It’s hard to know where to start with a slick platter of true-blue newgrass (and to be fair, pure modern Nashville country) when the first thing you find out is that the twangified percussive banjo on the album apparently comes from a banjo player with no fingers on his left hand! Extra digits or not, producer and guest instrumentalist Ricky Skaggs harnesses and directs Mountainheart’s ample instrumental skill to its fullest, particularly on rolling bluegrass numbers like “Born on the Wind,” or “Heart Like a Roadsign, Head Like a Wheel.” Given these strengths, even the inevitable Lester Flatt cover is a welcome addition. Less compelling are Mountainheart’s rather undistinguished attempts at ballads—all of them undoubtedly heartfelt but clichéd in execution, awash in the usual interpersonal wistfulness. Equally distracting are the visible-from-a-mile-away chord changes and quasi-religious and/or patriotic sentiments imbuing so many modern country songs with all the flavor of a refrigerator postcard of a Norman Rockwell painting—quaint, loving and painfully generic by sheer virtue of Hallmark-card ubiquity. Only “Man in the Mirror” is redeemed by a particularly intense vocal performance, a striking counterpoint to Mountainheart’s general tendency to under-sing. Nonetheless, if the formula occasionally wears thin and the voices are occasionally over-soft, Mountainheart powers through on cheerful heart and incontrovertible musical skill, rendering Force of Nature an easily-digested, skylit amble through the bubbly confluence of modern bluegrass and country at its most polished and accessible.