fiddle. Viewers are even treated to a recording of his first fiddle lesson which, for want of a better phrase, sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard.
Thankfully he became quite proficient in his favorite instrument, and he has become a talented multi-instrumentalist. As he says it wasn’t just talent that has brought him this far. It also took a lot of hard work.
Many of us have our own demons, and Michael is no exception. His demon, as it once was for this reviewer, was alcohol. Liquor can be an insidious beast, one that slowly sneaks up on you, one that can quickly rule your life. It takes a lot of willpower, and a lot of support, to overcome this addiction. Thankfully, Michael had the support of his family and band mates when he finally admitted he had a problem. He realized that his music was taking a back seat to his drinking. He’s been sober for three years.
FLAMEKEEPER is a story of courage, determination, and hard work. It’s a story we can all identify with. It’s a story of love, from family and friends, and a love of music, that carries on unabated.