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Ted Lehmann
Mar-07-2018, 9:09am
Last week a query popped up on Facebook asking people to explore what the writer suggested was a decline in the quality and quantity of bluegrass. Thinking it too complex an issue to discuss on FB, I decided to devote my column this week to it. I've selected three elements that I consider crucial in promoting the changes we're all aware have been afoot for a long time. I'd be interested on your responses to my choices as well as you see this as representing a decline. As usual, I look forward to the discussion. - Ted

http://nodepression.com/article/where-bluegrass-headed

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Drew Streip
Mar-07-2018, 10:12am
I think like in any other genre, there's a combination of boredom and audacity that progresses the art form. Why continue to make copies when you can make something new? Bluegrass began that way, newgrass moved it forward, and now new groups are reshaping the sounds that can come out of traditional instruments.

There's also an inter-generational divide that nobody wants to admit to, and it goes back to audacity/pride/hubris. Teens and 20-somethings naturally think they know more than their older counterparts, and get bored or frustrated with being told "how it's done." Likewise, adults take offense to kids who don't follow their exact instructions -- or have their ego hurt when they can't keep up with the youngsters.

Only later will both groups let their respective guards down and realize that they each have something to learn from the other.

So, my assessment is that bluegrass is having its midlife crisis. On one hand: Play it safe, stick to your roots, pay the bills, know that there will always at least be an academic appreciation for tradition. On the other: Buy a convertible! Cover a Taylor Swift song! Play literally anything with a banjo and call it "bluegrass" because it caters to the people who make Deliverance references without ever having read the book.

It's not wrong -- it just is.

Charlieshafer
Mar-07-2018, 10:30am
Hmmm. Not sure the three things you discuss are exclusive to bluegrass, enough to consider them defining characteristics. Recording affected all forms of music, flat-picked guitar predated bluegrass, and really wasn't even a hallmark of only bluegrass. The first true "guitar hero" would have been Doc Watson, and he's not considered bluegrass. And the college tours? They resurrected blues, Preservation Hall styled jazz, and any number of folk idioms. I think if I had to pick three defining characteristics it would be the high lonesome tight harmony singing first and foremost, Scruggs-style banjo picking, and the interspersing of formalized, high speed solos in between verses.

As to a decline in quantity and quality, I'd say the quality is still just fine. Modern players are every bit as good as the old guys, many even better than the founders of the genre; they just don't have the icon/aura thing going for them. Quantity? That's a function of many things, geography playing a large part. In New England, there are a few purists out there, but by and large most of the hard-core music fans are just that, music fans, not specific to a genre. Therefor, if many have already seen a certain artist, they're not as likely to go see them again if there's something else of interest.

Another aspect affecting quantity is the lack of innovation 9in hard-core bluegrass. It is, by definition, a closely-defined format, and if much of the material remains the same, the musicians simply become a plug-and-play event. If there's a show with nothing but bluegrass standards, how unique can it be? I know fans of various musicians will disagree, but the vast majority of the public won't be able to discern individual musician's styles because, frankly, they just don't care to dive that deeply into one form of music.

Lastly, the big effect on quantity is the venues themselves. Bluegrass simply doesn't help a venue or performing arts center build a community presence and loyal audience. There might be one or two venues in the hotbed of the south that pull it off, but elsewhere in the country, you need a variety to keep audience members returning. I speak to a number of presenters around the country, and we all find an interesting trend in that the hard-core genre lovers (bluegrass, jazz, classical, etc) are not very adventurous concert-goers. They are genre loyal, but not venue loyal. That means that as a venue, you can't build a community that you can count on to provide a certain level of attendance at all shows with the genre-specific fans. They simply don't add to a program. Bluegrass can be a part of a program so that a presenter can show a wide variety of music, but it can't survive by focusing on that.

A venue also needs to appeal to a wide age demographic, from millennial to young families, all the way up. The younger listeners are always more adventurous, wanting to hear newer things. We were the same way, our parents were, and so on. It's perfectly natural. So, as the hard-core bluegrass fans age, venues need to make sure there's more for other genres. And no, this phenomenon is not bluegrass-specific. Think of stars from the past 100 years, like The Andrews Sisters, Benny Goodman, pretty much all the finger style blues artists, rockabilly. They're all great format, but they're all dated enough that they've become niche-status. You can do a Rockabilly show once a year, but only a few bars would be able to get away with it more than once or twice a month (unless it's some theme bar).

Anyway, trying to keep this only about bluegrass is a red herring, it's what happens to most all musical styles as time marches on.

Ted Lehmann
Mar-07-2018, 11:14am
Well said, Drew. I like the generational distinction particularly well, because it pertains in so many other areas of aging vs. maturing. As a former young Turk who made lots of mistakes and a current old fart having to reassess all the time, you caught it!

Ted Lehmann
Mar-07-2018, 11:22am
Well said, and all good points. Nevertheless, people still call material "bluegrass," even while hard core traditionalists will harp on particular bands not being bluegrass because the haven't a banjo or a mandolin. Generally, both instruments help to define bluegrass bands, but bluegrass happens anyway. When I talked to Alan Munde, he emphasized that many young musicians who came under his tutelage weren't interested in where the music came from, but very much liked the sound of the instruments themselves. However, I still maintain that serious students of what they themselves are doing will bring many (though not all) back to the founders to find their own connection to it. Thanks for taking the time to write.

Willie Poole
Mar-07-2018, 1:08pm
"Where is bluegrass headed"? Well the last "Bluegrass" festival I went to had 12 bands performing for the weekend and only one was a true bluegrass band....Sure most of them had a guitar, banjo, mandolin or fiddle and bass but the music they played was more closely related to rock and roll if you will, the singing is drowned out with loud banjos or even a dobro not backing off when a person is singing...So it is not heading any where, it has already gotten there in some parts of the country...

Maybe this is not what you are asking but I put in my views anyway...I have been playing bluegrass for a whole lot of years and I would love to see it stay traditional, if people think they need to change it then call it something else, I know that sounds like a broken record but that is my feelings, "If it ain`t traditional sounding, then it ain`t bluegrass, it`s something else"...

Willie

mandos&turtles
Mar-07-2018, 4:01pm
There might be a decline in the quantity of 'traditional' bluegrass. But is that a bad thing? I'd say that no it is not. Genres change with times. Rock, the blues, hip hop, jazz, whatever genre if you listen to modern artists and artists that are 30+ years old, they'll sound different. The times have changed since the days of Bill Monroe and Flatt and Scruggs and the music needs to change to reflect that. Hell, look at the Del McCoury band, they're traditional in many ways but even they have changed with the times musically (especially his sons). The people playing bluegrass, or whatever genre distinction purists want to make, these days are influenced by other genres and it comes through in the playing. That's now it has to be or bluegrass will become stagnant and less and less relevant to a wider audience.

Dave Sheets
Mar-07-2018, 4:26pm
I think when a musical genre gets into the mode of trying to "preserve" the tradition, it really gets kinda stale. I love modern classical music, but the local orchestras never play it, they are busy preserving the great traditional orchestra pieces written between about 1800 and 1900. I don't go to many philharmonic concerts, it's almost all old music, preserved music, and it all too often sounds like it. It's far better, I think, to have a lively musical scene with enthused people producing new ideas based on that tradition, and maybe, other ideas and traditions. Most musicians do have a respect for the past, and for great pieces of music, so even bands that are really "modernist" are likely to play some of the old traditional tunes, and keep them alive. Enthusiasm is the key thing, even if it isn't entirely traditional.

Ted Lehmann
Mar-07-2018, 4:41pm
To Willie - I appreciate your comments. Many people who hold these views are friends of mine, and I've enjoyed first rate traditional bands as well as many newer ones. I think there are poor or mediocre bands in both camps, mistaking speed for quality ensemble, or shouting for singing in close harmony. On the other hand, I've enjoyed the picking and the singing of bands like The Lonely Heartstring Band, Mile Twelve, and the Steep Canyon Rangers a great deal during our years in bluegrass. There's always been a trend for bluegrass to sound very much like the popular commercial music of thirty to forty years previous. I don't see that changing. Thanks again for your comment.

A-board
Mar-07-2018, 5:43pm
Music evolves.

Beanzy
Mar-07-2018, 6:00pm
I think Bluegrass got lucky as it was kind of on the ropes in terms of popularity before the folk revival people and festivals gave it a shot in the arm again. It got a few bites of the genre cherry as a result & people got to hear and record the original players in HiFi too.
Imagine if we could have had that with baroque music or early classical, before the days of standardisation of tuning at 440 and 12TET.

One thing is certain it’s still played by lots of folks, but that doesn’t make it ‘popular music’ anymore.
That is an ever-shifting term which BG no longer has an interest in chasing.
It’s just like any other genre with it's afficionados and those who like to keep it being played live.
Good tunes, great harmonies and fun to do, but a historical niche music with passionate followers. There are many derivitives on that musical family tree as it evolves to become something else. It’s not going extinct any time soon.

John Adrihan
Mar-07-2018, 6:52pm
I'll just pick on a couple of instruments, banjo and mandolin. Just because you play them does not mean it's bluegrass. Trampled by turtles, Chris Thile, and you know the rest are just not bluegrass. No matter how you try to rationalize it if it is not like Billl,Scruggs, or the originals, it's not bluegrass. Period. So where is bluegrass headed? It's probably heading to some form of where pure heavy metal ended because of stupidity. What is stupidity? The need to evolve a genre of music because of profit.

Mandoplumb
Mar-07-2018, 11:09pm
I realize any music changes over time, but how far from it's roots can it go and still be the same style of music. Bill Monroe formed The Bluegrass Boys, named for his home state, years before Scruggs started playing banjo with him. His music was not called bluegrass then it was hillbilly. When Scruggs joined the music was so different people started calling it bluegrass because it was so different and it was played by The Bluegrass Boys. What was different? Those same instruments had been used in hillbilly music for years. Monroe and Scruggs gave it a drive that no music had at that time. Monroe and Flatt gave the vocals a sound that derived from " brother duets" but was higher pitched and puncher that most of that time. That is what defines bluegrass the drive and the close harmony. I love the songs about the cabins in the southern states, I love the southern dialects and the country way of droppin the G's on words endin in ing. I've heard people say BG has to change because those things are dated, music should tell of the current times, maybe but maybe not. Maybe we should keep these in honor of where the music comes from or because I like them maybe not, but as far as I'm concerned if we lose that drive and harmony ( which so many of the new bands have lost) then it ain't bluegrass. It might be good, it might be acoustic, it might be enjoyable, but IT AIN'T BLUEGRASS.

JL277z
Mar-08-2018, 12:43am
I think when a musical genre gets into the mode of trying to "preserve" the tradition, it really gets kinda stale. I love modern classical music, but the local orchestras never play it, they are busy preserving the great traditional orchestra pieces written between about 1800 and 1900. I don't go to many philharmonic concerts, it's almost all old music, preserved music, and it all too often sounds like it. It's far better, I think, to have a lively musical scene with enthused people producing new ideas based on that tradition, and maybe, other ideas and traditions. Most musicians do have a respect for the past, and for great pieces of music, so even bands that are really "modernist" are likely to play some of the old traditional tunes, and keep them alive. Enthusiasm is the key thing, even if it isn't entirely traditional.

Agree 100-percent.

IMO, if something needs to be "preserved" that means it's already dead, a pickled specimen in a jar in science class, a curiosity for students to study and see how it's put together, or some sort of museum display piece to show the rest of the world "what used to be", but not a living thing anymore.

(To follow that line of thought, I suppose one could take a Frankenstein approach ;) and assume that if enough people engage in such "preservation", then the thing becomes alive again :disbelief: and functions as some sort of zombie anachronism for the devotees of the thing.)

I suppose some of that is necessary, otherwise we wouldn't know what any of the earlier musical styles sounded like. If it weren't for the preservationists, a lot of fantastically good music would be lost forever. And if such music were to be changed up very much, modernized, added drums :disbelief: and electric bass, :grin: it would start to sound like everything else we hear nowadays, so I can understand the wish to not alter the older styles by giving them modern interpretations. (Personally, I like drums and electric bass in just about everything anymore, although I certainly didn't grow up that way.)

That said, I think changes in music are more motivated by the musicians themselves, rather than the audiences. The musicians get tired of playing the same ol' thing over and over again, and they change stuff around to suit themselves. The resulting sound isn't "authentic" anymore, but who cares, it's still fun to play, and if music isn't fun, then what's the point of having it. If the existing audiences like it, that's great, if they don't, then maybe it's time for new audiences. :)

Ivan Kelsall
Mar-08-2018, 3:24am
As Mandoplumb correctly states - After Earl Scruggs joined Bill Monroe & raised the popularity of the band as a whole via his ''fancy banjo'' playing,folk liked it so much,that they wrote to the radio stations asking for more of that 'Bluegrass (style) music,& so eventually,as Neil Rosenberg says in his book - ''Bluegrass - A History'' - the fans named the music. That music style was 'new' at that time. Yes,the instruments had been around a long time before that,but they'd never been assembled in a band that had 'that sound'. There are parallels in Classical music - we can go from Medieval music > Baroque > to Classical as we know it , which in itself is still evolving via the 'modern' composers around today,& mostly going in a direction that i personally don't like. Even the instruments themselves had to evolve to be able to play what the composers required.

All music will evolve as individual musicians seek to expand on what they already play & bring new 'textures' into their music. IMHO - there are still a lot of bands playing what i'd call ''Trad based'' Bluegrass,but,they are singing new songs & playing new instrumentals - as did Bill Monroe & other bands back in the day !. ''Bluegrass'' itself was a revolution in 'string band music',& was as different to the folks listening to it in it's early days as Newgrass Revival was to us - the same instruments playing a 'different' music. And so it continues with bands such as ''The Infamous Stringdusters'' / ''Greensky Bluegras'' / ''Railroad Earth'' etc.

IMO - I think that many bands will continue to play 'Trad.based' Bluegrass music, & still sing the old songs,but,they'll also sing / play a lot of new stuff as well. As somebody posted above,what would it be like if all we heard at Bluegrass festivals were the old tunes of Monroe / Flatt & Scruggs etc. ? - IMHO ,pretty darned boring.

We had a very similar discussion going on a while back about 'what is Bluegrass music' ? (or similar). For me - bands such as The Lonesome River Band / Blue Highway / Balsam Range & others, are still playing what i'd term 'Trad.based'' Bluegrass music,but they're playing their own songs - just like Bill Monroe & the bands that followed his style. I've listened to the 'old songs' possibly 1000's of times over 55 years of being involved in Bluegrass & i've played maybe more than my share of 'em as well. Right now,13 years into mandolin playing,the styling of 'The Stringdusters' & the other 'new' bands is very refreshing.

I still love the old songs,but 'The Little Cabin Home On The Hill' began to look very sad a long while back = time for something new,''as well as'' ?. (IMHO).

It may be that in several years time 'Trad.' Bluegrass could be revived as folk seek the roots of the 'new' music,in a similar way that when the Folk music revival began,boosted by the popularity of Bob Dylan & all the other 'Contemporary' folks,people began searching for the 'roots & origins' of 'Folk' music in general. ''The New Lost City Ramblers'' made a career out of playing the musical roots of Bluegrass music - ''Old Timey'' music. It could happen all over again as folk forget & seek to be reminded,
Ivan;)

Ted Lehmann
Mar-08-2018, 5:13am
it's almost all old music, preserved music, and it all too often sounds like it. It's far better, I think, to have a lively musical scene with enthused people producing new ideas based on that tradition, and maybe, other ideas and traditions. Most musicians do have a respect for the past, and for great pieces of music, so even bands that are really "modernist" are likely to play some of the old traditional tunes, and keep them alive. Enthusiasm is the key thing, even if it isn't entirely traditional.

Thanks for this comment. I tend to be one of those people who listen to classical orchestral music, although my time frame is a little longer than you suggest. It also ranges into the twentieth century to include Ives, Gershwin, and perhaps, if the future deems it worthy, John Williams. I find composers like Philip Glass to be unlistenable. I actually have a good deal of sympathy for people who treasure the music they first encountered as teens, as well as knowing that it will always change. My listening to music has expanded broadly as I write reviews of music-related biographies I read while listening to music I hadn't seriously considered before. Dave Van Ronk, Jimmy Buffett, and John Prine, all of whom I had a casual musical acquaintance with came alive for me as I read their work. Familiarity does not breed contempt!

Ted Lehmann
Mar-08-2018, 5:19am
To Ivan Kelsall - Thanks very much for your comment. It seems balanced and reasonable to me, but maybe that's because it's pretty well in line with my thoughts. ;) Listening to streaming music, especially the weekly and daily playlists selected by Spotify algorithm has increased my musical literacy, as has writing about music. I'm grateful for both, as well as your lucid reply. - Ted

Dagger Gordon
Mar-08-2018, 5:26am
It's not all about music, actually.

(I'm going to make some statements which involve politics and religion, so if any editors are not happy, please delete my comments).

It seems to me that Gospel plays quite a large part in bluegrass, and given a very largely white group of people involved in the music, some people may well find the whole genre really pretty unattractive, however good the musicianship.
I should say that although I am not religious, I actually do quite like some of this gospel material.

But when you look at people involved in 'Americana' (a vague and amorphous term, admittedly) it seems to me that the whole scene is much more alternative, counter-culture, and generally something which younger people of a certain type might identify with.
And this could also include American icons like Willie Nelson, who with his hair, views on marijuana etc seems to me to represent an entirely different world, really.

I don't know if anyone remembers the DVD Bluegrass Journey which included (of all things) a pagan wedding at what I thought was a bluegrass festival. I confess I was confused!

Ted Lehmann
Mar-08-2018, 5:26am
I'll just pick on a couple of instruments, banjo and mandolin. Just because you play them does not mean it's bluegrass. Trampled by turtles, Chris Thile, and you know the rest are just not bluegrass. No matter how you try to rationalize it if it is not like Billl,Scruggs, or the originals, it's not bluegrass. Period. So where is bluegrass headed? It's probably heading to some form of where pure heavy metal ended because of stupidity. What is stupidity? The need to evolve a genre of music because of profit.

I can't say I agree with this, but you express a view held by many. In the end, I think my plea in the last paragraph calling for some sort of middle ground works, at least for me as well, I think, as many others. Simply to dismiss string band music played in emerging styles as "not bluegrass" is insufficient.

Timbofood
Mar-08-2018, 9:34am
I was pretty sure this subject had been discussed ad nauseum in the thirty other threads. The music will evolve or die, traditional factions will be there as will progressives, the only constant in life is change.
I should go change strings...

Willie Poole
Mar-08-2018, 11:12am
New bands can play their own songs as long as they play them in a traditional style then they will still be considered "Bluegrass", it`s not all about playing songs that are 50-60 years old, it is the style that they are played in...Compare what country music was 40-50 years ago to what it is today, it is trash and there is no other way to describe it and I fear that bluegrass is fading in that same direction if it hasn`t already gotten there...I also like listening to a lot of the new bands but I don`t consider them bluegrass, surely Del and his sons have stepped over the line but I still love what they do, I just don`t like to hear this stuff called "Bluegrass"...Folk music is still played the same way it was written by Stephen Foster and a lot of other writers so why can`t bluegrass still be played in the same style that it was originated in and call the "off shoots" something else but not
Bluegrass"...I don`t see why that is so hard to understand and get across to people...

Willie

Mandoplumb
Mar-08-2018, 5:02pm
Willie you said it. Bluegrass is drive not speed, drive. The classic Country Gentlemen are the best example I know if they were playing fast the music drove right thru you, if they were playing slow it drove just as hard. Most new so called BG band don't have that drive. Of you ain't pushing the beat you ain't playing BG.

jaycat
Mar-08-2018, 5:44pm
I've expressed this opinion before, but what the hell, why let that stop me... IMO musical genres have a shelf-life, after which comes a point of diminishing returns. You may bemoan the fact that there's no 'real' bluegrass around anymore, but really, what are you going to hear anyway that's going to rival Bill Monroe, Jimmy Martin, Flatt and Scruggs, etc.?

There are still blues bands, but what is there in the same league as Muddy, Wolf, Sonny Boy? Same with jazz, is there really any need to listen to (hardly) anything post-Miles, Coltrane, Monk, Mingus?? Etc etc ad nauseam. You still have the old records, give them a spin and enjoy!

Jeff Hildreth
Mar-08-2018, 5:58pm
I don't know where Bluegrass is headed.

My taste in Bluegrass is simple to include the following:
Del Mc Coury (SP)
Seldom Scene
Flatt and Scruggs

Though the originator of Bluegrass.. I never cared for Bill Monroe.

I believe it depends on the individual.

However, if it is going the way that the last BG venue I attended, which was a flat bore, and anything but what I define as BG, I really do not care. I won't be there.

As to some names dropped that are not Bluegrass.. I agree, and by my definition largely self absorbed grandstanders. Brilliant and boring, and not at all "musical". Bluegrass to me is audience driven, not showmanship.
Which gets us back to define the audience.. diverse.

J.Albert
Mar-08-2018, 6:07pm
At a bluegrass festival, later in the evening, as the stage show winds down, as folks break out their instruments and gather round, what tunes do they play? From whom?

How many Chris Thile songs do they play?
Why is that?

DavidKOS
Mar-08-2018, 7:00pm
What I know about where Bluegrass music is head ain't no part of nuthin'.

Willie Poole
Mar-08-2018, 9:22pm
Mr. Albert, That is just my point, what is the last bluegrass song that you heard that became a classic? I can`t think of anything after "Fox On The Run" or "Rockytop"...But there at hundreds of traditional bluegrass songs that are still being played around campfires and parking lots at festivals and jam sessions... Modern songs will last about a month after being listed in the top ten at one time or another...

I`m done:whistling:...Willie

Chris Daniels
Mar-08-2018, 9:40pm
I knew I smelled a genre thread as soon as I came on the forum. It's the odor of long dead horse, thoroughly beaten.

All genre art, whether music or literature or what have you, must evolve or stagnate. What has always amuses me about most genre-argument-producing cultures is how personally some people take it when an imaginary boundary is stretched, or an unwritten yet iron-clad rule that somehow conforms exactly to that person's thoughts on the matter is broken. A few folks will present cogent and well-reasoned arguments for why this 'new thing' is not the same as the 'old thing' and should not be considered to be the same, but mostly the 'discussion' descends into no-true-Scotsman territory.

I have to say though, the earlier comment about metal made me laugh. I'm curious to know which of the recognized dozens and dozens of metal sub-genres were created solely to rake in the cash. And at least they all recognize that it is all '-metal' music of a sort, where the arguments are more about exactly which niche a style fits into or if it's a new one, instead of denying them the designation outright. Let's not mention bluegrass metal, shall we?

C.

Denny Gies
Mar-08-2018, 11:03pm
I know everything evolves or dies. It seems to me that there are still a healthy number of festivals and a crop of young pickers coming up who are amazing. Diagnosis; fairly healthy.

Ivan Kelsall
Mar-12-2018, 2:38am
Hello Ted - Philip Glass / Milton Babbitt et.al were the 'new classicalists' i was meaning in my last post - well, at least 2 of them. I must say,that i feel that most non-trad ''Bluegrass orientated'' bands are far closer to the spirit of Bill Monroe's music than the vast majority of ''modern classicists'' are to the spirit of Bach / Beethoven /Mozart etc.,
Ivan

Mandobart
Mar-13-2018, 8:11am
"Where" BG is headed depends a little on where you are geographically. The Ohio old timer at the beginning of the article bemoans a lack of jams - the opposite is happening in my neck of the Pacific Northwest. If I didn't have other commitments I could go to 6 BG jams a month without driving more than 10 miles from home. There are seven or eight BG festivals just in Washington coming up in the spring and summer. There are a lot of traditionalists (at 54 I'm one of the youngest members of three BG organizations in my area). As the string and and new grass scene on the coast grows, it brings in more young people, who start to explore the source of the music as they learn more. Maybe Fruition or Greensky pulled them in, but in time they'll hear and appreciate Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs. The same thing happened when Cream, The Yardbirds, The Stones and others introduced a new generation to the blues. Sure the music will evolve, grow to include more people, instruments, genres, but it will stay bluegrass. I seriously believe as long as it doesn't become too commercially successful BG will survive. Just look at what's become of country music.

Roger Adams
Mar-13-2018, 2:09pm
I am with Willie Poole. I know Bluegrass when I hear it, and a lot of the stuff being showcased at "BG Festivals" sounds and feels like Pop/Rock music to me. I have nothing against folks pushing the envelope in terms of artistic expression, but don't take my money and tell me you sold me Bluegrass when it is not! I vote with my feet, and go find a good jam around some campfire.

All this most likely means I am just old and grumpy.:( I remember the disappointment during the folk scare of the 60s when Bob Dylan betrayed the faithful and went electric on us.......

Ivan Kelsall
Mar-14-2018, 3:21am
From Grizzly Adams - " ..when Bob Dylan betrayed the faithful and went electric on us....... " That's something that i was never able to understand. After he 'went electric',Bob Dylan wrote some of his finest & most socially 'cutting' songs - which to me,are what mattered. The vast majority of folk who railed against him couldn't even play a comb & paper, let alone any genre of guitar. I put it down to some folk simply needing something to bellyache about.

Apparently,Pete Seeger threw a 'furious tantrum' on hearing Dylan's elec.preformance of ''Maggie's Farm'' - why ?. Maybe it's no wonder some of the new pickers don't seek 'peer approval' & just get on with enjoying their playing = ''mind your own business & if you don't like it don't listen !!!''

It seems fair enough to me ?,
Ivan:grin:

jaycat
Mar-14-2018, 7:19am
From Grizzly Adams - " ..when Bob Dylan betrayed the faithful and went electric on us....... " That's something that i was never able to understand. After he 'went electric',Bob Dylan wrote some of his finest & most socially 'cutting' songs - which to me,are what mattered. The vast majority of folk who railed against him couldn't even play a comb & paper, let alone any genre of guitar. I put it down to some folk simply needing something to bellyache about. . .

And then some years later he was picketed by angry fans when he performed his Christian material. I don't get it. No one is forcing anyone to listen. If I picketed every performer I don't care for, I'd be pretty busy...

Beanzy
Mar-14-2018, 10:35am
It’s what happens when people idolise the performer or the genre. They hang a lot of hope and belief on the image they have of their idol, when the idol goes and changes away from the image it shatters the illusion. Remember what music and musicians meant in the ‘60s, they were going to change the world, make people enlightened, end wars, inspire a revolution, take humanity to the next step, etc. No one was ever going to live up to that. The only idols who can’t disappoint are the dead ones because they’re never going to move from the pedestal of purity to which their worshippers have bolted them.

Willie Poole
Mar-14-2018, 12:29pm
For the life of me I just don`t understand why when a band shows up with a guitar, a banjo, a mandolin or fiddle and a bass fiddle that people want to call it "Bluegrass"....Sure music will change as years go by but put a name on it and don`t call it bluegrass if it is not played in the original style that it was meant to be played, like Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, Jimmy Martin etc...Play the new songs but come up with some that are played in the old style...I do not blame musicians for trying to make a better living by changing their style but also change the name of the music now being played...

I know a lot of you are tired of me harping on the subject but I have spent a lot of years trying to preserve bluegrass and I hate to see it being washed away like "Country Music' was....I also remember when bluegrass pickers were noted as being drunks etc and I have fought hard to try and make fans understand that now days that is not true that bluegrass has become a "pure" simple music and played with a lot of feeling and not like an expressionless robot playing it like we now see at most festivals....

Sorry to go "on and on"...hey that's a good bluegrass song also..:grin:.

Willie

Dagger Gordon
Mar-14-2018, 1:03pm
..

I know a lot of you are tired of me harping on the subject but I have spent a lot of years trying to preserve bluegrass and I hate to see it being washed away like "Country Music' was...



Not me. I think your stance is entirely admirable. I really do.

Timbofood
Mar-14-2018, 1:33pm
I prefer the “old school” drive and feel, my band works very hard at keeeping the style close. From time to time material may go off on a tangent but, as it did with the “Country Gentlemen” it’s not always the material it’s, as Willie has said time and again, the “Drive”
Willie also has a very serious stake in this from his heritage, being a descendant of the late great Charlie Poole means something to me, though many of the current pickers may never have heard of him.
Tipping my hat to you Willie! (There’s a name for a new old style tune, hmmm...)

Mandoplumb
Mar-14-2018, 4:02pm
Willie keep harping on what is BG till folks get it. The Country Gentlemen did songs that were not tradditional BG Songs but they made them BG, and now a lot of them are standards, but as ive said before,if you lookup "drive" in the dictionary there should be a picture of the classic Gentlemen. Thank goodness they never done Wagon Wheel I don't think even they could make that one drive.

Chris Bowsman
Mar-14-2018, 4:21pm
I'm curious to know which of the recognized dozens and dozens of metal sub-genres were created solely to rake in the cash.

Def Leppard*?

Maybe compared to bluegrass, metal seems mainstream. There certainly are plenty of 'heavy' mainstream bands, but there are plenty of bluegrass-ish mainstream bands, as well.

I appreciate that the purists of any genre want to keep their chosen form from changing. However, many of them adopt an elitist attitude, and I often wonder if they're able to see past said attitude to see how damaging that is to their cause. There are plenty of people like me, who just like music and don't care what kind it is. Too much "get off my lawn" makes The Infamous Stringdusters way more appealing than another G-C-D about a train.



* I'm well aware Def Leppard is not a metal band :)

JeffD
Mar-14-2018, 5:51pm
I appreciate that the purists of any genre want to keep their chosen form from changing.

I am not sure that is the characterization. I am coming around to Willie's point here.

Its not the stability of the music that folks want to preserve, as much as the stability of the name of the genre to point to it. "Bluegrass" refers to something, something specific. Do what you want, play what you want, record what you want, change what you want, but don't use a name for it that is already taken.

And I don't want to rehash what is and what isn't BG, or the theory of fuzzy sets or porous boundaries. I am just clarifying, I think, a significant distinction. Its not musical evolution that is troublesome. It is the losing of the language.

JeffD
Mar-14-2018, 5:54pm
Yea I know, language evolves too. But that is far more threatening.

Philphool
Mar-14-2018, 8:30pm
I think Willie has a point.

Lots of people now listen to country radio stations and say "that's not country", and the term "Classic Country" has come to mean all the old stuff from the 50s & 60s mostly.

We might soon refer to "Classic Bluegrass" to separate the first generation music from all the derivative music that has evolved from "Classic Bluegrass". (see? I'm using it already.;) )

I'm also waiting to see if "Americana" will find some categories instead of just meaning "music that doesn't fit any other name".:confused:

JeffD
Mar-14-2018, 11:02pm
The traditional bluegrass configuration of instruments, I believe, has a real good balance between different timbres, note attacks and sustains, rhythm, and all. Its a real tried and tested balance of instruments.

It is no surprise that different kinds of music can work well with that combination of instruments. Punch Bros. do some amazing sounding music.

I would want the experiments to continue, and to continue to gain popularity. Good music is good music.

But, of course, it is not bluegrass. Anymore than everything played with an orchestra is classical.

Ivan Kelsall
Mar-15-2018, 2:29am
As JeffD mentions above,many 'different' styles of music may be played on the same grouping of instruments. We all know what 'Trad.' Bluegrass sounds like. If a band shows up with banjo / mandolin / guitar / fiddle & bass,but they don't play 'Trad.' Bluegrass music,simply listen & if you enjoy it,enjoy it. If you don't like it,go for a beer - or 'whatever'. For me,if the music is melodic & has good tunes,i'll usually enjoy it just to watch others play as much as anything. I'll watch,listen & see/hear what i can steal !!,
Ivan

PS - As i was re-reading my last 'post' - i realised what a contrast there was between Pete Seeger's angry outburst against Bob Dylan ''goin' 'lectric.'' & the general approval of Bill Monroe for Elvis Presley's version of ''Blue Moon Of Kentucky''. We know of course about '' them powerful royalty cheques -Yes Sir !'' - but not once have i read, or heard a comment about Bill Monroe disapproving of Elvis's version. Not only that,but BM was moved to re-record his own 'speeded up' version of ''Blue Moon..".

Back in the UK Folk boom era,Pete Seeger played Manchester's old Concert hall,''The Free Trade Hall'' - i went to see him. A lone figure on stage,holding his signature 'long necked' banjo & singing
songs that i found hard to relate to - '' 'tweren't no part of nothin' '' (for me). I was fine with Bob Dylan / James Taylor / Phil Ochs /Joan Baez etc. & our home grown UK 'Contemporary' Folkies. :grin:

Mandoplumb
Mar-15-2018, 4:38am
A song is not "bluegrass", the way it is played is bluegrass. A song about a cabin in the mountains or a train ( I don't think many traditionsal bluegrass songs are about trains, that's trad. Country) may be bluegrass or it may not. Hello Mary Lou may be bluegrass or it may not. The theme of trad. bluegrass lyrics may be heavy in mountain loar because that is where the music originated but this condeming trad. bluegrass because of the lyrics of songs is not what we traditionist or trying to hold on to. I too am of the camp that enjoys any good music but let's not call it bluegrass just because it has a banjo. I keep saying it ain't 'grass if it don't drive and may I say in passing that is why it is "simplistic" too "complex" looses the drive. Ralph Stanley said it's the hardest music in the world to play and if done right it is.

JL277z
Mar-15-2018, 6:57am
... I also remember when bluegrass pickers were noted as being drunks etc ...

Same for oldtime. That's one of the reasons I bailed from music entirely for many years, got tired of being around all the drinking (after I'd quit drinking). It wasn't that it was a temptation because it wasn't, it's just that when you're sober and half the other people are sloppy drunk, they seem gross and you just don't want to be around it. It's like the old joke where the guy says that he "drinks to make other people seem more interesting," well when you're *not* drinking but they're falling-down drunk and playing music badly, it can be hard to find much common ground.

DavidKOS
Mar-15-2018, 7:20am
Ralph Stanley said it's the hardest music in the world to play and if done right it is.

With all respect to the late Mr. Stanley, Bluegrass is by no means " the hardest music in the world to play".

Maybe " the hardest music" he ever played - but compared to jazz and classical music? No way.

Mandoplumb
Mar-15-2018, 8:44am
With all respect to the late Mr. Stanley, Bluegrass is by no means " the hardest music in the world to play".Maybe " the hardest music" he ever played - but compared to jazz and classical music? No way.

I always took it to mean that it was more than just a strings of notes, you had to not only feel it but just about live it to play it right. That's where I think a lot of the new bands fail, they are playing the right notes but they don't feel what they're playing, let alone live it. I'm sure the same can be said about jazz and classical. Personally I don't see how anyone can really get into vastly different music and excel at any one genre. If you excel at any music I think it's the hardest music in the world to play.

DavidKOS
Mar-15-2018, 9:08am
I always took it to mean that it was more than just a strings of notes, you had to not only feel it but just about live it to play it right. That's where I think a lot of the new bands fail, they are playing the right notes but they don't feel what they're playing, let alone live it. I'm sure the same can be said about jazz and classical. Personally I don't see how anyone can really get into vastly different music and excel at any one genre. If you excel at any music I think it's the hardest music in the world to play.

Thank you, that was well said.

Charlieshafer
Mar-15-2018, 9:58am
The basic problem with labels is this: if you want them to be strictly applied, you'll choke off your favorite style of music. If you allow some leeway in verbiage, your favorite genre will expand. Here's why:

1: The uninitiated in any form of music or art need labels to get them interested in hearing or seeing something they don't know. Look at the algorithms on Spotify, Pandora, Amazon or iTunes. "If you like this, you might like...these." Whether you care about them or not, they introduce people to a lot of music they'd never hear before. A LOT of music. Far more than word of mouth. Far more than traditional radio. These algorithms live by labels.

2: When going to see music, and folks are unfamiliar with a certain band, they'll need the road sign of "Irish" or "Bluegrass" or "Jazz" etc. They want to find something they're comfortable with. There aren't enough labels to cover all the new forms of music. You can only have so many before you lose the general public's interest. But the casual bluegrass-y music fan may or may not care about who is traditional and who is not. But by supporting the entire genre, they help make being a traditional bluegrass player more financially viable.

3: This need for a generalized road sign extends to the press as well. Casual music writers or general event editors in local newspapers want to appeal to as broad a spectrum of readers as possible. They're trying to build a community. A specific genre's need to exclude the less-than-pure from their own little circle won't appeal to a broader population and that won't interest the writers and editors.

As far as the way it's played, let the traditionalists play it as straight as they want, no problem there at all. But if they jealously guard the name, they'll lose their audience over time.

This sort of... I don't know..elitism extends to those who say that their genre is more difficult to "get" or play well than any other are also nuts. We all know I.T.M., Scots, Old-time, and bluegrass who all say no one can ever truly play it right unless they live it, play it, whatever. This thought process may have held somewhat true years ago, but it's not the case anymore, even if it ever was. With the proliferation of music camps like Alasdair Frazers, Jay Ungars, Mike Blocks, etc, young players are exposed to it all, and killing it all.

So there's a bit of a paradox going on right now which is understandably confusing to those who might be stuck in their ways, but here's the contradiction: players need to cross boundaries to make their music more sellable to a wider range of people, but need the traditional labels so the marketers can at least get them noticed by the right people.

Willie Poole
Mar-15-2018, 10:27am
Those are some good points Charlie and I would believe that in different parts of the country that would true...I play quite a few shows every year and I would guess that 90% of the people that come to listen to my band say that they sure miss bluegrass played in the traditional style...Also I have seen and heard some of the pickers that have taken "Bluegrass courses" at some of the colleges, namely East Tennessee State, and they are like a bunch of robots playing the music from what appears to me that they learned from reading sheet music, they have no stage presentation at all, at least not very much, no drive to the music, given time they may well become great musicians but what they are learning now just doesn`t seem to me to be real bluegrass...

The OP asked where is "bluegrass headed", well all he has to do is listen to those kind of pickers and he will see where it has already gone...

Just my opinion so please don`t shoot me...Willie

Charlieshafer
Mar-15-2018, 10:46am
Just my opinion so please don`t shoot me...Willie

Ha! Actually, Willie, you're right in that respect. The newer players will have the skills, but in all genres, they don;t have the stage polish yet. That's experience. And yeah,there's a niche for the hard-core trad players and fans for sure, but I agree that it is very much geographical. Up here, a Ryman Auditorium that would be all trad grass and old-school country would probably fail pretty quickly. It'd would be a novelty for a while, then be gone. But give the kids a chance; they may not be playing bluegrass the old way, but they'll play some pretty good stuff when they get a little experience.

JeffD
Mar-15-2018, 2:04pm
3: This need for a generalized road sign extends to the press as well. Casual music writers or general event editors in local newspapers want to appeal to as broad a spectrum of readers as possible. They're trying to build a community. A specific genre's need to exclude the less-than-pure from their own little circle won't appeal to a broader population and that won't interest the writers and editors.

More often than not, in musical genres that are not main stream, the casual music writers are just that, casual. Distinctions are missed not because they might exclude, but because they are missed.

This is likely more true at the more local level.

Timbofood
Mar-15-2018, 4:03pm
Those are some good points Charlie and I would believe that in different parts of the country that would true...I play quite a few shows every year and I would guess that 90% of the people that come to listen to my band say that they sure miss bluegrass played in the traditional style...Also I have seen and heard some of the pickers that have taken "Bluegrass courses" at some of the colleges, namely East Tennessee State, and they are like a bunch of robots playing the music from what appears to me that they learned from reading sheet music, they have no stage presentation at all, at least not very much, no drive to the music, given time they may well become great musicians but what they are learning now just doesn`t seem to me to be real bluegrass...

The OP asked where is "bluegrass headed", well all he has to do is listen to those kind of pickers and he will see where it has already gone...

Just my opinion so please don`t shoot me...Willie

We have got to meet!
As I have said time and time again,
You have got to know where you came from to know where you are going!
I don’t begrudge any working musician their interpretation of what they are playing regardless of genre, I have the ability to exercise final censorship and either leave the venue, turn off the station or stay. Those who simply want to grouse about any subject will always do so. You cannot change human nature without a pretty big fight. It’s hard enough to try to enlighten some people.
I’ve known lots of musicians over the years some well, some only in passing but the thing they all shared with me was a very deep love for the music they played. For me I’d say that is enough, learn a little from all of them, play what you love and play it with the heart and soul. Let other people say what they will, opinions are like noses everyone has one and it’s better to keep them out of other peoples business.

JAK
Mar-17-2018, 6:15pm
Once I heard somebody ask Bill Monroe if anybody would be around to play bluegrass and "carry the torch" when Bill was no longer on this earth (upright), and Bill answered, "No." Maybe Bill was correct....

T.D.Nydn
Mar-17-2018, 6:40pm
Once I heard somebody ask Bill Monroe if anybody would be around to play bluegrass and "carry the torch" when Bill was no longer on this earth (upright), and Bill answered, "No." Maybe Bill was correct....

That is an incredible answer to think about,,you can read all kinds of thing's in it...

hnicoleanderson
Apr-01-2018, 9:53pm
Bluegrass progressed already into country pop. If you stray too far from it's roots, it's no longer bluegrass as it becomes something else.

hnicoleanderson
Apr-01-2018, 10:11pm
I've expressed this opinion before, but what the hell, why let that stop me... IMO musical genres have a shelf-life, after which comes a point of diminishing returns. You may bemoan the fact that there's no 'real' bluegrass around anymore, but really, what are you going to hear anyway that's going to rival Bill Monroe, Jimmy Martin, Flatt and Scruggs, etc.?

There are still blues bands, but what is there in the same league as Muddy, Wolf, Sonny Boy? Same with jazz, is there really any need to listen to (hardly) anything post-Miles, Coltrane, Monk, Mingus?? Etc etc ad nauseam. You still have the old records, give them a spin and enjoy!

OMG! I guess you have never heard of Wynton Marsalis, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, Ricky Skaggs, EmmyLou Harris, Alison Krause to name a few.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDZkg5_YSWc

Tom Coletti
Apr-02-2018, 6:52am
A lot of people seem to have some concern over what us millennials are doing with music so as a mid-20-something I can assure you that we have no intention of ruining everything. We don't really know what music is going to turn into either, but with that being said, it may be helpful to consider a few things from our vantage point:

There's an unfathomable amount of musical information available to us now, and bluegrass is a just small piece buried in the pile of info. If we do find bluegrass, we probably dug through so many other genres of music along the way that we'll be instinctively coloring our bluegrass experience with the other genres we've experienced.

A lot of people start with something mainstream because it's near the top of the pile. While listening to something like, say, country-pop, they may hear something in the instrumentation they like, then perhaps dig a bit deeper to the Avett Brothers or Mumford, then Punch Brothers, everyone who's played with Punch Brothers, etc., and then they've opened the door to all sorts of festivals, workshops, and everything else on the road to 'grass with some encouragement. But merely chiding them about "not being bluegrass" might make them feel unwelcome or inadequate, and they may associate that bad experience with the genre and stop digging there.

It's really easy to single out some kid listening to whatever's popular this week and talk about how music isn't what it was, but that ignores the possibility that said popular thing is someone's start down the path that one day lands them across from you at the next jam circle. They'll play stuff a bit differently than the traditional way, most likely, but the traditional way of playing still exists. Nobody ruined it or took it away, it just got company.

Some might say "well that's fine, just call it something else," but to some degree, language and its uses change as much as music does. Vernacular updates and takes on new words to express new ideas, or new meanings or connotations to recontexualize old ones, so the reason the "bluegrass" label has stuck to these derivative styles of music may be partly because the mental image formed when someone says "bluegrass" has expanded to include those derivatives in their minds.

I don't know where bluegrass is headed or why or how, but it's going somewhere and people are having fun with it. That's all that matters to me.

jaycat
Apr-02-2018, 8:57am
OMG! I guess you have never heard of Wynton Marsalis, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, Ricky Skaggs, EmmyLou Harris, Alison Krause to name a few.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDZkg5_YSWc

Yep, I've heard of 'em. All fine players. I would only rate Hendrix in the category of 'innovator,' however, and in the rock rather than blues genre.

mando_dan
Apr-02-2018, 10:02am
Thank goodness Pink Floyd didn't spend too much time learning the Little Richard and Chuck Berry repertoire.

Timbofood
Apr-02-2018, 1:24pm
I stand by my earlier comments.
The idea that Jaycat has not heard of any of those musicians is absurd! The man has shown his diverse musical knowledge tim and again over the years, read past posts.
Tom makes a good point, the stacks of information available today tower over the small amount that was poured out in very small glasses forty some years ago. Back then you had to LOOK for bluegrass music and not many folks were out there to brain pick, you had to spend a lot of time finding the people, places where you could learn something from a human being face to face. There was no internet, it was an analog world which we old geezers hold close to our hearts,that’s just how we are wired.
The “new breed” of bluegrass minded folks have a very very large pool to draw from which was simply not there before. We had paper magazines, paper mail, everything took longer, we learned patience too.
Wait until you see things which are important to you morph into something which “passes” for how you learned it. Then you can make comments about someone not knowing something.
As for bluegrass becoming country pop, well, I’m not sure just who you listen to but, there are some very fine “traditional style” bands out there as well as the slick guys and “out there” bands. I lean toward the more traditional as a rule but, A little slick doesn’t get me wound up but, some of the latter, I just move along. If everyone loved the same thing it would get a little dull.
Just an old guys take on progress.

ProfChris
Apr-02-2018, 2:05pm
A lot of people seem to have some concern over what us millennials are doing with music so as a mid-20-something I can assure you that we have no intention of ruining everything. We don't really know what music is going to turn into either, but with that being said, it may be helpful to consider a few things from our vantage point:

There's an unfathomable amount of musical information available to us now, and bluegrass is a just small piece buried in the pile of info. If we do find bluegrass, we probably dug through so many other genres of music along the way that we'll be instinctively coloring our bluegrass experience with the other genres we've experienced.

A lot of people start with something mainstream because it's near the top of the pile. While listening to something like, say, country-pop, they may hear something in the instrumentation they like, then perhaps dig a bit deeper to the Avett Brothers or Mumford, then Punch Brothers, everyone who's played with Punch Brothers, etc., and then they've opened the door to all sorts of festivals, workshops, and everything else on the road to 'grass with some encouragement. But merely chiding them about "not being bluegrass" might make them feel unwelcome or inadequate, and they may associate that bad experience with the genre and stop digging there.

It's really easy to single out some kid listening to whatever's popular this week and talk about how music isn't what it was, but that ignores the possibility that said popular thing is someone's start down the path that one day lands them across from you at the next jam circle. They'll play stuff a bit differently than the traditional way, most likely, but the traditional way of playing still exists. Nobody ruined it or took it away, it just got company.

Some might say "well that's fine, just call it something else," but to some degree, language and its uses change as much as music does. Vernacular updates and takes on new words to express new ideas, or new meanings or connotations to recontexualize old ones, so the reason the "bluegrass" label has stuck to these derivative styles of music may be partly because the mental image formed when someone says "bluegrass" has expanded to include those derivatives in their minds.

I don't know where bluegrass is headed or why or how, but it's going somewhere and people are having fun with it. That's all that matters to me.

This! (as I believe Tom's generation say).

There is an important place for those who fell in love with a particular musical tradition and work to keep it alive, but it's inevitably a minority and niche place. For a different example, think trad jazz or the various national and regional folk traditions.

Most people who like music seem to like performers who take from a variety of influences and make it their own. The ones who succeed as performers (outside those preservation groups) are those who create something new, at least in my experience.

Bluegrass, in the preservation community, isn't heading anywhere - that's the whole point! Bluegrass-influenced music is doing some interesting things. It's great that I can listen to both.

Tom Haywood
Apr-02-2018, 4:36pm
I heard Mr. Bill say once that anybody who played the music different than he did was not playing bluegrass. And, of course, pretty much nobody was playing it the way he did. That explains his comment that there will be nobody to carry it on after he is gone. It seems a little presumptuous to contradict Bill and declare that Flatt & Scruggs and many others are playing bluegrass, but many of us have done that without any hesitation and now we want to limit the definition of bluegrass to only those we consider to be under our tent. And we'll gladly argue with each other about who should be there. Anything that is frozen in time, carved in stone, put on a pedestal, or put on display in a museum with a canned story is either dead or dying. Anything living is growing into whatever it will become. Don't get me wrong - I love "traditional" bluegrass. I know it when I hear it and I know it when I don't. I think it should be called traditional bluegrass to try to maintain a definition of that sound - as long as we don't limit it to only Bill's sound. Sort of nearby to where I live there are still some bluegrass festivals and bluegrass association meetings that are lightly attended. I'm inclined to say that traditional bluegrass is mostly dying around here, though, because the guys who would show up at jam sessions every weekend are mostly all dead or too ill to get out, and the guys in the age group just after them mostly only go out to play with their long-time band friends who already know how to play it. Seems like a lot of them just want to be in a museum. So the "traditional" language is not being passed on to very many young folks around here..

poymando
Apr-02-2018, 8:04pm
Punch Brothers are the best traditional bluegrass band on the circuit now. The music is in excellent hands.

Chris Daniels
Apr-03-2018, 8:37am
Punch Brothers are the best traditional bluegrass band on the circuit now.

:popcorn:

C.

Ted Lehmann
Apr-04-2018, 10:43am
At a bluegrass festival, later in the evening, as the stage show winds down, as folks break out their instruments and gather round, what tunes do they play? From whom?

How many Chris Thile songs do they play?
Why is that?

How much of that is because the songs that modern bands play are more complex, nuanced, and, yes, difficult to master. The songs played and sung around the jam usually come from a catalog of shared musical experience, making the jam possible. They are old, beloved songs. It's always been interesting to see new songs enter the jam circle. Some are jam breakers, and if the person who calls them doesn't notice, can break up the jam as members leave to find a more congenial group where they feel they belong. One contemporary exception is The Gibson Brothers, many of whose songs are entering jams. The songs chosen are relatively easy to learn, have strong, evocative tunes, and are in a three verse and chorus pattern jammers like and can learn. "Erase the Miles," one of my favorite bluegrass songs, doesn't achieve this, and I don't remember having heard it in jams.

AlanN
Apr-04-2018, 10:53am
Around these here parts, the only new songs which have made it to the parking lot are some James King and Hot Rize. Instrumental numbers - maybe Butch Baldassari or Alan Bibey tunes; not many, at all. That parking lot is one restricted roadway.

outsidenote
Apr-08-2018, 7:42pm
The only way for a genre to survive is for young people to play it. Inevitably, if they take an interest, they will place their own interpretations on the music and it will change. I personally enjoy listening to Courtney Hartman, Molly Tuttle, Joe Walsh and other young musicians. If thats not Bluegrass, then the genre is truly dead. If so, I will continue to enjoy its derivatives. The old stuff is still there for us to enjoy in many great recordings.

Timbofood
Apr-09-2018, 8:06am
Outside note,
Your examples of your take on bluegrass are:
A-yours which is perfectly fine, you find that to be your taste I find them to be a good diversion from the old school, no argument.
B-a very good example of the evolution of the music, probably geared toward a more “listenable” vein than some others as far as I’m concerned.
But, you are not considering the fact that Until fairly recently, this has been an oral and aural traditional style of music, the vast library you allude to of the “old guard” (my term) available via recorded media is all well and good but, many of us here learned from a much smaller information pool.
The given is, that the first generation artists are dying, even some of the second generation are gone. I will forever be grateful to have seen as many of the developers of the genre as I have without seeing, meeting, and learning from them, I would not have learned to play. If there are NO traditionalists, the root dies, if there is no evolution, the root still dies.
Anyone here that was lucky enough to have seen the grace and style of Lester Flatt, Bill Harrell, Don Reno, Charlie Waller, Bill Monroe,
Ralph Stanley, and so on when they were out there know what I mean.
As I have said before time and again,
“If you dont know where you came from, how do you know where you’re going?”

Mandoplumb
Apr-09-2018, 4:11pm
Timbofood is right on. And that is the problem with so much of the music of today as well as just about everything else. No one is educated on where it comes from, so everything is considered "new".

Willie Poole
Apr-11-2018, 11:13am
I think this is a discussion that will never get a true answer to it...I remember the first time I heard the song "someone killed country music down on Music Row" by Larry Cordell put everything into perspective....As is stated here music will evolve, sure but lets look back when it was called "String Music', it evolved into hillbilly and then later evolved into two separate class`s one called Country and one called Bluegrass so if it does evolve into some other form lets find a decent name for it, the songs that Jimmy Rogers and the Carter family used to sing have now been placed into a category called "Old Timey Music" and for years they were called the beginning of Country Music, the cowboys at one time were called "Opera singers" thus the name "Grand Ol`e Opry" then they got classified into "Country and Western"....

As for myself, I know true bluegrass when I hear it and it isn`t about what instruments are used to play it, it isn`t just about cabin homes, trains and truck driving etc it is the way it is presented with feeling and some good three part harmony in most cases, bands have tried different ways of doing the harmonies some with a high lead voice and two parts below the lead, some have even swapped parts as they sang the song, usually tight family harmonies like The Louvins and The Browns (Jim Ed, Maxine and Bonnie Brown) and later on The Osborne Bros...Even though Sonny and Bob weren`t always considered traditional bluegrass, much the same as John Duffey could sing any part that was needed and when the Seldom Scene was formed they didn`t want to be 100% bluegrass but they also didn`t want to sound like the "New Grass" bands that were around at that time...

As I said this is very selective as far as what our taste`s are but when a good bluegrass song is played most of us know that is true bluegrass and not this new stuff with many off chords that aren`t really needed, hell anyone can throw in a relative minor chord all through the song and the audience will think that is the way the song was originally written....And that takes it away from being "True Bluegrass" in my opinion...

Thanks for letting me state my opinion....:whistling::grin:

Willie

Timbofood
Apr-11-2018, 5:34pm
Willie, I like your perspective with regard to the “Seldom Scene” and The Osborne Brothers. They were progressive too but, they knew the roots, firsthand. The new blood that sees “Greensky Bluegrass” as the only exposure to Bluegrass music, has a hard row to hoe. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the guys have a market and a business plan but, traditionalists, they surely are not. My band, Great Lakes Grass, did an anniversary show at Bell’s brewery with them several years ago and the difference between their following and ours (the first band to ever play Bells) was interesting to say the least.
Did the people that drove or took the train from Chicago to see them have a clue what we did? Not on your tintype! I like the guys just fine but, they hear something completely different from me when it comes to the music.

T.D.Nydn
Apr-12-2018, 5:07pm
An awful lot of bluegrass tunes use a relative minor,how is that "not bluegrass"?..

Tom Coletti
Apr-12-2018, 6:48pm
As for myself, I know true bluegrass when I hear it and it isn`t about what instruments are used to play it...

As I said this is very selective as far as what our taste`s are but when a good bluegrass song is played most of us know that is true bluegrass and not this new stuff with many off chords that aren`t really needed, hell anyone can throw in a relative minor chord all through the song and the audience will think that is the way the song was originally written....And that takes it away from being "True Bluegrass" in my opinion...


Willie

Edit: Seen this exact talking point before and don't feel like digging too deeply into it again.

I'll enjoy "untrue bluegrass" on my own time.

Timbofood
Apr-12-2018, 8:14pm
Nevermind

Mandoplumb
Apr-13-2018, 5:18am
An awful lot of bluegrass tunes use a relative minor,how is that "not bluegrass"?..

Not an awful lot if you listen to the original, so many bands recording an old song think they have to change the chord progression and add a minor. I really can take it or leave it of one is put in for emphases but too often it is over done. Bluegrass is a simplistic music, too much chord changing in the rythem section takes away from the simple drive that is bluegrass.

AlanN
Apr-13-2018, 7:18am
Not an awful lot if you listen to the original, so many bands recording an old song think they have to change the chord progression and add a minor. I really can take it or leave it of one is put in for emphases but too often it is over done. Bluegrass is a simplistic music, too much chord changing in the rythem section takes away from the simple drive that is bluegrass.

I like this comment. There is one vocal number definitely in the parking lot (name escapes me now) that often gets the relative minor thrown in. When I sing this one, I always say "no minor" before I start...and someone always adds it, anyway.

CES
Apr-13-2018, 7:52am
To Tom’s point, I’m a generation ahead of millennials and this grew up without the internet in a family into sports and horses, not traditional music. My gateways to this music we’re Ode to a Butterfly, which a DJ on a Nashpop station played behind his morning intro, and O’ Brother hit as I was really getting into Flatt and Scruggs. I had to track down the Nickel Creek CD and the soundtrack (in a record store!). Contrast that with one day at work this week when I started watching Live from Here videos and ended up deep into utube...

Drew Streip
Apr-13-2018, 8:10am
Regarding Molly Tuttle, Joe K. Walsh, et. al. as "a very good example of the evolution of the music, probably geared toward a more 'listenable' vein than some others as far as I’m concerned"

The corollary to this statement is that traditional bluegrass isn't very listenable. And if it's not very listenable, why would people want to play it?

Or it implies that being listenable isn't desirable, as if there's some purity in playing something that only you and a very few other people can understand. Music isn't meant to be tolerated -- it's meant to be listened to and enjoyed.

It's fine to prefer "less listenable" music, but it's not OK to suggest that contemporary interpretations are less worthy of respect. There's no moral value in musicianship. I can name two dozen mandolin players who could play circles around Bill Monroe, but may never have the same musical impact on either the bluegrass circle or the wider music community. And none of them would suggest that their music is either better or worse -- just different.

It's like the thread about Eastmans. You don't have to like them, but 1) they don't nullify the Gibsons that came before, and 2) they make music accessible to more people and that's really all that matters.

Rex Hart
Apr-13-2018, 9:29am
I like this comment. There is one vocal number definitely in the parking lot (name escapes me now) that often gets the relative minor thrown in. When I sing this one, I always say "no minor" before I start...and someone always adds it, anyway.


Was it Big Spike Hammer:)

Timbofood
Apr-13-2018, 11:49am
Was it Big Spike Hammer:)

“Foggy Mtn. Breakdown”?

AlanN
Apr-13-2018, 12:09pm
No, both of those numbers have the minor in them (well, E Major for FMB...if you go the Flatt route...) :mandosmiley:

Timbofood
Apr-13-2018, 12:53pm
Yep, not when Lester plays it! I actually kind of like it that way, only the ones “in the know”seem to get it. It’s what makes people wonder what is going on sometimes!
Drew, the “more listenable” comment was not meant to illicit something being “less” at all, I meant more broadly accepted, somewhat more “homogenized” to be blunt. The artists have worked as hard as anyone else to learn their craft, they deserve as much airtime as the old guard. I can change the station as I see fit, ultimate censorship!
Sorry, but that’s my opinion and I’m not ashamed of it. I prefer the old school, hard driving, qualities of the music in the style I was first exposed to, those who have come to the music through this more modern, gentle, often almost treacly style will feel differently about it. That’s why we are all different. I listen to a pretty broad scope of music in general from opera to tejano to blues. When I call something more listenable sometimes it’s listenable because I’m in need of a musical diversion.
Sometimes I hear something and wonder who’s skinning a cat, change station!

AlanN
Apr-13-2018, 1:16pm
The vocal number was thinking of is Sittin’ On Top Of The World. Many hit the 6 minor on 'Now she's gone and I don't worry...'

Me no like/me no do.

Mandoplumb
Apr-13-2018, 1:44pm
This comes because they haven't heard a recording older than one year ( anything older is no good) I was jamming with a group about a week ago, we played Earl's Breakdown. After it was over I told them Earl didn't put the A ( second) in except when he used the tuners and the one round where he walked it down. They thought I was crazy "it just has to have the A". They had never heard the original or else they had never really listened to it because they thought they knew it. Now I don't say you have to play anything just like someone else but you should work off the original, if possible, so you know where you are coming from. If not you will wind up like that old game where you whisper in the next guys ear then he whispers in the next--- all around the circle. What you wind up with has nothing to do with what you started with.

Timbofood
Apr-13-2018, 1:55pm
Well,
“They don’t know where they came from” as someone said....:grin:

Me no like/me no do! Me likey phrase/ Me snaggy!

Tom Coletti
Apr-13-2018, 4:07pm
This comes because they haven't heard a recording older than one year ( anything older is no good)

Okay, that is the most fascinating statement of Gen Y's musical retention I've ever seen.

Because that's, uhh... that's not how time works.

doublestoptremolo
Apr-13-2018, 5:08pm
The vocal number was thinking of is Sittin’ On Top Of The World. Many hit the 6 minor on 'Now she's gone and I don't worry...'

Me no like/me no do.

Yeah I don’t care for a lot of minor chords in those old songs. The other big offender is “Will the Circle be Unbroken.”

Timbofood
Apr-13-2018, 7:10pm
I swear if anyone starts singing “Will the circle be unbroken” or “Amazing grace” when I croak, I promise I will haunt the instigator until their dying day!
They will never get ANY instrument in tune, ever!
But, that’s another story....

jaycat
Apr-13-2018, 8:36pm
What would you like us to sing, Tim?

Kevin Stueve
Apr-13-2018, 8:39pm
I swear if anyone starts singing “Will the circle be unbroken” or “Amazing grace” when I croak, I promise I will haunt the instigator until their dying day!
They will never get ANY instrument in tune, ever!
But, that’s another story....

Having spent years as a Catholic church guitarist, I have told my children, I will get out of the coffin and smash their instruments if they play "On Eagles Wings" at my funeral.

Timbofood
Apr-14-2018, 3:21am
What would you like us to sing, Tim?

Maybe a rousing chorus of “Hallelujah, I’m a Bum!”
I miss Utah Phillips!

Strad
Apr-16-2018, 8:12pm
Has anybody noticed the Earls of Leister pack every place they play, Hmmmm I wonder why, maybe it's because they play bluegrass. Just sayin.

jaycat
Apr-16-2018, 8:50pm
Maybe a rousing chorus of “Hallelujah, I’m a Bum!”
I miss Utah Phillips!

Here ya go (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVOtpfIwm5Q), buddy.

Timbofood
Apr-17-2018, 7:59am
Thanks pal! I watched a couple of other Utah vids while I was there.
Some of the comments were a little odd but, opinions are like noses,everyone has one and they get stuck in places where they may not be appreciated.