View Full Version : Dierks Bently - bluegrass - really ?

Nov-11-2010, 9:06am
SWMBO was watching the C(rappy) M(usic) A(association) award show last night ( she wanted to see the Loretta Lynn tribute. ) . From the study I heard an introducer say something about the next artist " getting back to his bluegrass roots " , I figured he HAD to be talking about Vince Gill ( I had seen him on the commercials .) It was Dierks Bently . Bluegrass ? Really ? I don't think so . There was a 5-string and a fiddle, no mandolin , but it was NOT bluegrass . I love traditional music , but I'm not one of those guys who thinks if it has to sound exactly like Bill , Lester & Earl , or Ralph & Carter to be bluegrass , but this one floored me . In retrospect , I should not have been surprised , the description was was coming from the same people were calling that watered down , souless commercial pop drivel " country " music . A little earlier on the g/f had hollered " here's a guy with a mandolin" and there was a guy playing an Ellis F model , but of course he was only on for 30 seconds and was buried so deep that you couldn't hear it . Sad state of affairs , but I guess I'm preachin' to the choir here.

Nov-11-2010, 9:20am
Check out Dierks recent CD "Up on the Ridge". While not a bluegrass album it has quite a bit of BG flavor IMHO. It is probably the most BG "sounding" of any well known country artist efforts that I know of right now. Also in interviews he has stated that BG inspired him or it was the direction he was trying to go in. I didn't see the show or his performance last night, but I expect they toned down the BG sound for the audience. I can't stand to watch these shows, but my wife loves them...

Tony Sz
Nov-11-2010, 9:43am
Dierks has been known to play along side (on stage with) the Grasscals, Del McCoury Band, and Punch Brothers. Early on, when he first came to Nashville, he frequented the Station Inn. He is no stranger to Bluegrass, and although he might not be pure bluegrass, he's been heavily influenced by it, and probably has a deeper relationship to it than most "country" acts, IMO. Still, I think if you go see him in concert, it won't necessarily be a Bluegrasss show, per se, but he's a lot closer to "Bluegrass Roots" than most other big country acts.

Nov-11-2010, 9:45am
Yes, another vote for Up On The Ridge, I think it's a great recording. I don't want to get into a "what is bluegrass" diatribe. Traditional bluegrass? Probably not. Great music? Yes.

Nov-11-2010, 9:48am
I'll give him a listen on the recommendation of a fellow Cafe-er , but that deal last night was kind of strange to me and on the merits of the one song they let him do would not have caused me to give it a second listen . It may have been the context it was in as well . My g/f watches those things as well , but they lost me when in the first two minutes you have Kieth Urban and some punk rock looking dude both playing those six string guit-banjo things and gyrating around like Mick Jagger. I understand having stuff like that in a situation where a working band might need a banjo "sound " for a song or two and nobody in the band actually plays a banjo . It just seemed kinda contrived , I mean , in the whole town of Nashville they couldn't find a banjo picker ?

Nov-11-2010, 10:31am
This is what I love about the Cafe , had I gone solely on what was presented by the media on the tube , I would probably not have given this a second thought . I am not a hard core traditionalist ( I liked NGR the first time I saw them in the mid 70s ! ) I don't know the name of the tune he did last night , but that particular one did not impress me , I didn't really hear much that even sounded bluegrass influenced other than the instrumentation ,at least to my ear, but I will give the rest a listen .
I also do not mean to imply that I think that bluegrass=good , not bluegrass=bad music . I like a large variety of styles and don't really get hung up much on labels . I admit to being strongly influenced by the context of the show . I ams sorry , but at the wildest stretch I can't consider Kid Rock as country . I have a strong sense of skepticism when it comes to the machine that sells Lady Antebellum , Rascal Flats , et al , as country music . I don't believe in labels as the be all end all , but I do find it disingenuous at best when someone puts an eyedropper of coffee in a glass of whiskey and calls it "'coffee " . I like both , but don't want to be told I am being served coffee when I am getting single malt .

Thanks for the heads up about the cd , i will give it a listen , I don't ever want to miss a chance to hear something I might enjoy !

Nov-11-2010, 10:33am
They lost all the banjos in the flood maybe...

I call them shows Nollywood. It ain't Hollywood or Bollywood. It ain't really country music even.

Nov-11-2010, 10:35am
There was a lot of chatter about this back in the spring, a fair portion of it centering around Sam Bush's being in the band on some TV appearances. Here (http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?61822)is a memorable thread. (The link to the hulu clip of the Leno appearance is dead. Try a search .. good luck!) His appearance on Kimmel June 22nd is on youtube, presented here for easy viewing. It's a good bit different than usual - the power had gone out so the band gathered around Jimmy's laptop. That works for bluegrass, which has a tradition of musicians gathering around one microphone. Here the microphone was contained in yet another newfangled contraption. ;)

The lack of a mandolin in last night's performance was a bit perplexing, as well as the nearly total absence of our beloved instrument throughout the entire telecast. I rant a bit over here. (http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?50252) Basically, I bemoan the sad state of affairs in there being no mandolin onscreen for over two hours, and then just in a half song by The Band Perry (whoever they are) leading up to listing the winners in the radio station category, and the last song, by Gwyneth Paltrow, Vince Gill singing harmony. But I speculate that they couldn't find a mandolinist in all of Nashville to play this because they all had other gigs that night. ;) Hey - it could happen! :mandosmiley:

Nov-11-2010, 11:08am
It must have been the kid in the band ( 3 piece , 2 guys and a gal ) before the radio station award who was sporting the Ellis F model . It kind of illustrates the state of affairs there , that I was excited to SEE a mandolin , even though I never heard one . My intent was not to stir up the whole " bluegrass - not bluegrass " deal . That being said , I think most reasonable people use such labels as points of reference . I don't think I would be doing someone who grew up in a vacuum any favors by describing Elvis Presley as a bluegrass artist just because he recorded Blue Moon of Kentucky . Many times labels are misused , such as calling Bob Wills music "country", but i believe that with out some basis in reality they are useless .

Dennis Ladd
Nov-11-2010, 11:47am
And again, IMO, most country musicians don't know how to use bluegrass musicians. They use most of the instruments as rhythm backup and to play repeated riffs. Fiddles are used they way you'd use a steel guitar. In bluegrass, the vocalist steps back after each verse and lets the instruments take off. In modern country, not so much.
Exceptions abound of course. I will listen to Rodney Crowell's music forever 'cause the guitars get to wail. People like Emmylou Harris do the same when they incorporate bluegrass.
I think the Dierks Bentley CD, as good as many of the songs are, makes the same mistake as most and misses by a mile.

Nov-11-2010, 12:20pm
Sad state of affairs , but I guess I'm preachin' to the choir here.

Well, the first 10 seconds of the song was very encouraging, with the band grouped around a single Neumann...
Which made the feces that it devolved into all that much more perplexing... ;)

Nov-11-2010, 12:25pm
Although most folks don't think of Vince as a mandolinist , he can really wail on one . It just amazes me that they cram in Gwyneth Paltrow and Kid Rock , et al , but there's no room at the inn for the likes of Marty Stuart . Then again , these things are so artistically bankrupt that folks like him may have avoided it like the plague . Almost made me kind of regret seeing folks like George Strait, Loretta Lynn and Vince associated with it . Hell , they only had Little Jimmie Dickens on as a prop for a bad joke about a flood warning system . For the most part the whole thing just reconfirmed why I don't pay much attention to " the machine "
Thank god for iPods !

Nov-11-2010, 12:50pm
I saw Dierks with The Del McCoury band at The City Winery here in NYC last month. I must say, I only went to see Del & the boys but, I left a Dierks fan. He played his original material which is very modern Country although; with Del & the boys his love of Bluegrass was evident. He sang & played Bluegrass music through his heart which went down very well with me.

Nov-11-2010, 12:51pm
Well, I enjoy this and similar shows because this is how I keep up with the current state of country music. I don't listen to it on the radio, catch whomever comes around on the talk show circuit, and that's pretty much enough for me. Once a year sitting through these shows - which I assume represents state-of-the-art for Nashville - gives me some insight into trends, and confirms my estimation of how involved I should be in the genre - that is, not very, if any. Then again, one could assume that country music is ripe for a revolution, and someone with the right combination of roots and marketability could make a splash. Could be there is a gap in the glitz you could drive a semi through, if you were of a mind to. Just sayin' ... :whistling:

Nov-11-2010, 1:01pm
which I assume represents state-of-the-art for Nashville...

Ya know who blew me away last night??

The sound techs....

Man, there were some complicated stage plots happening on that show, and everyone got heard, which is a minor miracle...

Yeah, it's all automated and didn't sound all that great at times, but the task of getting it all to work in the first place just boggles my mind.... :disbelief:

Then again, one could assume that country music is ripe for a revolution, and someone with the right combination of roots and marketability could make a splash.

Sure love to see the Caleb Klauder Band on next year's broadcast....

(Yeah, right).... ;)

Nov-11-2010, 1:17pm
Don't know them, but now, thanks to you, I have to check them out. ;) And you're dead on about the sound techs. The mix on Gwyeth's number was notably good, just the right level for the mandolin.

But I think that the current dearth of roots influences (we're a few years removed from the last time there was a resurgence in this area) enables a band like Zac Brown or artist like Miranda Lambert - admittedly, neither all that rootsy, but a bit off the mainstream and possessing some real talent - to rise up and get noticed. I don't know if anything resembling the outlaw movement will ever happen again, but that arose as a reaction to the same doldrums that mainstream country now finds itself in (or would if the powers that be weren't so smug). I think Dierks' latest effort is an attempt to go in that direction, and whether this is a true homage to that genre or a canny marketing ploy is anyone's guess. And kind of beside the point - the proof is in the pudding, or the mix, and if it appeals to you, eat it - or listen to it. Every now and then someone in the mainstream tries something like this - Dolly Parton for one released two well-received bluegrass-y albums - and I'm all for supporting them when they do. Ain't enough of this out there. :mandosmiley:

Nov-11-2010, 1:42pm
I really liked Dolly's cd " The Grass Is Blue" . Her version of " I Still Miss Someone " is my all time favorite version . I also really admire the way she included some non-traditional material ( eg Billy Joel's "Travelin Prayer ) with the more traditional #s , but kept it all related . Maybe not what all would call "'bluegrass " , but I think most would at least acknowledge the connection . Up until this release , I can safely say that while I had an appreciation for her songwiting and business skills , I was not what you would call a Dolly fan . After I heard it I found myself thinking " Why hasn't she done more of this ? The fit is perfect ."

Mike Bunting
Nov-11-2010, 2:20pm
I don't know why anyone would subject themselves to that junk when there is so much real music around, why would anyone want to keep up with current "country" music. You want country music, listen to Caleb Klauder, for one.

Nov-12-2010, 10:30am
Tautology (logic), a technical notion in formal logic, universal unconditioned truth, always valid.

Nov-12-2010, 11:07am
Two people mentioning Caleb Klauder, that meant I had to look him up. At first I thought it was a Northern thing - people ringing in from Washington and Alberta - then I see it's more of a Northwestern thing, as he hails from Portland, and calls his music "Western Country." Clever, that. There are some videos at youtube of him and his band playing at a radio station that I really liked (one of him on mandolin) and plenty more, which I will have to check out. On the basis of these, I have to say I like what he is doing. Old-style, pre-Nashville sound, acoustic-based almost to sounding like slightly slower bluegrass, but with a definite almost Western-swing bounce. Very nice. Brave lad too - playing a week in Alaska in mid-November. Hopefully opening for someone like Del McCoury will help bring the word about him to Nahville and then the fun starts. Now, if he could just get an opening slot for Dierks Bentley ... :whistling:

Nov-12-2010, 1:51pm
"All county music is __________"

Nov-12-2010, 2:04pm
...terribly overcompressed.

Nov-12-2010, 2:46pm
I'm pretty sure that was Ronnie McCoury on the far right rear when Vince and Gwyneth performed near the end. My wife also loves this stuff so I usually suffer thru it with her. I never listened to country at all until I met my wife and was slowly indoctrinated in the early eighties. Alabama was big then and it was called progressive country. Now days it's so watered down with pop and even some rap overtures the only thing that seemed country are the sort of country hats and costumes.

Nov-12-2010, 3:06pm
Yep. And a lot of times those hats seem more affectations than emblematic of a country or cowboy lifestyle. I noticed George Strait sitting in the crowd with his distinctive black hat on - looking every bit the classic country star he is - and hardly anyone else (other than Brad Paisley up on stage), when you used to see a sea of those hats in the audience. But it's been a bit of a put-on for a long time. Right now the only person I can think of with an album on the country charts and cows in the pen is Jewel. :grin:

Nov-12-2010, 3:43pm
The announcer for the program just read his lines. Don't blame him. He's just a talking head.