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David
Apr-22-2011, 1:49pm
Thoughts to consider from someone with an intimate knowledge of the current bluegrass world. I still don't like Yonder, and Mumford & Sons shore ain't bluegrass, but I can appreciate what he's saying in terms of growing the scene.

http://chrispandolfi.com/?p=567#more-567

:popcorn:

sgarrity
Apr-25-2011, 2:53pm
Did anybody else actually read his blog post? There is wisdom in those words and I agree completely with him!

Mandoviol
Apr-25-2011, 3:10pm
Chris has it right. How will you get people interested/psyched if you put severe limitations on what people can do with the music?

David
Apr-25-2011, 3:54pm
Geez, I was wondering how long it would take for someone to actually read this and respond. Thanks guys!

John McGann
Apr-25-2011, 5:25pm
Thanks for posting, lots of good food for thought.

Eliot Greenspan
Apr-25-2011, 5:36pm
More interesting to me than his (I think accurate) appraisal of the fight over the definition of the term "bluegrass," is his very insightful look into the internal process of keeping a band together and growing, and the import of long-term vision, marketing strategy, goals, etc, etc. Very well thought out and presented.

Jimmie
Apr-25-2011, 6:09pm
Brilliantly thought-out and presented. Thank you for pointing us to this, David.

Charlieshafer
Apr-25-2011, 6:12pm
Well, just last weekend a friendly competitor/promotor had Dailey and Vincent, as good a bluegrass band as there is right now. I had Nora Jane Struthers at my place, more of a country singer, with bluegrass overtones in the band, but leaning more towards old-time. A good portion of her songs were originals, with fairly unique arrangements. If you're the type who wants to keep score, and you really need to if you want to understand where the music is going, I had 180 people, which I was very pleased with for a young, up-and-coming artist, who is still relatively unknown. Dailey and Vincent drew 120. In the past few years, while I've had non-bluegrass specific acts like Hot Club of Cowtown, Crooked Still, Bearfoot, or Alasdair Fraser, etc, or the Sweetback Sisters (check them out!) for another young, unknown act, I've averaged in the low 200's. The "competitor" (I use the term somewhat unwillingly, as he's a friend) who does mostly all bluegrass, pulled in 14 for Del McCoury, maybe 110 for the Grascals, about 120 for Michael Cleveland, etc. His exceptions are Tim O'Brien and Tony Rice, which will sell out at 300+.

A look into the bluegrass-specific audience, at least in New England, shows a LOT of grey hairs. I think it is a function of both marketing and the exclusive club-type nature that comes with the died-in-the-wool traditionalists. Groups like the Mammals, the Horseflies or Crooked Still can (or could) launch into a dead-on bluegrass set of tunes that brings the crowd to their feet every time, but without the vibe that most of what they play will be new and fresh, they wouldn't draw flies.

If traditional bluegrass wants to grow, they need to as actively promote the alt-grass scene, or whatever you want to call it. There's a place for tradition, and there's also as many places not to follow tradition. Heck we had a tradition up here in New England years ago where we'd burn witches at the stake. Great sport for the entire town. But, we got over it.

There are a ton of ways to attract the younger audiences, but it has to be done on a grass-roots basis I believe. We do it through workshops with the kid's fiddle club we have, and this fall we'll be expanding it so some of the local youth symphony string sections from various orchestras will be required to attend per their respective directors, as a rounding out of their string education. There are other ways to be sure, but I do like the idea of enforced fun.

Willie Poole
Apr-25-2011, 9:12pm
I just think David is trying to get me all riled up again about this subject but I won`t say anything except that you yougsters just don`t have any idea what bluegrass is or was meant to be....An electric bass certainly could be used for a bluegrass band but not a traditional bluegrass band, there is a difference...I saw a banjo player come on the stage and played through a some electronic gizmo, something like a wah-wah pedal, now don`t tell me that is acceptable in bluegrass....

I`m not going to get into this again on here....

Willie

Rob Fowler
Apr-25-2011, 9:47pm
I
I`m not going to get into this again on here....

Willie,
Ya' just did.

I really thought it was a great post and kudos to Chris Pandolfi for taking the time to write such a timely piece and his own reflection on his experience with his band, The Infamous Stringdusters.

As much as we like it or don't like it the blanketing label of "bluegrass" is here to stay.....even for bands that really aren't bluegrass to the hard-core traditionalists that were at the first-ever bluegrass festival and were there to hear Bill pull out his first ever G chop chord or the first time he ever played Tennessee Blues (well....before bluegrass, I guess, then). Bands like Railroad Earth, Green Sky, Yonder Mountain, Infamous Stringdusters, etc. are going to be labeled bluegrass and I think that's fine....as long as they understand where the roots of the music came from and they have an understanding and respect for that.

SLIGHT GRIPE TIME (mostly Yonder gripe):
The only thing I wish is that these newer grassy bands stop all playing solely through pickups and get some high quality mics, like the Punch Brothers or the Jaybirds. I went to a Yonder Mountain show 2 weeks ago and I cringed every time I heard Jeff Austin solo with his pickup-burdened Nugget. He might of well had a Michael Kelly or something as it would have sounded the same. Sorry if that's harsh...just not a big fan of his style or sound, I guess. Yonder also had a smoke machine and an expensive light system that really added so much to the show...Ummmm.........If we get into stuff like that then I see where Willie is coming and understand his point from but we can't get all hung up on that at the same time, either.

Everything must evolve and change.

Anyways...

mandolirius
Apr-25-2011, 10:47pm
SLIGHT GRIPE TIME (mostly Yonder gripe):
The only thing I wish is that these newer grassy bands stop all playing solely through pickups and get some high quality mics, like the Punch Brothers or the Jaybirds. I went to a Yonder Mountain show 2 weeks ago and I cringed every time I heard Jeff Austin solo with his pickup-burdened Nugget. He might of well had a Michael Kelly or something as it would have sounded the same. Sorry if that's harsh...just not a big fan of his style or sound, I guess. Yonder also had a smoke machine and an expensive light system that really added so much to the show...Ummmm.........If we get into stuff like that then I see where Willie is coming and understand his point from but we can't get all hung up on that at the same time, either.

Everything must evolve and change.

Anyways...

It's not harsh at all, in my view. In fact, I think it's technology that's part of the great divide. The pickup question is certainly part of it but I'm thinking back to the part of the piece where he talked about a promoter banning electric basses and in-ear monitors. The electric bass thing is truely a dead horse but the in-ear monitors made me stop and think a bit. Regardless of what brand of bluegrass is presented at a festival, I'm not sure it's the place for stage effects like smoke machines etc.

It makes me wonder how far it may go. I really don't think anyone wants to see a performer go all "garth brooks" at a festival. Musically, I agree with what's been said. The demographics don't lie. Bluegrass has evolved and will continue to do so. But the bluegrass festival is a kind of special thing too and I wouldn't want to see too much of the club/concert vibe brought to it.

Jordan Ramsey
Apr-25-2011, 10:51pm
I come from TN, and I'm a die-hard bluegrass traditionalist. I live in CO going on four years now, literally right down the hill from Jeff Austin, and Chris's manifesto definitely struck a chord with my situation as a working musician on the Front Range. I love traditional bluegrass, and have griped for years about "jam grass" (which is king around here), even jokingly complained to Jeff about "pluggin' that Nugget" after I met and got to know him. We can bitch all day long, but, ultimately, these guys are making money... REAL money. They have an amazing following, which = nice homes, nice cars, nice instruments, families, etc... pretty incredible for any musician, and especially for "bluegrass" musicians. The sooner that the die-hards learn to accept and tap into an association with this kind of success, rather than bastardizing it, the better off all working musicians in and around this genre will be. Kudos to Panda for writing this.

Charlieshafer
Apr-26-2011, 6:02am
I think griping about whether or not it's traditional bluegrass is missing the point completely. The new guys don't WANT to be labeled as traditional bluegrass. Financially, that's the kiss of death. They WANT to be seen as alt-grass, new-grass, whatever. They're not trying to change "traditional" bluegrass; they're not trying to change any traditions associated with bluegrass. They're trying to play something different, that most of the time uses traditional instruments and some tunes, but that's about it.

It's the fork-in-the-road thing. Traditional players are taking one road, the new guys another. Everyone is happy with the road they're on. The trouble starts when one group starts throwing junk at the other. The new guys DO NOT spell the end of bluegrass, and are most likely critical to the preservation of it. Whether one loved Old And In The Way or thought it was the end of the world is irrelevant, the fact that they brought many to the traditional bluegrass is undeniable. The same will happen with the other bands now out there. They open the door to exploration, which will lead some back to traditional bluegrass.

Wanna see bluegrass die? Keep up the crotchety attitude about tradition, and it'll happen soon enough. Look out over the audiences next time, and in all but a very few parts of the country, it's an old audience, pure and simple. Attendance numbers don't lie, and it won't get better with a bunch of bitter old traditionalists.

AlanN
Apr-26-2011, 6:21am
It's one thing to voice an opinion as a fan/listener/seat-in-the crowd/for-fun picker. Quite another thing to be out there as a working musician, trying to make a living. It's an age-old thing, with bluegrass, jazz, indie rock, whatever. I remember seeing Count Basie at a Rte. 4 Paramus, NJ small restaurant called The Steak Pit. Long after the hey-day of Basie Big Band, near the end of his career. A gig is a gig, as they say.

Hats off to the bands who are attracting younger folks and making a go of it. They can call the music they play what they want to. You'll always have the grumblers. After a TRU set last summer, I heard similar grumblings at the campsites. I just smiled. The Seldom Scene were within a similar deal, albeit in a different era. And frankly, I think the grumblers actually enhance the jam-band appeal, at least to the younger set.

"It ain't my Daddy's bluegrass...Thank God!"

Dave Cowles
Apr-26-2011, 6:50am
As the President of a fairly new bluegrass association in Florida, I was responsible for creating a Mission Statement. I used the wording " Bluegrass music and its evolving variants " as a nod to the fact that the music is indeed evolving. I played traditional bluegrass for a long, long time, but was never reluctant to step "outside the box" to include many different types of songs, but still maintaining the instrumentation and presentation that is consistent with the traditional. Although I'm not into smoke machines and lighting effects, I think Pandolfi eloquently and succinctly stated what needed to be said, and thanks for posting this.
Dave

Scott Tichenor
Apr-26-2011, 8:48am
Wondering how many of you went a little deeper into this and actually read about the "Bluegrass Nation" web site that's supposed to be the catalyst for the change in bluegrass and particularly IBMA that Chris' nicely written piece refers to. Here it is (http://www.stringtheorymedia.com/2011/04/coming-soon-bluegrass-nation.html). The link within that post to the site working document and vision statement is a real eye opener.

Going a little deeper yet, read a re-print of Jon Weisberger's 2005 article Bluegrass - It's not the music (http://acousticana.us/bg-jon-weisberger/) and his comments about Chris' piece. By the way, I love the quote within Jon's piece, "Bluegrass—it's not the music, it's the people I can't stand."

Running IBMA is certainly a difficult and thankless task and no one will ever make everyone happy. Personally, I think the only thing that's going to change bluegrass much is the passage of time.

mritter
Apr-26-2011, 9:06am
"pulled in 14 for Del McCoury"

Charlie...is that true? If so, very sad.

AlanN
Apr-26-2011, 9:15am
I think a '0' must have been left off.

And another thought: when fronting/running a band, the picking is the easy part.

David
Apr-26-2011, 11:25am
Yes Willie, I posted this just to get you riled up. Snort!

Charlieshafer your second post hits the nail on the head, said it better than I ever could.

Charlieshafer
Apr-26-2011, 6:41pm
"pulled in 14 for Del McCoury"

Charlie...is that true? If so, very sad.

Yup, chalk it up to lying on a couch with a laptop. 140 is the correct answer.

mandolirius
Apr-26-2011, 7:12pm
This seems like such a simple solution I feel there must be something wrong with it. But I can't see what it is.

The idea is simply to create the category of Traditional Bluegrass. That's bluegrass, as we have come to know and love it (well, some of us). Everything else is simple "bluegrass". Because I don't think jamgrass is going to stick as a label. Newgrass didn't and I don't really think a new one is needed anyway. Traditional bluegrass is easily understood and it's exacty true - bluegrass played within a certain tradition.

Ok, tell me. What am I missing?

Charlieshafer
Apr-26-2011, 7:25pm
This seems like such a simple solution I feel there must be something wrong with it. But I can't see what it is.

The idea is simply to create the category of Traditional Bluegrass. That's bluegrass, as we have come to know and love it (well, some of us). Everything else is simple "bluegrass". Because I don't think jamgrass is going to stick as a label. Newgrass didn't and I don't really think a new one is needed anyway. Traditional bluegrass is easily understood and it's exacty true - bluegrass played within a certain tradition.

Ok, tell me. What am I missing?

I don't think you're missing anything. It's all pretty simple. The best bet would be to do without labels at all, but that's impossible. It actually helps to have some sort of labels when promoting. On the flip side, to accuse bluegrassers of being the only ones this sticky is just wrong. Listen to Baroque fanatics argue about different Bach performances. It's actually funny at times. Jazz can be even worse. There was a long running and well publicized feud between Wynton Marsalis and Lester Bowie on the trad jazz vs. free jazz movements. I know one guy who has virtually every recording that Charlie Parker ever made, including all unreleased outtakes that everyone knows of. He and his friends will sit for hours discussing if the solo on outtake number 26 was better than the one on outtake 11. And what was he thinking, why did he play it that way. Did Thelonious Monk wreck the piano that Earl Hines and Art Tatum develop? Why are we here. I forget...

TonyP
Apr-26-2011, 10:28pm
good reality check Charles. And thanks for posting that link David, and also the line to Bluegrass Nation Scott. Going to be really interesting where this whole thing goes as I don't think it's going to go where they think it's gonna go. Does it sound like Bluegrass Nation is going to be like a facebook for bluegrass?

Alex Orr
Apr-26-2011, 11:04pm
I wrote a lengthy response to this but forgot it on another computer. My basic point though, just to play devil's advocate, is that Chris seems to be missing the point about why a lot of traditional bluegrass fans aren't into YMSB, Trampled By Turtles, Railroad Earth, or even the Stringdusters more recent stuff. There seems to be a lot of hand wringing about music politics, the curmudgeonly BG police who refuse to enjoy "modern" BG because of some loyalty to an idealized sound from the '40s, but lost in all that is the fact that the music Pandolfi is advocating and the traditional bluegrass a lot of folks prefer is actually quite different. Sure...same basic instruments, same background for a lot of the performers, sometimes some of the same tunes, but the sound really is quite different. It's like telling someone who digs big band that they MUST like free jazz, and if they don't, it's all because of some twisted sense of loyalty to a genre and the cultural significance of it remaining "pure" in sound. The fact that the big band fan may simply think free jazz sounds like horrific noise is completely disregarded by the advocate for "progress".

Traditional bluegrass folks like shorter songs with some room for improvisation, but basically they like set songs that are short. The territory the Stringdusters are entering is the jam-band sphere where the audiences like looooooooooong improv breaks usually played at high speeds, or just spacey free-form noodling that can go on for over ten minutes at a time. I don't blame a lot of trad folks for not caring for that stuff - it's very different music.

I'd also suggest to Chris that he's neglecting to point out that a lot of the new crowds he's playing to with the Dusters are basically jam band crowds. Speaking as someone who spent a good decade heavily into that scene, I can tell you it's worlds away from the kind of concert experience and audiences that a lot of bluegrass fans may feel comfortable around. It's hard to blame music politics when older and more conservative bluegrass fans (of which there are quite a lot) just don't feel comfortable at shows dominated by hippies and frat-boys dancing around, talking throughout the show, and doing lots of drugs and booze...not that there's any thing wrong with that IMO mind you ;)

Finally, I'd also suggest that Pandolfi's view of the wider audience for bluegrass is a bit too rosy. Again, his band has basically re-modeled itself on the YMSB model in terms of sound and image. The jam banders dig this and hence his band feels acceptance from a new audience, but I'd say that's more because of his band's style. Put Dailey and Vincent, The Gibson Brothers, or Claire Lynch in front of the audiences the Stringdusters are typically playing to now and I do not think they would be very interested. Sure, there will be a handful of folks who may discover more traditional bluegrass through bands like YMSB, and there may be a good number of younger BG fans who are thrilled to see some BG bands adopt more of the musical styles of rock bands, but I think those folks are far smaller in number than the Bluegrass Nation faction is willing to concede.

The truth is that BG is always going to be something of a niche music and it may be time for a lot of folks to just accept that. Maybe take a lesson from the blues and showcase it's variety at more festivals, but also realize what most blues players learned a long time ago, which is that even for excellent progressive blues players, the audience is just not that large. Furthermore, as rock overshadowed the blues, it allowed for both new avenues of exposure for some artists but it also made the blues community establish some boundaries about how far they'd expand the genre definition. When I hear the recent refrains about bluegrassers somehow trying to lump Mumford and Sons into the camp of "progressive bluegrass" I just don't get it. Just because the band has a banjo player they're now bluegrass? Come on! By that logic the polka players of the world could anoint Arcade Fire as a "progressive" polka band because they sometimes have an accordion in their songs. It's like the equivalent of a bunch of blues festival organizers in the late '70s noticing that Boston and their hit song "More Than a Feeling" has become very popular and although they don't play traditional blues, they do feature electric guitars, bass, and drums, and some of their songs feature pentatonic licks, so why not call them progressive blues and see if they can be booked for some blues festivals.


Yup, chalk it up to lying on a couch with a laptop. 140 is the correct answer.
That's just wild. It must be a regional thing. When he plays DC these days, Del is usually booked at the Strathmore music center which can hold a capacity just below 2000.

allenhopkins
Apr-27-2011, 11:31am
After reading the Pandolfi article (excellent explanation of his band's dilemmas in expanding their career and audience), I realized it was more about marketing and presentation than it was about their actual musical decisions. I'd sum it up as, "We can't play to rock audiences if we act like a traditional bluegrass band, or call ourselves 'bluegrass,' so we need to change our press package, do more 'jams' and fewer 2 min. 30 sec. instrumentals, and buy a light set and a smoke machine." I'm probably being a bit unkind, and I do appreciate Pandolfi's clear analysis of the alternatives, but isn't this the kind of musical evolution that a zillion other musicians, from Bill Monroe leaving the "brother duet" scene to front a hot string band, to Earl Scruggs going off with Randy and Gary to play to new audiences, to Alison Krause de-bluegrassing her repertoire and performance style, have done before?

New Grass Revival toured as openers for Leon Russell in the '80's, and no doubt aimed their music at the Russell audiences, rather than at the crowds at Bean Blossom or others of that genre. What does emerge from the Pandolfi article, is an ambitious younger musician's impatience with the strictures that IBMA puts on its version of bluegrass. On the other hand, I've read and seen enough to think that IBMA's idea of bluegrass fits very well with the opinions of the traditional bluegrass audience. The question Pandolfi and others like him have to ask themselves, is whether playing by the IBMA rules and pleasing the "trad" BG fans, is a wise career move.

It is obviously frustrating for a younger, more eclectic musician, who loves bluegrass and was raised playing it, to be told that the new ideas he's trying out are unacceptable, and that he has to play it the way it was played in the past, or "take a hike." But I don't think the minds of the IBMA types are going to change. I can remember well arguments about "Keith style" banjo, electric bass, women singing lead, guitar as a lead instrument, use of a snare drum, etc. etc. There is a certain restrictive orthodoxy that keeps the purists happy, but recurrently pushes others away to create their own sounds and labels. If bluegrass is happy with that, OK, but I feel that an interesting and creative element is being made to feel unwelcome. Even Bluegrass Unlimited has started reviewing "On The Edge" recordings that don't fit the "trad" bluegrass template. As the old-line bluegrass audience ages, and Monroe, Flatt, Martin and others recede further into the past, I foresee some changes ahead.

mandopete
Apr-27-2011, 12:28pm
Thanks for the link to Bluegrass Nation Scott. I will keep my eye on that development for sure.

...and the Jon Weisberger article.

AKmusic
Apr-27-2011, 2:49pm
general edit -

This is not a slam. You may see it that way, but any negative connotation given will come from the reader – I’m not putting it in there. These are just the facts as I see them.

After reading the article – I’m left with a very strong sense that this appeal is being made on the same commercial basis that has driven country music to the commercial extreme. It is the artist’s justification of “why we are leaving home” for greener pastures.

Country music (as a business) kept it’s name (country music) and allow itself to morph into something that does not resemble it’s roots any more. And I would be willing to bet that if you ask any of today’s “successful” country artists – they would be quick to extol the virtues of traditional country music and the traditional country artists responsible for its early success. And yet probably none of those early country artists would stand a chance at success, much less gain any acceptance from today’s country audience if they were faced with trying to break into the market as an unknown today.
Do I sound like a disgruntled bluegrass traditionalist? I’m not. In fact, I play in a bluegrass band that plays much more outside the box of tradition than inside. If you sawour set list – you would agree.

But I am a realist. Say what you will, but - IMHO - we are witnessing the commercialization of Bluegrass – change for the sake of pleasing the largest crowd for the biggest buck and the most success. I won’t brand “them” all that way. I’m sure that some are truly only wanting to stretch their creative wings in new directions. But those who aren’t looking for the “opportunities for success” – for the sake of success – are nevertheless the forerunners of those who will. There will always be folks aiming to capitalize on “success” and they will commercialize the sound to reach even larger audiences – both bands, promoters, mangers, etc. They will come – it’s only natural. Is that bad? It would be easy to say yes – but I do understand why it happens.

But I don’t know how much I agree with the idea that appealing to the largest audience possible is a way to expose new fans to the traditional roots of the music. IMO – traditional bluegrass music enjoys a much larger following than traditional country. And I think that has a lot to do with the reluctant traditionalist attitude. I don’t blame them for wanting to preserve what they have – for as long as they can. Today’s country music is not leading anyone back to the roots of the genre (generally speaking).

Also remember that when we are judging what is to be understood from attendace numbers - young folks are out to party, and not really to show appreciation for your music. The author admitted as much. Young folks usually have more disposable income and less responsibility - they will come out for a party. If your music is being generated to appeal to that crowd - it is going to be commerical. When we grow up, we can't get out as much, have pretty much settled down, and we are ready to listen. Am I right?

Mike Bunting
Apr-27-2011, 3:38pm
general edit -

This is not a slam. You may see it that way, but any negative connotation given will come from the reader – I’m not putting it in there. These are just the facts as I see them.

After reading the article – I’m left with a very strong sense that this appeal is being made on the same commercial basis that has driven country music to the commercial extreme. It is the artist’s justification of “why we are leaving home” for greener pastures.

Country music (as a business) kept it’s name (country music) and allow itself to morph into something that does not resemble it’s roots any more. And I would be willing to bet that if you ask any of today’s “successful” country artists – they would be quick to extol the virtues of traditional country music and the traditional country artists responsible for its early success. And yet probably none of those early country artists would stand a chance at success, much less gain any acceptance from today’s country audience if they were faced with trying to break into the market as an unknown today.
Do I sound like a disgruntled bluegrass traditionalist? I’m not. In fact, I play in a bluegrass band that plays much more outside the box of tradition than inside. If you sawour set list – you would agree.

But I am a realist. Say what you will, but - IMHO - we are witnessing the commercialization of Bluegrass – change for the sake of pleasing the largest crowd for the biggest buck and the most success. I won’t brand “them” all that way. I’m sure that some are truly only wanting to stretch their creative wings in new directions. But those who aren’t looking for the “opportunities for success” – for the sake of success – are nevertheless the forerunners of those who will. There will always be folks aiming to capitalize on “success” and they will commercialize the sound to reach even larger audiences – both bands, promoters, mangers, etc. They will come – it’s only natural. Is that bad? It would be easy to say yes – but I do understand why it happens.

But I don’t know how much I agree with the idea that appealing to the largest audience possible is a way to expose new fans to the traditional roots of the music. IMO – traditional bluegrass music enjoys a much larger following than traditional country. And I think that has a lot to do with the reluctant traditionalist attitude. I don’t blame them for wanting to preserve what they have – for as long as they can. Today’s country music is not leading anyone back to the roots of the genre (generally speaking).

Also remember that when we are judging what is to be understood from attendace numbers - young folks are out to party, and not really to show appreciation for your music. The author admitted as much. Young folks usually have more disposable income and less responsibility - they will come out for a party. If your music is being generated to appeal to that crowd - it is going to be commerical. When we grow up, we can't get out as much, have pretty much settled down, and we are ready to listen. Am I right?
I think so.

Mandolin Mick
Apr-27-2011, 3:57pm
AKmusic-

I agree with you!!!

Matt Witler
Apr-27-2011, 4:35pm
I wrote a lengthy response to this but forgot it on another computer. My basic point though, just to play devil's advocate, is that Chris seems to be missing the point about why a lot of traditional bluegrass fans aren't into YMSB, Trampled By Turtles, Railroad Earth, or even the Stringdusters more recent stuff. There seems to be a lot of hand wringing about music politics, the curmudgeonly BG police who refuse to enjoy "modern" BG because of some loyalty to an idealized sound from the '40s, but lost in all that is the fact that the music Pandolfi is advocating and the traditional bluegrass a lot of folks prefer is actually quite different.


I think you may be missing the point with this one. I agree with most everything you said in this post. Most of the traditional bluegrass audience will want nothing to do with the newer fringe-grass bands. However, Chris doesn't seem to be trying to convert anyone here. He just wants that segment of the audience to acknowledge that these other styles of music exist, that they are in some way related to bluegrass, and that they pose no threat to traditional bluegrass as a genre. By simply acknowledging this in a public way, a door to a potentially much wider fan base is opened. If the IBMA were to acknowledge that Mumford and Sons and Yonder Mountain Stringband are influenced by bluegrass, fans of those bands may be much more willing to go see another bluegrass or bluegrass influenced band, which is good for all of us. So I would say that the point of this is not that he's hoping that trad bluegrass fans will want to go see these fringe bands, but rather, that the fans of the fringe bands will associate those bands in someway with bluegrass, and will be more likely to support other bluegrass-y bands, maybe even traditional ones.

mandopete
Apr-27-2011, 7:57pm
Good response AK, I like your thought process.

Last Sunday as I was airing my tribute to the late Hazel Dickens on my radio program I thought how will the people who have just come to bluegrass music be able to appreciate her music and will they even like it? Hazel's singing style is as one of our other programmers put it "not for the faint of heart". It's an acquired taste I guess.

I think AK is right about the "commericialization" of the music when it comes to things like vocal style, lyrical content and instrumentation. All of these things may fly in the face of "traditional" bluegrass music, but from my perspective bluegrass music may (if it wants to) have an advantage.

Have both.

I do. I do it in my radio programming and I do it as a performer and participant. Over on another listserve we're talking about "inclusiveness" and I think that's what's needed for bluegrass to not only survive, but to thrive. There's a very popular music festival here in the Pacific Northwest called "Wintergrass" which does exactly that and they have been very successful.

Great discussions!

Willie Poole
Apr-27-2011, 8:05pm
Thanks guys...AND DAVID, THE LAST THING I HEARD SNORT AT ME WAS A JACKASS.....they also go HEE-HAW

Willie

Ken_P
Apr-27-2011, 8:18pm
But I am a realist. Say what you will, but - IMHO - we are witnessing the commercialization of Bluegrass – change for the sake of pleasing the largest crowd for the biggest buck and the most success. I won’t brand “them” all that way. I’m sure that some are truly only wanting to stretch their creative wings in new directions. But those who aren’t looking for the “opportunities for success” – for the sake of success – are nevertheless the forerunners of those who will. There will always be folks aiming to capitalize on “success” and they will commercialize the sound to reach even larger audiences – both bands, promoters, mangers, etc. They will come – it’s only natural. Is that bad? It would be easy to say yes – but I do understand why it happens,

If you were looking for the largest crowd and biggest buck, wouldn't you just go into pop or at least commercial (or "mainstream") country? Even if you appeal more to jam band fans, a group that features mandolin and banjo is never going to be a huge commercial success.

I think you're also missing the larger point of the piece. He's not advocating that bluegrass change to become more popular. He's saying that the label of bluegrass is holding his group back because of bad associations with hardcore traditionalists. I think he was quite clear that he had no interest in changing the sound of the band to attract a larger audience - quite the contrary. He wants to be able to embrace bluegrass (or more accurately, to be embraced by bluegrass), while bringing in new audience to the sound of the band. He doesn't want to change the art, he wants to change the marketing.

Charlieshafer
Apr-27-2011, 8:21pm
I think the only thing misunderstood about the Mumfords and Avetts and Crooked Stills of the world is that they didn't go progressive for the money, they did it because that's what they wanted to play. They all started out playing to tiny little audiences, just like everyone else. It's just that their music caught on with younger people, who tend to go out to shows in bigger numbers. The Avetts were quite vocal in saying that they miss the smaller venues where they could really connect with their audience on a more personal level. Interestingly, I find my audiences, both young and old, appreciate the off-genre specific artists, where the more genre-specific artists, like a John Jorgenson or Claire Lynch or whomever, seem to draw a slightly more...ahem...aged crowd.

Ivan Kelsall
Apr-28-2011, 12:33am
Well, after reading the article i posted on here saying very much what AK said,but erased it as maybe being too 'negative'. I have to agree that reading between the lines,Chris P.is seemingly justifying the path that the 'Infamous Stringdusters' have chosen to take. For me he doesn't need to,any more that AKUS have(not) done. For what it's worth, i'd rather listen to the new bands doing what they do best & using trad. Bluegrass instruments the way they should be used,than listen to the C & W 'cross over' artists 'speaking' their dreadful dirges with a Bluegrass backing.
I feel that bands such as the I.S.'s & others are bound to appear as Bluegrass stretches it's legs in an effort to look alive & to be making progress. Even myself, as a 100% trad.Bluegrass afficionado realises that we can't go on singing purely 'trad.' songs for ever,& i find bands like the ' Stringdusters,Crooked Still etc., to be a breath of fresh air in genre that's become somewhat stale (IMHO). I'll always like the bands such as 'Blue Highway', 'Balsam Range' & many others with their 'new style' trad.songs,but also enjoy the 'progressive' bands as well,
Ivan;)

ralph johansson
Apr-28-2011, 7:28am
What I get from this lengthy blog post is that Pandolfi and his mates resist being labeled as "Bluegrass" - their audience is elsewhere.
This seems to be a trend among younger players with BG backgrounds, and I wholly sympathize. An even more obvious case is the Punch Brothers. "We're not a Bluegrass band". They're not a jazz band, nor a choro ensemble, nor a klezmer band, nor a mariachi band -
lots o things they aren't, but the one thing they really don't play is Bluegrass.

The reason I resist the current much too liberal use of the label "bluegrass" is not purism but respect for the musicians, their creativity and open minds. Louise Scruggs: "Bluegrass is a very limiting word". I would like to see BG as only one narrow segment of the broader genre of Contemporary American String Band Music. And I would like to see more interaction between its various segments.

mandolino maximus
Apr-28-2011, 8:56am
I am a Stringduster fan and can tell you that they keep a stronger element of traditional bluegrass in their music than Yonder Mountain, Railroad Earth or Punch Brothers. But they're good friends with all of those (Their first guitar player - who started out playing with Greg Cahill, now a former President of the IBMA - now plays with The Punch Brothers). Pandolfi's blog touches on a lot of facets in making it. I also have to agree that they do want to be accepted by the bluegrass industry and that the blog is partly a declaration that they aren't going away.

If the genre developed by synthesis of several musicial sources (btw, old time was also developed from folk music from other sources) including blues and experimented with along the way (Bill Monroe and an organ), it has a natural tension between change and tradition built right into it from the beginning. I think the Stringdusters, generally so far, assimilate other forms of music into Bluegrass while other alt-bands are less concerned with the original genre.

Great discussion, folks. Thanks. For perspective though, keep in mind that Pandolfi is only banjo player.

David
Apr-28-2011, 9:49am
Thanks guys...AND DAVID, THE LAST THING I HEARD SNORT AT ME WAS A JACKASS.....they also go HEE-HAW

Willie

Sir, you need to revisit Board Guideline #1. I have done nothing but try to encourage some healthy conversation and debate, and I'm glad to say that's what's happening, but you are apparently more interested in trolling.

Moderators?

mandopete
Apr-28-2011, 9:51am
I just now finished re-reading Chris' blog and I come away with a few thoughts. I think what he is saying is for bluegrass music to continue to thrive it really should embrace a more "inclusive" attitude. I think this is already in play when you look at music festivals such as The River City Bluegrass Festival and Wintergrass. Seems like most objections I hear are from using the term "bluegrass" or even "grass". I like one thing Chris says about the definition of bluegrass - it's whatever you say it is.

Another thing he states that may be more a matter of faith is that traditional bluegrass is not going to go away by including more progressive forms of the genre. His belief (and mine) is that including bands like Yonder Mountain and The Avetts might bring more people to traditional bluegrass. This was certainly my experience. I first started listening to The David Grisman Quintet and loved the music. Someone said "that's bluegrass" so I travelled in that direction and discovered Tony Rice's "Cold On The Shoulder" and from there the journey lead farther and farther back in time. It's that question of where did this come from that leads to discovery. This is sorely needed if traditional bluegrass music wants to survive.

There's a cool video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtjkLEbgWck) out there on YouTube of Northern Departure performing at Seattle's EMP Sky Church for a battle of the bands contest. I wonder how many young people in that audience are thinking "what is this, I dig it". The energy and drive of music will certainly attract many young people, but if there's no vehicle for them to travel backwards and discover the roots of the music traditional bluegrass will suffer. They also recently performed on the Bob Rivers radio show here in Seattle and I wonder what people are thinking when they hear this for the first time. Will those people feel included if they tune into a program like Bluegrass Ramble on KBCS?

I'm reminded of the explosion of interest in bluegrass after the movie "Oh Brother Where The Heck You At ?" <grins>. I was at the Down From Mountain concert here in Seattle and during the intermission I heard people in the lobby saying how much they liked this music, but they didn't know where else to find it. I think most of these people discovered the music from a movie and could probably care less what it was called, but lacking that they had no way to find more of it.

Enough for now, but let's keep this conversation going.

Pete

Scott Tichenor
Apr-28-2011, 10:37am
Sir, you need to revisit Board Guideline #1. I have done nothing but try to encourage some healthy conversation and debate, and I'm glad to say that's what's happening, but you are apparently more interested in trolling.

Moderators?

Not tactful, yes, but also not worthy of much more than and eye roll from me. Willie is well on record with his one-dimensional view of his music preferences. He doesn't need me or anyone else stating that fact and I could care less what most music preferences are because they're all represented here! It's fine that everyone has their opinion but it's true, we don't need any trolling. As far as the rest of the forum, no need for this discussion to get derailed by poor choices in words.

To me personally, nothing Chris said is particularly new or eye opening. Lots of people toiling professionally in bluegrass or music related to bluegrass have these feelings and have attempted to communicate them. He just stated them far, far more eloquently. Interesting, yes, but been covered. The IBMA "big tent" talk that this all refers back to amuses me, but I don't really have a dog in this fight. Running IBMA certainly props up the price of the company that manufactures Advil. My take is you can make the tent bigger but that doesn't mean anyone is going to choose to stand under it. Bluegrass moves very slow and isn't about to be hurried into anything. A professional organization or spiffy new web site isn't going to change the face of bluegrass or any other kind of music. Facebook and other social networks may be the catalyst for regime changes in the middle east, but pigs will fly before they can change opinions in bluegrass.

Mandobart
Apr-28-2011, 10:51am
Pete - I loved BG Ramble on KBCS the years I lived in Seattle! I should see if they are on-line too.

Overall this is a great discussion. I am in agreement with earlier posts regarding look what happend to Country & Western music over the post-Garth Brooks period. C&W has morphed into something hardly recognizable from the original. I know many fans of today's C&W that are not fans of the roots of the music and have no regard for the originals. I'd hate to see that happen to BG. I am a big fan of the Infamous Stringdusters, Bela Fleck, Tony Furtado, and many others in the new grass or alt grass genre. I am also a huge fan of many in the alt-country or Americana genre like Robert Earle Keen, Wayne Hancock, and others that to me are truer sounding than any of todays mainstream C&W acts to the original. The thing to me is, (lower case) bluegrass music is already inclusive, as witnessed by the success of the new grass acts. I don't see why SPBGMA or IBMA need to change or how that will give more success to established or up and coming alt grass acts. It sounds like the original blog is asking "please make BG cool so I can bill myself as BG" or something. BG is already cool! And Bill Monroe, Del McCoury, Tim Obrien, Sam Bush, the Stringdusters, Jerry Garcia, Bela Fleck, Alison Krauss, etc and on and on have all been part of it. I don't think many of us would say "look how cool country music is now" even though it is hugely commercially successful. I'm grateful there are some of the crusty old traditionalists and even bluegrass police out there, to keep the genre from going the way of the CMA.

BradKlein
Apr-28-2011, 10:55am
I may be mistaken, but I think that Chris wants to change opinions of promoters, bookers, club owners, through IBMA etc more than he wants to change the opinions of players and fans. Not being a professional musician, the full implications of this are kind of lost on me -- but it's a strange cultural stew that we live in, and sometimes it moves faster and further than most people thought possible. There was the '60s folk scare after all, as strange as some of it seems with hindsight.

Scott Tichenor
Apr-28-2011, 11:27am
Brad, my take on this is that Chris' comments were in response to those made by one of the powers to be at IBMA and some changes they're wanting to make. It's clear to me that some here have not read that so I don't really see how anyone could get the entire picture of what he's talking about without doing so.

250sc
Apr-28-2011, 11:45am
For years I've thought that there are a group of "Traditional Bluegrass" fans that don't want the music to change or grow in any way at all and when they hear a "bluegrass" band that does something that is a bit different (electric bass) they cry out "That's not Bluegrass!" and write it off. IMOHO Those people's love for the music will kill it. After their generation dies off (which is happening now) there won't be enough people who like the "old" stuff to keep is a viable art form. Art is supposed to grow and expand it's own boundries. That's not to say you have to like the changes but the changes should be allowed and encouraged. The greater public will weed out the forms they don't like.

Someone in a previous post of this thread made a reference to jazz and said that there are many people who love big band swing who won't like free jazz. I agree but only the least educated or most inflexable of them will deny that free jazz is part of the jazz evolution.

Personally I prefer hearing something different and more in keeping with the content of the thread I understand why musicians feel they have to leave part of what they love to do what they are driven to do by personal vision and/or financial security.

Alex Orr
Apr-28-2011, 12:21pm
Good discussion.

I do think I may have been looking at this issue a bit askew. If it's just a hope by Chris and some others to expand the parameters of the genre a bit then I think it's a good point. Call traditional bluegrass "traditional bluegrass" and other styles other things, but work to keep it associated with the same tent. It seems that this may be the way it's naturally playing out, regardless of what the IBMA or other large promoters have to say about it.

That being said, where should the boundaries be drawn? I hate to come back to it, but if Mumford and Sons are considered bluegrass, then why not Arcade Fire? Should Sufjan Stevens be marketed as a bluegrass artist because he occasionally uses a banjo? How about the low-fi synthesizer indie pop band Magnetic Fields? They occasionally use a banjo, and they recorded an album of eight-track songs in the early '90s that were intended to be a take on country music using only a drum machine and a cheap synthesizer. Brad Paisley is a terrific flatpicker - should bluegrass try to market him and his music as bluegrass? The Avetts honestly sound more like an alt-country act these days, so should the IBMA start booking Wilco for the awards show and call them a bluegrass band?

If the idea is to expand the tent, so to speak, then bands like the Dusters (who still sound quite recognizably BG IMO) seem like a perfectly reasonable inclusion, but when I hear some of the bands that various bluegrass blogs have recently been citing as good candidates to use to try and expand the concept of bluegrass, I really wonder where the demarcation line should be drawn.

allenhopkins
Apr-28-2011, 12:21pm
Reiterating what I said before: apparently the Stringdusters took stock of their musical future, and decided that calling themselves "bluegrass" and playing for the venues that book bluegrass bands, was an unwise choice in terms of both the music they'd like to play, and the audiences they'd like to draw. So they changed their press kit, bought some stage equipment, and started going after a "younger, hipper" audience. Bully for them and the Red Sox,* says I.

Where the discussion gets more controversial, is where Mr. P seems to be asking the bluegrass "powers that be" to give this choice some kinda "stamp of approval." I'm not sure what benefit derives from that. The "younger, hipper" audience probably couldn't care less what IBMA thinks of "newgrass" or "fringe grass" or whatever-you-call-it bands. And, honestly, there are a helluva lot of bluegrass fans who like listening to bluegrass-related-or-derived styles -- Dawg music, jam-grass, the Fleck-Tones or Punch Brothers, etc. -- and will go to the Stringdusters' shows and buy their recordings even if they can't showcase at IBMA any more.

I think seeking approval from the guardians of the "trad" BG flame, for whatever heretical twist one is putting on Mr. Monroe's music, is a wild goose chase. If you want old-line bluegrass fans to like you, play old-line bluegrass -- which can be a very exciting and satisfying music for many people. However, taking this path does limit a band's options for "crossover" acceptance. We look at bands like AKUS, Ricky Skaggs, etc., that have undoubted bluegrass creds and chops, but have chosen to try to attract audiences outside the bluegrass niche. Some of us hate that, and say so. Others might prefer a more "trad" approach, but understand both the creative and innovative aspirations of musicians, and the realities of the music business, that reward performers who appeal to a broad spectrum of listeners.

Purity, and strict adherence to traditional forms, can be very appealing, but it definitely sets limits that "cramp" a lot of musicians. And food must be put on the table. And, frankly, there are lot of young, very competent musicians, expert in traditional styles and repertoire, who might feel more comfortable playing for a young audience in a "rock" venue, than for a bunch of older, more sedate bluegrass fans in a festival tent. And they might get paid more, too.

* One of my late father-in-law's favorite sayings.

SincereCorgi
Apr-28-2011, 12:48pm
That being said, where should the boundaries be drawn? I hate to come back to it, but if Mumford and Sons are considered bluegrass, then why not Arcade Fire? Should Sufjan Stevens be marketed as a bluegrass artist because he occasionally uses a banjo? How about the low-fi synthesizer indie pop band Magnetic Fields? They occasionally use a banjo, and they recorded an album of eight-track songs in the early '90s that were intended to be a take on country music using only a drum machine and a cheap synthesizer. Brad Paisley is a terrific flatpicker - should bluegrass try to market him and his music as bluegrass? The Avetts honestly sound more like an alt-country act these days, so should the IBMA start booking Wilco for the awards show and call them a bluegrass band?

Thanks for writing this Alex, it's what's been rattling around in my head. I saw the Avetts on Austin City Limits the other night... they do a good show but what they do doesn't seem any closer to bluegrass than it does to, say, trad jazz. Same for Mumford and Sons- my sister gave me their CD because 'you like bluegrass', but it struck me as sounding more like the Arcade Fire than anything else. I guess a banjo and western shirt is enough to get you branded bluegrass for casual listeners?

(Incidentally, it's a fantasy of mine that Charm of the Highway strip would get covered in its entirety by, say, Willie Nelson. Drum machine or no, that's a great country album.)

mandopete
Apr-28-2011, 1:22pm
Pete - I loved BG Ramble on KBCS the years I lived in Seattle! I should see if they are on-line too.

Availble on the internets at www.kbcs.fm - both live and streaming!

TonyP
Apr-28-2011, 3:08pm
Taking Scott's hint, I looked up the IBMA website, and guessed what he was talking about was the President's message,http://www.ibma.org/Articles/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleId=996239

I can see by that, where Chris's article comes from. But he's really holding his cards close to his chest. I guess rightly so, as the IBMA seems to working closely with polls to guide them. While I can see that as prudent, it remains to be seen how that whole chunk of data is interpreted or what it reveals.

I've been on several sides of this, being on a board of a bluegrass association, privy to the behind the scenes of selection committee's/festival organizers and a performing band. And depending on which view you have, each of which is drastically different, I don't have a clue how you'd make that "big tent".

In a certain way, it's amazing anything gets done :) So trying to steer something that I think is pretty decentralized, factionalized, with a raging controversy as to what it really is......wow. :popcorn:

Mandolin Mick
Apr-28-2011, 4:53pm
"But pigs will fly before they can change opinions in bluegrass."

Thanx Scott!!! I'm glad to hear it from you!!!:)

BradKlein
Apr-28-2011, 7:36pm
Well, I went back and read the material that Scott linked to in post #16. There are some folks giving some hard thought to all this marketing stuff -- and it's far beyond me to predict if it leads to anything or not. I have gone out and listened to a few more of the bands that have some distant connection to bluegrass but that I had never heard, and that's always worthwhile.

mandolirius
Apr-28-2011, 8:05pm
What I get from this lengthy blog post is that Pandolfi and his mates resist being labeled as "Bluegrass" - their audience is elsewhere.
This seems to be a trend among younger players with BG backgrounds, and I wholly sympathize. An even more obvious case is the Punch Brothers. "We're not a Bluegrass band". They're not a jazz band, nor a choro ensemble, nor a klezmer band, nor a mariachi band -
lots o things they aren't, but the one thing they really don't play is Bluegrass.

The reason I resist the current much too liberal use of the label "bluegrass" is not purism but respect for the musicians, their creativity and open minds. Louise Scruggs: "Bluegrass is a very limiting word". I would like to see BG as only one narrow segment of the broader genre of Contemporary American String Band Music. And I would like to see more interaction between its various segments.

Well that's another reason for adopting the label "Traditional Bluegrass". That way there wouldn't be as much need to preserve or protect the label "Bluegrass" and it could expand to include some of its offshoots.

Mike Bunting
Apr-28-2011, 8:37pm
Why don't all the young'uns just make up a new name, I don't know, something like Newgrass.

Markus
Apr-28-2011, 8:40pm
Well that's another reason for adopting the label "Traditional Bluegrass". That way there wouldn't be as much need to preserve or protect the label "Bluegrass" and it could expand to include some of its offshoots.

That's an IBMA I might look into being a part of.

I really like the term `traditional bluegrass'.

Either it's like Bill or Lester and Earl or the others ... or it's not traditional bluegrass, it's the larger `bluegrass' genre which can range pretty far and still be under the same tent.

As far as I've encountered going to shows here, I've seen IBMA Bluegrass winners here that ranged from all gospel tunes [I like a little Saturday night with my Sunday morning at very least] to soft country to pretty full-on country ... none of which I am a fan of. While top-flight musicians, it's hard not to feel cheated and I've learned to be wary on going to `bluegrass' shows I didn't know. [Skaggs all-gospel tunes, AKUS, Jim Lauderdale right after winning IBMA award for the first examples that come to mind]

There's also Del, I saw JD Crowe a couple summers ago ... what I would call traditional bluegrass and would go to see an unknown band play without hesitation. Yet, I've been burned thinking IBMA association or awards meant a thing - if it was `traditional bluegrass' I would attend a whole lot more shows. I'm a parent of a young child, finances are tight ... when I was in my 20's/30's I could waste time/money on non-guaranteed shows. Now, I'm more likely to see a friend's BG band than take the chance and spend the dollar on top-flight but unknown bluegrass as that term is watered too thin already to my ear. I miss some great shows ... but the IBMA bluegrass association is mostly useless without research IME.

IMO - IBMA : A stamp of quality, but unknown product.

I would actually like accidentally running into the Stringdusters. I went to a random `bluegrass' show at a small bar that had nightly music about 10 years ago and accidentally chanced upon the Avett Brothers on their first time through this part of the country - maybe 30 people. No IBMA association but the term bluegrass ... I've had good random shows by going to `random bluegrass' shows, but over my 16 years of going to local bluegrass shows have come to be skeptical at the IBMA label [great great talent, but what kind of music?].

Just my opinion, I'm no expert. I came to bluegrass in my 20's [after living overseas for a while] and while I've seen a lot of shows I haven't road-tripped for it.

This is a great discussion, as we are the people carrying the tradition on as artists influenced by the originators. Then again, while my ear loves traditional bluegrass I probably play big-tent bluegrass :)

Dan Johnson
Apr-28-2011, 9:16pm
"shoemaker, stick to thy last..."

also...

"If a Newgrass band plays 'Rawhide' in the woods, and there's no one there to criticize it, is it still Newgrass?"

mandolirius
Apr-28-2011, 9:25pm
Why don't all the young'uns just make up a new name, I don't know, something like Newgrass.

The problem with any label with "new" in it is, at some point, it no longer is. :grin:

lmartnla
Apr-28-2011, 11:11pm
Numerous posters mentioned the advanced age of many in the traditional bluegrass audience. It is true. I'm sorry I am old. Despite it's many benefits, I'd enjoy being a bit younger again. But some of you seem to resent us overmuch. Rejection of labels or wanting to broaden labels is somewhat counterproductive. Labels have a function. They tell us that what we are likely to hear may be like something we have enjoyed in the past and want more of, or something new we may want to experience. Change within the label too much and you end up with inclusion of things your audience would prefer to avoid. Bluegrass is roots music and should remain as such. It embraces those who are learning their roots and those who seek to return to their roots. Most roots music genres struggle with the same issues dealt with in this thread. Blues, traditional jazz, cajun, zydeco, old time, bluegrass, traditional country. They don't get the radio play, sell out large venues, or hold young audiences. But they still influence new musicians who absolutely must explore their roots because they absorbed this in the womb and their formative years. It is the soul and pleasure in the music and the starting point for their journey, the reference point for their anchorage. God forbid you should destroy them. You can't anyway. Music is a journey. Audiences and musicians migrate continually through genres throughout their lives as they expand their knowledge and horizons. Some of my transitions have been Nursery rhymes, cowboy, symphonic, country, rock and roll, pop, folk, bluegrass, rock, disco, blues. All contain some element of each other, the roots. We encounter them at different times depending on our families and regions. We appreciate them according to our companions and temperament. Full time Musicians must find a paying audience via a label, a venue, a medium, a message, whatever. It jolts us when they change drastically seeking that payday and when they change drastically seeking new creative directions. A fan may follow a performer no matter what music they present or may get turned off, or may themselves change and seek a new sound. There may be no satisfactory answer, but I am happy to have my roots.

Mike Bunting
Apr-29-2011, 12:09am
The problem with any label with "new" in it is, at some point, it no longer is. :grin:
Well, it used to be! That's why "Traditional" is the best, it never gets obsolete. "New" was good enough for Sam though, or is he too old now too? I suppose he plays Tradnewgrass now.

allenhopkins
Apr-29-2011, 1:09am
...some of you seem to resent us overmuch. Rejection of labels or wanting to broaden labels is somewhat counterproductive. Labels have a function. They tell us that what we are likely to hear may be like something we have enjoyed in the past and want more of, or something new we may want to experience. Change within the label too much and you end up with inclusion of things your audience would prefer to avoid. Bluegrass is roots music and should remain as such...Most roots music genres struggle with the same issues dealt with in this thread. Blues, traditional jazz, cajun, zydeco, old time, bluegrass, traditional country. They don't get the radio play, sell out large venues, or hold young audiences...God forbid you should destroy them...I am happy to have my roots.

No one that I've heard "resents" bluegrass fans for being older. As a fairly eclectic musician and fan, closing in on age 70, I'd be on shaky ground doing that! And no one is trying to "destroy" any traditional music style. But just as Bennie Goodman fans may have said of Charlie Parker, "That ain't jazz!" and yet we now see bebop as a vital part of the jazz idiom, we have old-line bluegrass fans saying of the more experimental bands, "That ain't bluegrass!" Not that it's a kind of bluegrass that they don't happen to like, or that it's avant-garde bluegrass and they're traditionalists, but that it's somehow outside the range of acceptability. Comparatively, a definition of "blues" that can include Keb' Mo', B B King, Stevie Ray Vaughn and John Mayall is positively "big tent" and inclusive. "Jazz" apparently can include King Oliver and Sun Ra, Bix Biederbecke and Archie Shepp, without public prosecution for heresy.

What I think some of the old-line bluegrass fans don't realize, is that orthodoxy and exclusivity have the effects of chasing some of the more creative musicians away -- musicians who might bring some energy to the genre, broaden its audience, enlarge its niche. The discussions Pandolfi talks about among the Stringdusters are probably echoed in other "edge" bluegrass bands: "Do we want to continue to be a 'bluegrass' band, accepting the limitations of that label, or do we want to become an 'acoustic-roots-Americana-jam-eclectic' band, or whatever, and get to play some new places and win some new fans?" Because it's hard when the label "bluegrass band" actually restricts a band's options, rather than offering additional possibilities.

Defining a musical genre restrictively, may result in defining it out of existence. Any musical style needs continual transfusions of talent, creativity and fan base. As a long-time folkie, I look around at my peers' gray locks, and wonder where the next generation of folkies will come from. Ditto bluegrassers. The last remnants of the "first generation" are passing from the scene. So, "teach your children well," and let them flourish.

Mandolin Mick
Apr-29-2011, 1:13am
I like the term "Traditional Bluegrass". "Classic Rock" seems to work for the rockers.

Mike Bunting
Apr-29-2011, 2:20am
It seems to me that it is a fairly pointless discussion to have when no one has actually defined what blue grass is in musical terms. I watched a YouTube of Yonder Mountain doing their tune Angel which seemed to be pretty much a riff based tune which for me would put in the blues and rock area. Are you all defining blue grass by the instruments in a typically bg band? What about the basic rhythms of BG?. We're just having the old discussion of what is bluegrass without coming out and asking the question. How can one say that a band such as the aforementioned YMSB is bluegrass without ever saying what bluegrass is. It seems to be an assumption that we all know what it is and I don't believe that we all have the same assumption about it at all.

Charlieshafer
Apr-29-2011, 5:41am
It seems to me that it is a fairly pointless discussion to have when no one has actually defined what blue grass is in musical terms.

That's pretty true! Which makes it all the more interesting as to why the die-hard traditionalists in any genre are so hard-core in their beliefs. What exactly are they defending? Certain instruments? Certain rhythms? Performers of a certain age? Alan was right to say age has nothing to do with music attracting listeners. 50-70 year-old folks are still digging rock more than other genres, as indicated by attendance numbers and demographic studies done by larger venues.

It was suggested above that all the genres have a dying traditional core, but i don't see that in old-time, where many new artists are exploring. Cajun is also undergoing quite the revival.

In all, the most fascinating thing about this discussion (and it is a good one) is how so many people can be so passionate about something so vague.

ralph johansson
Apr-29-2011, 7:08am
I like the term "Traditional Bluegrass". "Classic Rock" seems to work for the rockers.

"Traditional Bluegrass" sounds like a pleonasm to me. If the word "Bluegrass" is to mean anything it denotes a tradition, starting with Monroe's band of late 1945. It became a tradition when others modeled themselves on that band adding their own touches. A tradition can only survive by change, and it has, in spite of the sad shape of the genre in the 70's. There's a clear historic line connecting Bill Monroe with Cadillac Sky, hence the music of the latter group (which is downright archaic in places!)
is just as "traditional" as that of any other BG group.

250sc
Apr-29-2011, 7:16am
"That's why "Traditional" is the best, it never gets obsolete. "

This comment fails the logic test. "Traditional" tries to stop change and revert to the past. Change is the only constant you can count on. Nothing stays the same for very long (relitive term) and you can't go back, though you can pretend.

Mike Bunting
Apr-29-2011, 12:21pm
"That's why "Traditional" is the best, it never gets obsolete. "

This comment fails the logic test. "Traditional" tries to stop change and revert to the past. Change is the only constant you can count on. Nothing stays the same for very long (relitive term) and you can't go back, though you can pretend.

It was a joke.

AlanN
Apr-29-2011, 1:02pm
Saying what bluegrass is ain't no joke, never has been. Just ask some of the characters on this here board :))

mandocrucian
Apr-29-2011, 1:37pm
It's hard to blame music politics when older and more conservative bluegrass fans (of which there are quite a lot) just don't feel comfortable at shows dominated by hippies and frat-boys dancing around, talking throughout the show, and doing lots of drugs and booze...not that there's any thing wrong with that IMO mind you



It's all politics (on a much wider level).... just another aspect of the "culture war". Sonic output is secondary to cultural signals (i.e. material, worldview, dress, stage attitude, visual cues, regional speech dialect/accent........)

"Wrote a song about it, wanna hear it? here it go" (Blind Lemon Chitlin'):
"Mama don't 'low no hippies/(or fill in your dislikes)/_______/ picking round here....."

:)):crying::grin::mandosmiley:

250sc
Apr-29-2011, 1:40pm
Sorry, without emoticons and not being prefaced with "Three guys walk into a bar and ......." I had no way of recognizing it as humor. Please carry on. :-)

AKmusic
Apr-29-2011, 2:10pm
removed...

I'll try again tomorrow.

Willie Poole
Apr-29-2011, 2:55pm
Just try and name one "New Bluegrass" song that has made a great impression and is still being played on a regular basis like "Cabin Home on The Hill", "BlueMoon Of Kentucky" etc...Just like country music songs don`t stay around more than six weeks, I remember when the #1 country song " Slowly" by Webb Pierce, stayed on the hit parade for over a year...Not any more....

As far as defining bluegrass it is what I would expect to hear being played if I just happened to come across a cabin in the mountains after dinner and the family was sitting around entertaining them selves with their music, sort of like The Stanley Bros did when they were living back in the hills....I know it when I hear ir and this new stuff ain`t it...Thats my opinion and it won`t change as long as I`m alive, a die hard? You betcha....

Come on in 300 Win, I need some help....

Willie

huckfinnigan
Apr-29-2011, 2:56pm
The younger fans share different perspective than older fans. Younger fans hear different tonality because of the influence of the world they live in. Older fans hear trad sounds because of the world their from. Truegrass, newgrass, tradgrass, oldtime.....its all relative....

Realize though that the music was started as a fusion and continues to be so. From "Cant you here me callin", the music was started as a fusion from uncle's pens furious gypsy fiddling and schultz's finger pickin blues.

Although some wish to not facilitate change, it was evolution that produced the "trad" style in the first place. Therefore, in the spirit of Chris, it would be a hinderance to the development of the sound to resist or differentiate between the facets. All for one, one for all!

Mike Bunting
Apr-29-2011, 3:15pm
Just try and name one "New Bluegrass" song that has made a great impression and is still being played on a regular basis like "Cabin Home on The Hill", "BlueMoon Of Kentucky" etc...Just like country music songs don`t stay around more than six weeks, I remember when the #1 country song " Slowly" by Webb Pierce, stayed on the hit parade for over a year...Not any more....

As far as defining bluegrass it is what I would expect to hear being played if I just happened to come across a cabin in the mountains after dinner and the family was sitting around entertaining them selves with their music, sort of like The Stanley Bros did when they were living back in the hills....I know it when I hear ir and this new stuff ain`t it...Thats my opinion and it won`t change as long as I`m alive, a die hard? You betcha....

Come on in 300 Win, I need some help....

Willie
As far as what you prefer to hear,....me too. But that's not a definition. I don't know why I'm posting, just to amuse myself I guess. As I said before, this is a pointless discussion to me, people can call stuff whatever they want, I just listen to whatever music interests me. Of course, I only listen to good music. (250sc, that's a joke).

250sc
Apr-29-2011, 3:16pm
:-)

draino
Apr-29-2011, 3:19pm
Just try and name one "New Bluegrass" song that has made a great impression and is still being played on a regular basis like "Cabin Home on The Hill", "BlueMoon Of Kentucky" etc...Just like country music songs don`t stay around more than six weeks, I remember when the #1 country song " Slowly" by Webb Pierce, stayed on the hit parade for over a year...Not any more....


This is kind of a meaningless measure, though. Back in the 40s and 50s the number of recorded tunes released each year in ALL genres was less than the recorded tunes in any single genre today in a month.

Mike Bunting
Apr-29-2011, 3:40pm
This is kind of a meaningless measure, though. Back in the 40s and 50s the number of recorded tunes released each year in ALL genres was less than the recorded tunes in any single genre today in a month.
And of course it wasn't subject to the musical corporate machine lowering everything to the lowest common denominator in order to sell more "units".

draino
Apr-29-2011, 3:50pm
And of course it wasn't subject to the musical corporate machine lowering everything to the lowest common denominator in order to sell more "units".

That's also pretty meaningless. Even if you get rid of the corporate drivel (however you want to define that) there is still a lot more "soulful" music having "artistic integrety" (however you want to define that) that is recorded and released each month today than there was in a year back in the traditional days. When there is more music being put out, there is less likelihood that there will be one song that everyone who appreciates a given genre will latch onto as "this years Blue Moon of Kentucky" or what have you.

When I used to see the Steep Canyon Rangers in small little bars in Raleigh playing both the traditional Flatts and Scruggs tunes alongside their own originals to a bunch of drunk youngsters, aside from Rocky Top, it was the Steep Canyon Rangers originals like "Carolina Home" that really touched the younger members of that audience at that time. I still love their first album, and those originals still have a meaningful place in my heart -- more so than any Bill Monroe tune. But I'm sure Willie and 300win have never heard that album.

edit -- am I way off? Now I'm thinking Carolina Home may be a traditional tune. Nonetheless -- I think you get my drift.

Mike Bunting
Apr-29-2011, 3:58pm
The Steep Canyon Rangers are quite a good band, I enjoy the cds that I have of theirs. "A bunch of drunk youngsters" is hardly a group whose drunken opinion is a basis to form an aesthetic judgement on the value of anything though.

draino
Apr-29-2011, 4:04pm
The Steep Canyon Rangers are quite a good band, I enjoy the cds that I have of theirs. "A bunch of drunk youngsters" is hardly a group whose drunken opinion is a basis to form an aesthetic judgement on the value of anything though.

Really? Isn't it the "drunk youngsters" that typically determine what later becomes "traditional"? I mean, isn't Blue Moon of Kentucky a classic today because it touched the hearts of teenagers that are now old and crotchety and complaining that nothing is like it was back when?

sgarrity
Apr-29-2011, 4:12pm
Remember too that the traditional songs are generally about the past. It's a much smaller percentage of America today that has even seen a "Little Cabin Home on the Hill", much less lived in one. Younger audiences want songs they can relate to. I think the answer is more songs like this one:




:mandosmiley::))

Mandolin Mick
Apr-29-2011, 4:54pm
I've chimed in on this thread several times but I guess I want to ask the question, "What's wrong with people wanting their favorite style of music to remain the same?"

My parents are stuck on Sinatra, my brother's stuck on the Beatles and I'm stuck on Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs. That's my music. I don't complain about Newgrass and all the progressive expressions of Bluegrass because I don't listen to it and don't play it on my Rattlesnake. I hang out with likeminded people and discuss things with them here on the Cafe.

I don't need to be openminded about Bluegrass. It's only music; nothing important. It's my favorite pastime, but it's not important in the scheme of life; just important to me personally. :mandosmiley:

Mike Bunting
Apr-29-2011, 5:10pm
I've chimed in on this thread several times but I guess I want to ask the question, "What's wrong with people wanting their favorite style of music to remain the same?"

My parents are stuck on Sinatra, my brother's stuck on the Beatles and I'm stuck on Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs. That's my music. I don't complain about Newgrass and all the progressive expressions of Bluegrass because I don't listen to it and don't play it on my Rattlesnake. I hang out with likeminded people and discuss things with them here on the Cafe.

I don't need to be openminded about Bluegrass. It's only music; nothing important. It's my favorite pastime, but it's not important in the scheme of life; just important to me personally. :mandosmiley:
Excellent post and I'd agree except that I dig Sinatra and the Beatles and Monroe and Flatt and Scruggs! In fact I recently downloaded one of their shows on the Opry from years ago. Great stuff.

allenhopkins
Apr-29-2011, 5:58pm
..."What's wrong with people wanting their favorite style of music to remain the same?"...

Nothing, nothing at all -- unless you deny others the possibility of change, evolution, growth. There are jazz fans who want to listen to Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and don't care for anything post-1930. There are "classical" listeners who want baroque, and nothing newer. ("What's all this big fuss about that Beethoven guy, anyway?") There are blues aficionados who love Son House and hate B B King. Their choice.

But your favorite music style will not totally "remain the same." Bill Monroe will never write another mandolin tune, or record another song. But some teenage mandolin player will, and he/she may sound a bit different from Bill. That's gonna happen. You can listen to old recordings, support bands who "play it like it used to be," not listen to "Newgrass and all the progressive expressions of bluegrass," and that's fine. But as Sam Cooke sang in 1964, "A Change Is Gonna Come."

What's the best outcome, IMHO, is that these different styles coexist peacefully, even mutually supportively. David Grisman brings Curly Seckler onstage, Bill Monroe hires some college kid named Keith to play "weird" banjo stuff, Josh Graves plays in Flatt's Nashville Grass and also the Earl Scruggs Revue, Vassar Clements joins a buncha hippies to play Pig In a Pen. My favorite scenario. The Infamous Stringdusters tear 'em up at an IBMA showcase, then go on to play rock venues, and everybody's happy.

What's the not-so-best outcome, is that people call other people "no part 'a nothin'" and feelings get hurt, bands get criticized and excluded for not adhering to the orthodoxy, and musicians who grew up in the "tradition" and truly love the music, find themselves outsiders because they're trying some new stuff. No one needs to be open-minded, but there's a little aphorism: "Minds are like parachutes -- they only work when they're open." If you never listen to, or try to play, some new stuff, then how do you know you won't enjoy it?

Paul Kotapish
Apr-29-2011, 6:05pm
"What's wrong with people wanting their favorite style of music to remain the same?"


Mick, I'm guessing your favorite style of music will remain the same regardless of what name is used to describe or whether some very different styles are also called the same thing. The music is the important thing and the label is only tangentially significant.

If you used the term "jazz" in 1915, people would have a pretty good sense of what you were talking about and what the music sounded like.

If you used the term "rock 'n' roll" in 1954, people would have a pretty good sense of what you were talking about and what the music sounded like.

Music from those classic eras is still being played today in the same style as it was then--albeit in modest proportion compared to the other styles that also go by those monikers. And the terms "jazz" and "rock" are applied to so many different styles of music that they don't mean anything specific anymore, but they get you into the right ballpark or general preferences. You can generally find your way to the specifics from there.

I'm guessing that classic/traditional/Monroe-style BLUEGRASS is robust enough to withstand any assaults by pretenders borrowing the rubric for whatever nefarious purposes.

I can't speak for anyone else, but idiomatic tags don't really govern my listening, and I go much more by specific bands and artists than by particular styles. I love bluegrass, but just a relatively narrow slice of it. My tastes tend to run towards the traditional bands, but that doesn't keep me from enjoying some "newgrass" or "eclecticgrass" or whatever. It's all about the individual artists and bands.

Same goes for old-time music, rock, pop, jazz, ska, reggae, highlife, blues, gospel, Swedish nyckelharpa, Greek rembetika, Pygmy vocal music, munnharpe tunes, string quartets, solo piano, opera, and one-man-band music. There's a lot that I love and a whole bunch more in each of those idioms that doesn't do it for me.

That said, I don't think that an open-umbrella use of the term bluegrass is going to much in the way of improving the commercial viability or audience sizes of either camp. I enjoyed Chris's essay, and I think he raised some interesting ideas, but I'm not buying the notion that intentionally using the term to embrace a much broader range of sounds and experiences is going to have much impact.

I think that "Americana" is a reasonable--if somewhat lazy--term to cover all sorts of roots-influenced orginal music. And I like some of the more idiosyncratic catch phrases too: "urban mountain music," "rural punk," "traditional space music," etc.

For years I have played in a contradance band called the Hillbillies from Mars (a one-off joke of a name that has stuck with us for nearly three decades) that somebody once described as "ethnic music from a country that hasn't been discovered yet." I rather like that.

It will be interesting to watch how the chips fall on this.

mandolirius
Apr-29-2011, 6:14pm
What's the not-so-best outcome, is that people call other people "no part 'a nothin'" and feelings get hurt, bands get criticized and excluded for not adhering to the orthodoxy, and musicians who grew up in the "tradition" and truly love the music, find themselves outsiders because they're trying some new stuff. No one needs to be open-minded, but there's a little aphorism: "Minds are like parachutes -- they only work when they're open." If you never listen to, or try to play, some new stuff, then how do you know you won't enjoy it?

I don't even care if people never listen to or try to play something new. I just hope they won't criticize, complain or discriminate against those who do.

Mandolin Mick
Apr-29-2011, 6:29pm
In my storied musical career I've played bass and keyboards in a Beatles tribute band, played classical guitar for weddings and renaissance fairs, was a Mick Jagger impersonator in a Stones cover band, etc.

I settled on Traditional Bluegrass some time ago. I'm finally at peace. ;)

Tom Haywood
Apr-29-2011, 7:47pm
This “limiting” attitude goes back to the source and, therefore, has great sanctimony. I remember in the spring of 1974 during a series of “Bluegrass On The Lawn” concerts in Nashville, Bill Monroe announced to the concert committee that he would not play the remaining shows if the committee did not cancel Norman Blake, because Blake was not playing bluegrass. The committee struggled but refused, Blake played, and Monroe skipped one concert and came back. The audience numbers remained the same.

I love traditional bluegrass, especially Monroe’s personal tradition which he apparently thought at the time was the only tradition. Blake was playing music that was a more traditional style than Monroe’s, and which was the largest piece of the bluegrass style. He offered a different take on tradition and it attracted audiences, sold records, and made him into an icon. Though he certainly has the credentials, I’ve never thought of Blake as a true bluegrass player, but he gave me a deeper insight into true bluegrass music than anyone else has. So I appreciate both perspectives: preserve the tradition – whatever that is, and encourage new growth.

Ken_P
Apr-29-2011, 8:39pm
Nothing, nothing at all -- unless you deny others the possibility of change, evolution, growth. There are jazz fans who want to listen to Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and don't care for anything post-1930. There are "classical" listeners who want baroque, and nothing newer. ("What's all this big fuss about that Beethoven guy, anyway?") There are blues aficionados who love Son House and hate B B King. Their choice.

I don't have anything else to add, but Allen, you summed it up perfectly here.

I like the term "acoustic music" for the not-quite-grass that I tend to prefer. I think it sums things up nicely - music played on acoustic instruments, with no other assumptions, because pretty much anything is possible within that description.

Dan Johnson
Apr-29-2011, 8:54pm
I can't speak for anyone else, but idiomatic tags don't really govern my listening, and I go much more by specific bands and artists than by particular styles. I love bluegrass, but just a relatively narrow slice of it. My tastes tend to run towards the traditional bands, but that doesn't keep me from enjoying some "newgrass" or "eclecticgrass" or whatever. It's all about the individual artists and bands.


I think the take-away, for me, from this article, is that people are trying to identify the machinery used to produce and distribute music, and to use it to bring the music they love to a wider audience. To pretend that this stuff doesn't have any effect on what we hear is kind of an incomplete analysis.

Bill went so far as to play baseball everywhere he went: in part probably because he liked it, but also in part probably because he knew music doesn't stand alone. It needs to find, cultivate, and nurture an audience. And an audience is really just a big bunch of friends and family.

So it seems like the question is, can BG Nation straddle the camps? My guess... No.

They'll either render themselves irrelevant through an inability to define their crowd... OR... They'll actually change peoples' perception of what bluegrass music is.

J.Albert
Apr-29-2011, 10:41pm
Robbin' a phrase from New Hampshire license plates:

Traditional Bluegrass:
Play it, or perish.

That's about all I've got to say on the subject...

- John

mandolino maximus
Apr-30-2011, 8:35am
I was wondering if the traditional lovers love Bluegrass Smash Hits (2008) by the Mashville Brigade?

"Young" bucs paying tribute doing classics that belong in every bluegrass player's arsenal. But it don't sound like Bill Monroe doing Lonesome Road Blues or the Stanley Brothers doing Little Maggie. Recorded at The Station Inn, so that is what completes the definition of bluegrass. :whistling: Also recorded straight up without dubbing / second takes.

I love a lot of the Newgrass-type stuff, but I really love how this "carries" the tradition. (Well, that and Ashby Frank tears it up a few times, which is always good:mandosmiley:.) Just curious if traditionalists approve. If not, I'd say just close the book on the genre.

Dan Johnson
Apr-30-2011, 2:19pm
are there any bands that are exclusively doing "traditional" bluegrass at a national level?

John McGann
Apr-30-2011, 3:59pm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyXJSnuapic&feature=channel_video_title

TonyP
Apr-30-2011, 4:28pm
LOL! perfect John.....

sgarrity
Apr-30-2011, 4:51pm
"I think you may be high but not lonesome....." LOL

mtk
May-01-2011, 12:18am
I think many of you have already expressed the following, I just feel compelled to add my opinion to this discussion. I look at the new musical styles as subgroups of bluegrass and/or American roots music. Looking at this, I think of jazz music and the different jazz "scenes". Some people love big band or more classic style jazz, some people love bebop. Bebop reminds me of these new bands, in the sense that they are popular with the younger crowd, just as bebop was influential to the beat generation.
I think that these bands will increase awareness of traditional string music in the fact that many of them incorporate traditional stringed instruments. If a young person listens to the Stringdusters and is influenced to pick up the banjo/fiddle/mandolin/dobro/upright bass, once they start to play, you know they will become exposed to the traditional styling of Monroe, Scruggs, Stanley etc. Therefore, a new musician, likely from a younger generation, will be exposed and become more intimate with "real bluegrass". Again, I agree with many of you that bluegrass does not need to have these subgroups associated with it to "survive". I just think that these new groups and forms of musical styling will increase awareness of traditional bluegrass music, make the music more popular, more available, and yes, more marketable. It will not dilute traditional bluegrass no more than west coast jazz diluted jazz music. If the mission of the IBMA is to promote "greater awareness and connections between bluegrass and consumers" (got that off their website) looking at these new bands using bluegrass instruments couldn't hurt.

allenhopkins
May-01-2011, 12:48am
are there any bands that are exclusively doing "traditional" bluegrass at a national level?

Depends on your definitions of "exclusively, "traditional" and "national level." I'd suggest Ralph Stanley, Del McCoury, Rhonda Vincent, and the Steep Canyon Rangers (with Steve Martin), as bands that play high-profile gigs, get wide media coverage, and yet play a style that is compatible with what one might term "traditional" bluegrass. Doesn't mean that they don't play music outside the strictest parameters of the genre, but most "trad" BG fans would be comfortable listening to their performances.

Other nationally-known acts like Alison Krause, Dailey & Vincent, Ricky Skaggs et. al. play some very bluegrass-derived material, but their sound is less "trad." I saw a Dailey & Vincent show recently that I would think most old-line bluegrass fans would have loved, but it had elements that were more "country" than "bluegrass."

johnny
May-01-2011, 1:38am
are there any bands that are exclusively doing "traditional" bluegrass at a national level?

Del McCoury, Bobby Osboure

I thought the article was great.

Dan Johnson
May-01-2011, 10:27am
Depends on your definitions of "exclusively, "traditional" and "national level."

Yep.

I guess I identify with Chris' article. A lot of younger musicians are trying hard to kind of cut out an identity in a noisy time. And sometimes it's tough to figure out where the music ends and the business begins. On some level the business has become the instrument.

That said, I think it's important to think about music from a musical perspective rather than a business one. And don't look back too much lest ye be turned to a pillar of salt.

AKmusic
May-02-2011, 11:55am
To me these words point directly to a move towards commercialization.

Newly empowered with a vision of bigger shows, standing clubs and huge sound/lights, we were ready to put our music in a setting where it would come to life. This ideal gig setting would surely bring out the best in us, attracting the right fans, the fans we are after, and the scene would grow. It was obvious that we needed to project something new in our marketing message to the world.

We needed to build it. But this was a significant departure from the scene we’d been a part of, and there were real concerns about alienating existing fans. These great new gigs would not be so great if they didn’t make us any money and the band broke up. As we got to know our new fans (this is key) we learned that if we were to create a big party show, it had to be that show every time. At big shows, fans are there to see you but also to be part of the scene. A fan who expects to drink beers and talk to their friends will not be happy if they have to sit in silence at a PAC. That fan might never come to see you again, or they might tell 20 friends if they see you in the right setting/scene. The transition would have to be very deliberate, definitely a leap of faith. Some fans would make the switch with us, and some would not, but that process of natural selection turned out to be a healthy one. We want people who want to be in that setting with us. They are music lovers (1), and they are a key component to success when they get involved in the shows and get behind the band. So how do we get the ball rolling with these fans and get to this bigger scene that we’ve decided we want to be a part of?

1. I disagree, they are not “music lovers” as I think of “music lovers”– and he even says as much just a few sentences earlier – they are “party lovers” with money to spend. Your music only provides the backdrop they like to have for the party, but the event is more about the party than the music. At best, your music is the excuse they need for having the party. And their money makes for financial success. Commerical success – it makes business sense more than artistic sense. Sorry – but in my eyes there is no way around it.

Big promoters want hype, real numbers and a branding that looks big time. As you grow in size, a huge part of the game is educating promoters in the world you want to to be a part of, putting your truest/best foot forward to get on the right shows, the shows that will grow your band. If they’ve never heard you, do you want them to think you are a bluegrass band? Not if you want to portray the image of a rising act capable of playing huge rooms to huge crowds, because right now that’s just not what bluegrass is, not what it wants to be. Bluegrass is pure musical integrity, heavy on history and culture, but light on business savvy/stature. So we had to change it up.

Flexibility is now a central part of our business philosophy.

Question is – is all of this “evil”? Again, I can see how easy it would be for someone to say yes, but we should all understand why it goes this way. Fame and financial success can be very appealing, it's natural to want to realize your potential. And the justification for going in this direction is an easy case to make. I can’t fault folks for wanting to do it when it’s laid out in front of them and made so easy to pick up.

Listen - It’s their decision – not ours. Let them call themselves bluegrass if they want to, or let them deny they ever knew bluegrass if they want to… It’s their journey and they are the ones that will have to deal more with the consequences than anyone else.

But I truly do not believe for an instant that Bluegrass music is going to rise or fall on the coat tails of any one band’s future.

Charlieshafer
May-02-2011, 5:24pm
Listen - It’s their decision – not ours. Let them call themselves bluegrass if they want to, or let them deny they ever knew bluegrass if they want to… It’s their journey and they are the ones that will have to deal more with the consequences than anyone else.

I'm not quite sure what the consequences would be.. income? Fame? Failure? Does it matter? And is the curve and chance of success any greater for a traditional vs. neo-traditional band? I'm betting not. Is I said in an earlier post, everyone starts out as an unheard-of act, small, hopeful that they might scratch out a living for a year or two, tour around, see the country. The ones that have a greater chance of success start with a musical vision, and stick to it. Others provide the labels. After that, what leads to success is in most cases nothing but luck. Why did the Avett Brothers make it so big when The Mammals, who played much the same style ten years earlier, didn't? Why do some traditional bluegrass bands make it big, while others just flounder with limited success, even though the talent is there? There's no real answer. If, however, as in the case of the Stringdusters and others, opportunity presents itself, and you can still play the sort of music you started out with, who wouldn't jump at the chance? With the endless hours of rehearsal, the dollars spent traveling, motel costs, rental car costs, and all the other associated expenses, how can you begrudge anyone the decision to go "big time?"

As to whether or not an audience consists of "music lovers" I don't think you can argue that, either. They're paying money to see a band they like. They can just as easily go hear different music at a local bar, hang out at a pool hall, whatever. Plenty of opportunities to party exist, but they chose to do it at a specific concert. Bluegrass festivals are no different. You can hear that music anywhere, but we choose to go to a festival largely because of the atmosphere.

It's a big tent.

AKmusic
May-02-2011, 6:30pm
I'm not quite sure what the consequences would be.. income? Fame? Failure? Does it matter? And is the curve and chance of success any greater for a traditional vs. neo-traditional band? I'm betting not. Is I said in an earlier post, everyone starts out as an unheard-of act, small, hopeful that they might scratch out a living for a year or two, tour around, see the country. The ones that have a greater chance of success start with a musical vision, and stick to it. Others provide the labels. After that, what leads to success is in most cases nothing but luck. Why did the Avett Brothers make it so big when The Mammals, who played much the same style ten years earlier, didn't? Why do some traditional bluegrass bands make it big, while others just flounder with limited success, even though the talent is there? There's no real answer. If, however, as in the case of the Stringdusters and others, opportunity presents itself, and you can still play the sort of music you started out with, who wouldn't jump at the chance? With the endless hours of rehearsal, the dollars spent traveling, motel costs, rental car costs, and all the other associated expenses, how can you begrudge anyone the decision to go "big time?"

As to whether or not an audience consists of "music lovers" I don't think you can argue that, either. They're paying money to see a band they like. They can just as easily go hear different music at a local bar, hang out at a pool hall, whatever. Plenty of opportunities to party exist, but they chose to do it at a specific concert. Bluegrass festivals are no different. You can hear that music anywhere, but we choose to go to a festival largely because of the atmosphere.

It's a big tent.
Goodness Charles. You're preaching to the choir. As I said earlier - if you read anything negative into what I am saying - it is your doing - not mine, you're putting it there.

Did you not catch the tenor of what I said? Did I not say: "it's their decision"; "it's their journey"; and whatever consequences there are as a result - affects them more than anyone else. And it is not going to change the course of bluegrass history. So, why sweat it?

No, I don't blame them for seizing the opportunity they are being offered. I said as much. I understand why they are doing it. It's hard to say "no" when you are being courted with the prospect of wealth and fame.

And yes, I do believe they have changed their music in order to take it in this new direction. They are not playing the same music in the same way they were when they first started. Why else would there be all this fuss if they haven't changed? Now - I didn't say I didn't like their music - if you think I'm speaking against them when I say all this - that's only an impression you're creating for yourself.

And yes - I can argue that those who come to party and drink beer and talk to their friends while the band plays (as they describe it) are not "music lovers" when I add the caveat: "as I think of "music lovers". And I will be pleased to give my definition if anyone is interested in hearing it. I've been there (along with a lot of others). I've played plenty of places where the crowd is noisy, rowdy, and do all they can to talk above your performance - it is a social scene, not a concert. Some bands love it - but have you ever tried to make that work with mic'ed acoustic instruments? I will be glad to outline all the problems and opportunties that it creates for you and the band you play with.

I accept that you may love the kind of music that compliments that kind of party atmosphere. There are a lot of folks who do, but I have a hard time classifying it as "music appreciation". To me it's nothing more than "party time". Again if you think my words or opinions are harsh - that is of your making. I've been to those parties. They have their place - and in the past, I had my fun too - both playing and partying. But we are not talking about the same thing here, are we?

And again, don't mistake me for some dyed in the wool - hardcore - devout traditionalist. I said earlier that if you saw our set list you would not get the impression that we were interested in playing tradtional bluegrass. Contemporary? Yes. Our latest addtion to the set list is an a cappella / instrumental version of Sam Cooke's song "Bring It On Home To Me". We are banjo, mando, guitar, upright bass, and our fiddler is due back home soon (yea!!!) We are known as a bluegrass band (there is a history), but we don't really care about what name you give us. Just come and enjoy.

And I can give you examples of what the "big tent" / "all inclusive" music scene can result in - if you are interested in hearing about it.

Charlieshafer
May-02-2011, 7:15pm
Ah, then I misunderstood your intent. I just couldn't figure out what the consequences of anything musical were. Usually it's an alcohol-related consequence in the form of a headache.

sgarrity
May-02-2011, 10:34pm
Call it what you want. I just think it's good music!

Ivan Kelsall
May-03-2011, 2:43am
It's mostly new stuff that these bands do,much of it their own work & i love it as much from the 'instrumental virtuosity' angle, as the songs / tunes themselves. As i hinted in my previous post,we can't carry on listening to 'Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane' & such 'trad.songs ad infinitum. Personally,as much as i still love the trad.style,it's bands such as the 'Stringdusters' & others who are keeping the interest going,both in the 'style' (Bluegrass 'allied') & the instruments used. They have to make a living doing it or they're gone !. For me,their accepting whatever is on offer & taking a financially secure route to enable them to carry on, is just fine,& long may they succeed,
Ivan

mandolino maximus
May-03-2011, 11:00am
Bluegrass is fascinating in that the evolution is all within recent memory and largely recorded. For example, the thread here tracing Bury Me Beneath The Willow Tree back to the age Before Bluegrass (BBG?) to the present reflects on this post. Maybe it's parallell to classical or jazz evolutions taking folk / dance music and expanding. I may be able to wait a while longer before we get to the atonal bluegrass songbook or a more formless dissonance like some progressive jazz, though. It seems that the musical palate even when looking for something newer to the ear will often prefer something like choro that still has a "root" than to something more "intellectually progressive." Other genres have already demonstrated that there really are points where enough is enough.

Good to see Andy Falco back on his feet in the Merlefest video.

AKmusic
May-03-2011, 1:11pm
These were the thoughts I had when I suggested that this evolution of the business end has the potential of commercializing bluegrass to a point where it morphs the same way country music did - no resemblance to its roots and only designed to have a greater appeal to a biggest audience possible who are willing to spend a buck on the latest hook or catchy, clever chorus line.

It might not be the "same road", but it is (imo) a road headed in the same direction. And again - if you think I'm slamming this new direction - it's all in your head. I'm just telling you what I see - no commentary.

Party music can be "fun" when you want to party - but I will be quick to say that I am truly grateful for those who want to carry forward a tradition that deserves to be preserved. Its hard for me to find fault with anyone's intention to preserve a tradition - bluegrass or any other genre.

"As i hinted in my previous post,we can't carry on listening to 'Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane' & such 'trad.songs ad infinitum."

Really? Why not? You might not like it enough to want to hear it for the next 10 years (or even 10 minutes), but who is the "we" you are referring to? Your words suggest that this traditional stuff is being forced on unwilling folks - when you know that isn't true. There are folks who do want to continue listening to Little Old Log Cabin In the Lane, et al? And they make up a very large constituency within the "world of bluegrass" and they want to keep that sound alive - the way they like it. The business of slamming or denying the other side is a 2 way street. Let's not be guilty of doing the very thing "we" are are angry at "them" for doing.

Ivan Kelsall
May-04-2011, 12:14am
Quote from AK - "There are folks who do want to continue listening to Little Old Log Cabin In the Lane, et al ? ". I hope you didn't misunderstand me,i'm one of those people,but i'd be very short sighted if i couldn't realise what a lifeline the newer bands are to Bluegrass & it's associated music. Sooner or later all us diehard 'Bluegrassers' are going to be gone to the great pickin' parlour in the sky. Whether the generation after us supports trad. Bluegrass as much as we do, will remain to be seen & sooner or later,wer'e going to have to admit that apart from very 'hardcore' Bluegrass addicts,trad.style Bluegrass is going to be cut very short,in the same way that other past music styles have. Something will take it's place & i can't think of anything i'd like more than a band of high class instrumentalists,doing their own style of Bluegrass 'associated' music with maybe a few old numbers thrown in. As it is,many of the current 'trad.style' Bluegrass bands aren't playing the 'old' songs & tunes,they're playing their own new songs & tunes.
I think that for many younger players,the instrumental virtuosity of these bands is as big (if not bigger) attraction than the music per se,& it's the playing that they want to emulate.
Personally,i think that currently trad.Bluegrass music is as popular as ever with us 'older' persons & many youngsters as well,but the foundations of 'what comes after' we're no longer here,are being laid right now. Whether eventually the 'new' styles will replace the old styles & to what degree,remains for the youngsters out there to decide. One thing i'm absolutely certain of, is that future players will remember where their music originated & who with,
Ivan

AKmusic
May-04-2011, 10:37am
Yes. I agree. It's their future. They get to decide. And like other genres of music, there will always be those who will "champion the cause" for both extremes - tradition or progressive. Unfortunately, dollars from the wider supporting audience (for the most part) is what usually determines the fame and fortune for either. But you'll never totally silence either extreme. And that really is a good thing - imo.

I think the thing I have the most trouble with is the "us" & "them" attitude. I understand why the conversations go that way - but we aren't at war, and folks shouldn't be thinking in terms of a competition to determine who the winner is going to be. But how do you keep that from happening?

And at the same time - we don't need to have a love fest or a group hug under the big tent either - just to prove how "inclusive" and progressive we can be. I am willing to sit through a performance that I don't want to hear, just so I can be there for the following act that I really do want to hear - but I don't "want" to have to do that. Yeap, that's me being selfish. I usually prefer to have things my way.

But alas, as much as we might resist - things are going to be what things are going to be...

mandopete
May-04-2011, 12:06pm
"Call it what you want. I just think it's good music!"



I agree!

Keep on truckin' -

"Gotta Colt 45
Gotta F-5 mandolin
It's gotta crack down the middle
It doesn't matter at all!"

BTW where does that song come from? I know it's not the Eddie Kendricks version. That would make a good song for a jam session.

mandopete
May-04-2011, 12:19pm
If any of you here on this thread get a chance to catch the Dierks Bentley "Up On The Ridge" concert on the Great American Country (GAC) channel you might get a glimpse of what Chris Pandolfi is talking about.

AKmusic
May-04-2011, 1:18pm
"Call it what you want. I just think it's good music!"

I agree!

Me 2!

Willie Poole
May-04-2011, 2:46pm
Just this past weekend my band played a new place that is having bluegrass every Sunday afternoon, they have had some of the "Newer" bands in there for the past four weeks and when we played after our first set I wandered out into the crowd and asked if they had any requests and not a one asked for any songs other than traditional bluegrass songs.....They said the other four bands that played there weren`t anywhere near the bluegrass sound that they wanted to hear...The manager isn`t a bluegrass fan by any means and didn`t really know what bluegrass is/was, after we played and he came up to pay me he said he had never heard the music that we played and that he liked it and has booked us in once a month for the next four months and says we will probably be booked longer as soon as he sees how well bluegrass goes over since he is a new owner....When we did play a song that was considered new to the bluegrass sound the crowd didn`t respond very much but when we played some Flatt and Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Jimmy Martin, Stanleys songs they really whooped and hollered and sang along on most of the chourses....To me that shows that there are people that want to hear traditional bluegrass and the other stuff can go to h--- as far as they are concerned...Myself personally, I like just about all kinds of music and can listen to it all BUT when I go to see a bluegrass concert I want to hear a traditional sound, it don`t have to be all old songs, just have the traditional sound, as for me I can`t stand to see a show that has mixed traditional and then the new stuff together...I also like to hear the words to a song and not have the instruments so loud that they are covering up the vocals...THAT AIN`T TRADITIONAL....The instruments are suppose to accompny the singer(s), not the other way around...I hear some new bands that have all of the instruments playing as loud when someone is singing as they are when they are taking a break, I got rid of a real good banjo player because he didn`t /wouldn`t step back from his mic when we were singing...I do quite a few songs that don`t need loud music behind me and he just wouldn`t let up so I pulled a Donald Trump on him....

Thanks for letting me get my two cents in....

Willie

AKmusic
May-04-2011, 7:04pm
I truly love traditional Bluegrass. I'm still involved with another great bunch of folks that played more traditional bluegrass for a number of years - what I would consider traditional anyway. But circumstances have keep us from being active for over a year now. I look forward to a time when we can get back to playing. I really enjoyed it. But I'm very satisfied with the current band I'm hooked up with.

It's good that you have a crew that wants to work for you. But I gotta be honest with you Willie - I don't think I'd last long playing in your band. Nevertheless, I am glad you're out there.

I'm sure I would enjoy your show. Not so sure if you would enjoy ours. But that's quiet alright.

Keep 'em straight Willie! ...and thanks for the 2 cents!

mandopete
May-04-2011, 7:36pm
Not for nothing, but sometimes playing traditional bluegrass is like comfort food.

Dan Johnson
May-04-2011, 9:39pm
as far as two cents goes... I think what makes all those Bill Monroe and Flatt and Scruggs and Jimmy Martin songs so darn good is that they're simple, they're direct, they're rhythmically awesome, and they don't have too many chords... until some of the new guys figure out how to write a song with three chords that feels and sounds immediate, they're not going to do anything more important than what's been done.

Ivan Kelsall
May-05-2011, 1:35am
From my personal point of view,if i were fortunate enough to be able to get together a bunch of good pickers to form a band,i think i'd want to play maybe 80% trad.Bluegrass,but i'd sure like to play some of the 'new' stuff as well. There are some really good songs & instrumentals being put together by the 'newcomers' ie. the song "You Can't Handle The Truth" & the instrumental "Chopping Can",both by the " ' Stringdusters". http://youtu.be/RgQ-8qpuxcM
http://youtu.be/gjJTQ8VG9ic
At the risk of causing a rukus on here,for me,AKUS,who seem to have a lot of fans,is exactly where i DON'T want Bluegrass to go. At least,many of the new bands steer clear of that particular style & thank goodness for that (IMHO),
Ivan

AKmusic
May-05-2011, 9:20am
At the risk of causing a rukus on here,for me,AKUS,who seem to have a lot of fans,is exactly where i DON'T want Bluegrass to go. At least,many of the new bands steer clear of that particular style & thank goodness for that (IMHO),
Awww, now you've gone and done it Mister Rukus Master! ;)

Just like any other band out there, there are songs AKUS does that I like, songs I really like, and songs I don't care for - at all.

I'm sure there are those out there that think she has no place in Bluegrass, simply because she's a a lady. :whistling:

:popcorn:

mandopete
May-05-2011, 9:27am
I'm sure there are those out there that think she has no place in Bluegrass, simply because she's a a lady.

Now you're the ruckus master!

:)

adgefan
May-05-2011, 10:29am
This seems an appropriate place to post this.

This is what young people got up to in the student concert at last month's Sore Fingers Week bluegrass camp in England. The passage of time, generation gaps and geographical separation sees the music evolve in all sorts of strange ways... ;)


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmX6Rz3NbeA

Alex Orr
May-05-2011, 11:28am
as far as two cents goes... I think what makes all those Bill Monroe and Flatt and Scruggs and Jimmy Martin songs so darn good is that they're simple, they're direct, they're rhythmically awesome, and they don't have too many chords... until some of the new guys figure out how to write a song with three chords that feels and sounds immediate, they're not going to do anything more important than what's been done.
I agree 100%.

I've mentioned this before (and caught some flack for it) but I think one of the reasons I don't like contemporary bluegrass is that the songs mostly suck. Lots of good pickers, but lots of really mediocre-to-bad songwriters. Granted one man's sickening schmaltz is another person's touching and well crafted ballad, but for me, the genius in a lot of those older songs is that really used a "less is more approach" to lyrics with great effect.

Also, the older stuff just seemed to have a grit and a bite that I don't hear much anymore. The smoother sounds just sound like really bad contemporary country music with bluegrass instrumentation. One culprit I blame is a lack blues and atonality in modern bluegrass. Too much note-y mando playing and not enough chunky, biting, bluesy, Monroe style picking.

Also, I HATE bluegrass bands who rework rock songs that have no business being done as BG tunes. Sure, a few have similar enough lineages that you can do it, but in most cases, it's just awful. The Stringdusters cover of U2's "In God's Country" is beyond painful to hear. I won't even get into that Ziggy Stardust thing. As someone who loves '70s Bowie and glam-rock that was...well...the language I would like to use is not permitted on these boards.


Anyway, that had little to do with Chris's article...just my $.02 :)

AlanN
May-05-2011, 11:49am
Also, I HATE bluegrass bands who rework rock songs that have no business being done as BG tunes.

I know what you're saying and can empathize, but that is too sweeping of a statement, if you look at the totality of what's been done in the past:

Jim and Jesse on Chuck Berry tunes
Virginia Squires on Hooked On A Feelling
NGR on Great Balls Of Fire, some others
David Harvey with the Moody Bluegrass
and many others

And don't get me wrong, the Pickin' On.... thingies leave me cold. A notable execption was Wake The Dead (or something). But who am I to say. You can HATE who you want to.

Mike Bunting
May-05-2011, 1:53pm
Anyone see David Lee Roth on Lettermen last year sometime? He sang a song he did with Van Halen (I think that's the group), Jump, I think it was called. He was doing it with a bluegrass band of the first order. The band looked bored as hell and it's definitely a song that doesn't make it in a bluegrass context. On top of that, Roth's performance was pathetic, not a clue about what he was doing. It looked like a movie about a washed up lounge singer trying to make a comeback (and failing miserably).

JEStanek
May-05-2011, 2:22pm
The David Lee Roth Jump was on Strummin' with the Devil (http://www.amazon.com/Strummin-Devil-Bluegrass-Tribute-Halen/dp/B000CEV4RM/ref=pd_sim_m_1). It was discussed in several threads (http://www.google.com/search?q=Strummin+With+The+Devil+site%3Awww.mandol incafe.com%2Fforum&hl=en&num=10&lr=&ft=i&cr=&safe=images) at the time.

Jamie

Alex Orr
May-05-2011, 2:57pm
I know what you're saying and can empathize, but that is too sweeping of a statement, if you look at the totality of what's been done in the past:

Jim and Jesse on Chuck Berry tunes
Virginia Squires on Hooked On A Feelling
NGR on Great Balls Of Fire, some others
David Harvey with the Moody Bluegrass
and many others

And don't get me wrong, the Pickin' On.... thingies leave me cold. A notable execption was Wake The Dead (or something). But who am I to say. You can HATE who you want to.
The Jim and Jesse songs were alright. I don't hate them, but they seem like novelty tunes. There are literally dozens and dozens of things I'd rather hear by them.

I just listened to the NGR tune and again, it just seems like a novelty song. Honestly, it sounds sort've silly and ridiculous to my ears.

I will say this about both of those tunes though: they are solidly blues/early R&B based tunes which means they draw from some of the same roots as bluegrass...notably the blues. Same with the Dead, who also drew from bluegrass and roots stuff enough to make the crossover less forced if a BG band decided to cover one of their tunes.

As far as "Hooked On a Feeling", I've never heard the cover, but I think the original is devoid of any redeemable thing whatsoever, so I'm sure I'd hate the cover. I've never heard a Moody Blues song I could stand, so I'm sure the bluegrass covers wouldn't do much for me either. I've heard Doc Watson do "Nights In White Satin" several times in concert and it just sounded awful IMO.

I'm having a hard time thinking of an example that I thought really worked. Okay... I liked Red Allen and the Kentuckians' take on "When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again", perhaps more than the Elvis original. Oh, and Alison Krauss does a MUCH better version of "Oh, Atlanta" than Bad Company.

I honestly just think it's something of a form and function issue. Most rock songs are not formulated to function in a bluegrass setting. Sure, you can do it, but to my ear, it almost always sounds forced and awkward. If it does work, or comes close, it's usually on songs that have some of the same basic elements as bluegrass.

Charlieshafer
May-05-2011, 3:48pm
Well, there's always Richard Thompson's "52 Vincent Black Lightning" with Del McCoury covering. Both versions are fantastic. But on the whole, covers tend to leave me a little cold as well. For the really musically eclectic, a notable failure was trying to blend a symphonic orchestra with a blues band, by William Russo, in his "3 pieces for Blues Band and Orchestra." Talk about novelty. it's worth trying to find a way to listen to it (without buying it, if you can) just so you can say you've heard something worse than bluegrass covers of the Archies. Yummy yummy yummy.

AlanN
May-05-2011, 4:02pm
I just listened to the NGR tune and again, it just seems like a novelty song. Honestly, it sounds sort've silly and ridiculous to my ears.


That is funny, and now that you mention it...but, you gotta admit, Sam's solo is pretty darn good.





I've never heard a Moody Blues song I could stand, so I'm sure the bluegrass covers wouldn't do much for me either. I've heard Doc Watson do "Nights In White Satin" several times in concert and it just sounded awful IMO.



Actually, that is the one tune that works best by them, to my ears. And Mike Garris' version is the best I've heard of the grassers.

And the New Grass boys did good on I'm Down. But mostly, I agree with you. Yet, for many listeners, and to broaden the appeal, rock songs - particularly live - can be crowd pleasers.

Markus
May-05-2011, 4:22pm
FAt the risk of causing a rukus on here,for me,AKUS,who seem to have a lot of fans,is exactly where i DON'T want Bluegrass to go.

I agree, and it's nothing to do with it being a lady singing. I know of two local bluegrass bands with female singers who do it right ... to my ear, AKUS is country with bluegrass instrumentation. I don't mean to knock the musicianship going on there, I am not saying I think they aren't incredibly talented - but to my ear, it ain't bluegrass [or rarely are].

And they are not alone, there's been a lot of country crossover to my ear and it's something that personally is a turnoff [love old country, but it ain't that].

I see two kinds of bluegrass, `in the tradition of' which hews close to the original sound, and `inspired by' which fits a whole lot more [all the people I complain about, bluegrass gospel, newgrass too]. As far as I see myself, and what I think Pandolfi argues, is that `inspired by' is artificially limited.

So it goes. I've learned that IBMA awards and the title `bluegrass' is not a brand that is worth anything to me as it confuses what the McCoury's deliver every show with people who play other music with bluegrass instrumentation [yet, leaves out the groups that in some cases interest me].

I see a big tent as a useful thing, as it doesn't wedge fans like me outside of the bluegrass world - picking out some acts to pay attention to but for the most part, after a decade, burned on that classification as I've gotten excited and paid good money for shows that ain't no part of nothin' as far as I'm concerned.

And needing to look outside of bluegrass, to find the outcaste bluegrass bands which in many cases sound more interesting to my ear than official bands. In my opinion, that's branding gone awry as over time a brand I liked I am disassociating myself with.

I'm going to be picking at least one Monroe tune every day for the next years and decades to come ... whatever the IBMA decides to do to bluegrass. I realized long ago that my tastes are my tastes - often I like stuff that falls outside the lines and that doesn't mean everything needs to be redefined for me.

Dagger Gordon
May-05-2011, 4:34pm
I thought Jody Stecher's interview on Mandolin Cafe last August was very good, and he made some interesting remarks about bluegrass when discussing the new CD he has made with the Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band.

I particularly liked this section:

"Mandolin Cafe: This is a bluegrass recording but we're hearing a fair amount of early country blues and pre-bluegrass influence that suits your background and musical interests. But those are our words. How would you describe this project to someone that had not yet heard it?

Jody Stecher: Good repertoire. The songs are about family and relationships, parents and children, about love familial, romantic, love conjugal and comical, and love divine and universal. This CD ought to answer the complaints that bluegrass songs rarely touch on subjects relevant to life in the 21st century. The recording presents a band with a unique sound and a unified aesthetic. The playing and singing is decidedly personal. The vocal blend is superb and the harmonies are sometimes surprising. Only a band of individuals well-steeped in classic bluegrass could have made this recording, but this is new music. That's what the original bluegrass music was. It was a root steeped music for and by young people or older people with young flexible minds. This is a recording of a bluegrass band playing a version of bluegrass music that reflects the original influences that made bluegrass bluegrass. Country blues and real rural country music were a stronger presence in early bluegrass bands than they have typically been in last few decades. But I'll tell you, I just got back from a week teaching and playing at RockyGrass and I met and picked for hours with some very skilled young bluegrass musicians whose ears are wide open to the past, future, and sideways, so I think the future of bluegrass is brighter than it was a decade ago. On stage with the band I looked out at the audience and was so happy to see so many rapt young faces in the front row, and that it seemed they really responded to our music."


"Country blues and real rural country music were a stronger presence in early bluegrass bands than they have typically been in last few decades".

I think that's true, and it was much better.

AKmusic
May-05-2011, 4:38pm
What would you call Fox On The Run?

draino
May-05-2011, 4:41pm
I'm curious, what stylistic labels are sufficient to attract folks to a live performance. For example, "Hey, you should come out to this little shindig at the park on Friday evening. There's going to be live bluegrass." I could see someone responding to that with "Bluegrass? I love bluegrass!" and not even bother to ask who the performer is. However, if someone replaced bluegrass with "rock" or "hip-hop" or any of a bunch of other lables, I can't think of anyone that would be more inspired to attend the shindig without more knowledge about who the specific performer was/is. Jazz and blues are the only other stylistic labels that I can think of that, in and of themselves, might attract some people to a performance, or a recording, etc.

Does this mean that the label "bluegrass" has greater import than others? Does it simply mean that there are a lot of people that like seeing bluegrass performed, but don't know anything about the music, its performers, etc.? Is it because the definition of bluegrass has remained narrow enough that people typically know what they're getting (or think they know) when someone says "there's going to be live bluegrass!" Do any of these ramblings make sense?

Mike Bunting
May-05-2011, 4:54pm
Re: #125
Yummy yummy yummy.[/QUOTE]
I got love in my tummy.

This was by the 1920 Fruit Gum Company, and was written by a fellow who lives in Edmonton and has never lived it down.

Alex Orr
May-05-2011, 4:56pm
Well, there's always Richard Thompson's "52 Vincent Black Lightning" with Del McCoury covering.
Yeah, I thought about that one. That one is okay, though I really, really prefer the original. Speaking of Thompson, I've always been a bit shocked that "Waltzing's For Dreamers" hasn't been covered more often (or, really, at all) in the BG world. Alison Krauss could nail that one, assuming she didn't over-do the breathy vocal sentimentality.

FWIW, my favorite Richard Thompson cover is by the lovely Kate Rusby. Check out her version of "Whithered and Died"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gksMSyn10MQ

Also, how about this unintended thread derailment :whistling:

Charlieshafer
May-05-2011, 5:41pm
Re: #125
Yummy yummy yummy.
I got love in my tummy.

This was by the 1920 Fruit Gum Company, and was written by a fellow who lives in Edmonton and has never lived it down.[/QUOTE]

Oh, geez, you're right. How could I forget that. I was thinking of "Sugar Sugar" Poor guy. I hope the royalty checks have soothed his soul, at least just a little.

AlanN
May-05-2011, 5:45pm
That would be 1910 Fruit Gum Company

Charlieshafer
May-05-2011, 6:41pm
That would be 1910 Fruit Gum Company

Missed it twice. Thoroughly embarrassing. But who here remembers Napoleon 13, or whatever that guy called himself? "They're here they are they are, they're here they really are.."

allenhopkins
May-05-2011, 8:55pm
...Yet, for many listeners, and to broaden the appeal, rock songs - particularly live - can be crowd pleasers.

Nothing new about that; listen to 1960's-'70's Country Gentlemen recordings -- Clarence "Frogman" Henry's Ain't Got No Home, The World Is Waiting For the Sunrise, MTA, Yesterday, Banana Boat Song, a bunch of songs that audience members would have heard in other contexts, done bluegrass style, sometimes "tongue in cheek." Well done, material like that can be really enjoyable. Wasn't it Spectrum that had a "hit" with the Cyrkle's Red Rubber Ball?

Of course, this isn't where Pandolfi is going. It's not about taking non-bluegrass songs and playing them as bluegrass; it's about avoiding the "bluegrass" label, stretching out the songs, adding different material, and appealing to an audience outside of the BG festival/concert/club ambit. And wishing that the BG "establishment" (if that's the word) were a bit more accepting of experimentation and non-"trad" styles and formats. Issues that won't be addressed just by playing Lady GaGa's Bad Romance on mandolin and banjo.

Mike Bunting
May-05-2011, 10:51pm
That would be 1910 Fruit Gum Company
Ha! Right on!

Ivan Kelsall
May-06-2011, 12:26am
From AK music - "What would you call Fox On The Run ?" . Well,i'd call it one of the first ''NewGrass" 'style' songs.
Markus - 'lady' singers are my favourites in Bluegrass,apart from a few very good males vocalists - Dan Tyminski /Tim O'brien & a few others. Currently 2 of my favourites are Carrie Hassler & Amanda Smith. My aversion to AKUS is purely re. the music they put out. The band are some of the finest Bluegrass musicians out there, & for me,their talents are wasted on the stuff they do,but as has been said so many times on here,they have to make a,living & if that's what put bread on the table,so be it !. I don't have to buy it.
AllenH - I agree totally with you in respect that non-Bluegrass songs done in a 'tongue-in-cheek' manner, can be, & usually are very enjoyable,simply for the 'difference'. I've heard great versions of 2 songs by my all time favourite 'rocker' Buddy Holly, "Blue Days,Black Nights" & "It Doesn't Matter Any More",done in a Bluegrass style. They were very inventively played & terrific to listen to. I suppose the difference is that they were 'pop' songs done in a Bluegrass 'style' rather than 'true' Bluegrass - that's fine by me,as long as the 'style' & Instrumentation used is a Bluegrass line-up.
I love trad. Bluegrass & always will,but i love the newer bands as well, for the 'difference'. Listening to trad.Bluegrass all the time,to the exclusion of the new bands,for me, would be like reading books by only one author & neglecting every other author. 48 years back when i first came into Bluegrass music,trad.bands were all there were,but,i also had other music genres to listen to. A musical diet of ''trad.Bluegrass only'',wouldn't have suited me at all. Now we have a 'difference' within the 'general sphere' of Bluegrass,Newgrass or whatever you want to call it. Many of these bands excel in 'instrumental virtuosity', which for many,including myself,is a great attraction. It's very refreshing to hear the trad.instrumentation being used in a 'different' style of music,but still keeping the 'general' Bluegrass sound,
Ivan

Paul Cowham
May-06-2011, 4:10am
Isn't the state of bluegrass Kentucky?

ralph johansson
May-06-2011, 6:45am
Nothing new about that; listen to 1960's-'70's Country Gentlemen recordings -- Clarence "Frogman" Henry's Ain't Got No Home, The World Is Waiting For the Sunrise, MTA, Yesterday, Banana Boat Song, a bunch of songs that audience members would have heard in other contexts, done bluegrass style, sometimes "tongue in cheek." Well done, material like that can be really enjoyable. Wasn't it Spectrum that had a "hit" with the Cyrkle's Red Rubber Ball?



Their treatment of Yesterday was absolutely horrible. Sir Paul should have sued them. Sunrise - one of the very first BG recordings I heard, on a Starday sampler - was well in the tradition established by Reno&Smiley; the original, even daring, thing was that they never played the original melody. They even omitted most of the title, for copyright reasons, I suppose.

ralph johansson
May-06-2011, 6:55am
What would you call Fox On The Run?

It's already got a name! A song in itself belongs nowhere, e.g., "bluegrass" is what you do with it. Emerson&Waldron were the first to do it BG; they also did Proud Mary and If I Were A Carpenter. Wonder how serious they were about it. On my only trip to the USA I once jammed a bit with Emerson. He played Scruggs tunes almost exclusively.

More examples of songs from other traditions, done BG: Monroe recorded Sally-Jo, a rockabilly number, in 1957
(its composer played guitar on the session) also Milenberg Joys, a Dixieland number (learned from the Hoosier Hotshots), in 1976. Scruggs did Farewell Blues and Bugle Call Rag, also You Can't Stop Me From Loving You. And tunes like Down Yonder (L W Gilbert) and Silver Bell (P Wenrich), done by many BG acts, are old pop songs from around 1910.

ralph johansson
May-06-2011, 7:16am
If the genre developed by synthesis of several musicial sources (btw, old time was also developed from folk music from other sources) including blues and experimented with along the way (Bill Monroe and an organ), it has a natural tension between change and tradition built right into it from the beginning. I think the Stringdusters, generally so far, assimilate other forms of music into Bluegrass while other alt-bands are less concerned with the original genre.


A bit OT, but in all fairness it should be said that Monroe never "experimented" with an organ. Apart from Kentucky Waltz (which also had electric guitar) it was used only on gospel numbers, and always played by Owen Bradley, his producer (at least in practice). Monroe may very well have approved of this decision; although cheesy
(Angels Rock Me To Sleep!!!) the contribution of the organ was marginal. Typically, the I Saw The Light album was released in the name of Bill Monroe, no Bluegrass Boys, not even "Bluegrass Quartet".

And, while I'm at it, the two or three electric sessions were not Monroe's idea. They were an ill-conceived and disastrous attempt from Cohen and Bradley to make him something he wasn't. Owing to poor preparation Monroe also had to record a lot of material suggested by the producers, songs he never did again after recording them. Of course, almost none of today's Bluegrass is produced by the country music divisions of large companies.

Willie Poole
May-06-2011, 10:11am
I also see where Monroe was voted into "The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame", was that when he was still alive? It seems that was a slap in the face and a put down to "his" Bluegrass music....He did give his OK to Elvis recording Blue Moon Of Ky. though, why I don`t know....

Willie

mandopete
May-06-2011, 11:36am
He did give his OK to Elvis recording Blue Moon Of Ky. though, why I don`t know....

Two words - Pawrful Checks!

Wolfboy
May-06-2011, 11:38am
I also see where Monroe was voted into "The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame", was that when he was still alive?

Not quite - he was inducted in 1997, just a few months after he died.
http://rockhall.com/inductees/bill-monroe/bio/
http://rockhall.com/inductees/ceremonies/1997/


It seems that was a slap in the face and a put down to "his" Bluegrass music....

Why would you think that? The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame has a category for "Early Influences", and a quick ramble through the list of inductees reveals that a few of the others in that category are Woody Guthrie, Billie Holiday, Mahalia Jackson, The Ink Spots, Leadbelly, Jelly Roll Morton, Jimmie Rodgers, Pete Seeger and Hank Williams. No rockers in that list, but I can understand why the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would honor them (along with Monroe) for their influence on the genre.

mandopete
May-06-2011, 11:38am
I also see where Monroe was voted into "The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame", was that when he was still alive? Willie

1997

Mike Bunting
May-06-2011, 12:52pm
Why would you think that? The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame has a category for "Early Influences", and a quick ramble through the list of inductees reveals that a few of the others in that category are Woody Guthrie, Billie Holiday, Mahalia Jackson, The Ink Spots, Leadbelly, Jelly Roll Morton, Jimmie Rodgers, Pete Seeger and Hank Williams. No rockers in that list, but I can understand why the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would honor them (along with Monroe) for their influence on the genre.
Play some Chuck Berry licks on the mandolin to see the reason.

draino
May-06-2011, 1:12pm
Play some Chuck Berry licks on the mandolin to see the reason.

Do I read this to mean that the bluegrass tent is already so large as to encompass Rock n' Roll? i.e., Rock n' Roll is just a subgenre of bluegrass (or at least Chuck Berry was the very first NewGrasser)?

Mike Bunting
May-06-2011, 1:18pm
No, Chuck just stole licks from Monroe and adapted them to his music.

draino
May-06-2011, 1:21pm
I also see where Monroe was voted into "The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame", was that when he was still alive? It seems that was a slap in the face and a put down to "his" Bluegrass music....

I imagine there were plenty of early gospel, blues, and country musicians, styles to which folks point as the foundation of "his" bluegrass music, that would have been similarly offended to be associated with his fast raucous music.

Dan Johnson
May-06-2011, 1:31pm
No, Chuck just stole licks from Monroe and adapted them to his music.

I think there might be a few blues players who might have a different narrative... Let's not reduce any musician to a linear scope, either... We all listen widely, some moreso than others...

Mike Bunting
May-06-2011, 1:36pm
I think there might be a few blues players who might have a different narrative... Let's not reduce any musician to a linear scope, either... We all listen widely, some moreso than others...
True enough.
71861
That's Mance Lipscomb.

mandolino maximus
May-15-2011, 1:35pm
This video by Pandolfi and The Infamous Stringdusters has been staring me right in the face and serves as a prety suncinct summation of the band's attitude. And it's really really good "bluegrassish"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwAuZJsDXQE&feature=player_embedded

Not a bad attitude to live by. :)

jesserules
May-17-2011, 6:20pm
This video by Pandolfi and The Infamous Stringdusters has been staring me right in the face and serves as a prety suncinct summation of the band's attitude. And it's really really good "bluegrassish"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwAuZJsDXQE&feature=player_embedded

Not a bad attitude to live by. :)

they need to work on their vocal arrangements. Right now it sounds like 6 guys singing tenor. One of em needs to step up & be the lead singer, and the others need to learn tenor/baritone/bass harmony singing.

also, if guitar banjo fiddle mandolin and dobro are all going to play lead lines at the same time, get the bass player a p-bass & an amp so the poor guy has a chance to hold the sound together. the ol' dog house can't compete with all that.

stratman62
May-17-2011, 7:33pm
I could live with that sound and be proud of it

BradKlein
May-18-2011, 8:28am
That seems kind of harsh to me, too. Bass seems right in balance.

And to me it sounds like classic 3-part close harmony on the chorus, no? The lead singer keeps the lead, the fiddle player is singing tenor and the bass player, bari - or am I mistaken. (I admit I don't have the sharpest ear when it comes to harmony parts!)


they need to work on their vocal arrangements. Right now it sounds like 6 guys singing tenor. One of em needs to step up & be the lead singer, and the others need to learn tenor/baritone/bass harmony singing.

also, if guitar banjo fiddle mandolin and dobro are all going to play lead lines at the same time, get the bass player a p-bass & an amp so the poor guy has a chance to hold the sound together. the ol' dog house can't compete with all that.

jesserules
May-18-2011, 10:42am
mmm, no. compare the Monroe "Uncle Pen" live performance from the "New Country" show (also on youtube) for how 3 part harmony sounds. And the 'dusters def. need a lead vocalist. right now all they've got is a bunch of guys who can carry a tune in a "can also perform vocals if required" manner. their overall sound - going by the youtube live performances I've looked at - is just way too trebly, vocally and instrumentally.

Wolfboy
May-18-2011, 12:19pm
they need to work on their vocal arrangements. Right now it sounds like 6 guys singing tenor. One of em needs to step up & be the lead singer, and the others need to learn tenor/baritone/bass harmony singing.

Can't agree with you there. The lead singer sounds good and strong to me, and the harmonies sound perfectly solid. I thought the baritone singer holding an A against the lead's E and the tenor's G# on "that wind" before they resolved to a pure E major triad (B-E-G#) on the second syllable of "blowin'" was a particularly nice, creative harmonic touch. And they're singing accurate triad harmony everywhere else, with a lead/tenor/baritone trio setup, in a conventional bluegrass vocal range.


also, if guitar banjo fiddle mandolin and dobro are all going to play lead lines at the same time, get the bass player a p-bass & an amp so the poor guy has a chance to hold the sound together. the ol' dog house can't compete with all that.

The only time the guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin and dobro played lead simultaneously was at the very end, and that was in harmony. I'm pretty sure the bass player dropped out at that point for maximum contrast, just as he sat out most of the intro before entering. (Admittedly, I couldn't hear the bass too well, but I assume that's because of the crappy little computer speakers I'm listening on...I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt regarding their instrumental balance!) :)

Other than that: the intro was split between a dobro/guitar unison lead and a dobro/fiddle harmony, the first break was a three-way split between a dobro/fiddle unison, a banjo solo lead and a fiddle solo lead, the second break (after the bridge) was split between a mandolin solo lead and a guitar solo lead, and the outro was split between a dobro/fiddle unison and the aforementioned ensemble harmony without bass. I thought the instruments who weren't carrying or sharing the lead at any given time held the rhythm together just fine.

I'm not familiar with the Stringdusters' music (though this vid has definitely piqued my curiosity!) nor am I personally acquainted with any of the members, but I felt like I needed to speak up here in response to jesserules's comments. We're all entitled to our opinions, but to say such an obviously skilled, well-thought-out vocal trio "sounds like 6 guys singing tenor" and the group "need to learn tenor/baritone/bass harmony singing" seems uncomfortably close to trolling, IMO.

BradKlein
May-18-2011, 12:45pm
Nice post Robin. Thanks. I personally find a bit of analysis on melodies, harmonies and instrumental breaks really enlightening, even though I have only a wobbly foundation in music theory. I always appreciate when folks take the time to help me figure something out.

coletrickle
May-18-2011, 12:49pm
I'm with Robin. I am familiar with their music, and have seen them live (including a completely acoustic set not after Andy Falco joined). Their sound is well mixed and vocals are solid. As is the point of this entire thread, the traditional and very distinct three part harmonies done by early bluegrass groups is more of a rough framework for the Stringdusters vocal sound. In many respects their songwriting and singing is more in the rock vein than bluegrass. And, they do have three lead singers, because all three of them write songs. I like a good singer doing a cover of a good songwriter, but I also like a singer that takes a handle on their own lyrics.

I also think using this Youtube as the "example" to poke holes in their sound and singing is like using a pre-season game to measure a pro sports team's performance. This vid was obviously done for a radio station or some other formal media outlet. In all of the videos I have seen of this band on stage they use individual pick ups and have a very high tech set up with regards to amplification. They are playing into mics and sitting down for this one. I haven't seen them on a large festival stage...so I can't comment on how they sound in that setting.

bwachter70
May-19-2011, 10:02pm
So all the old time players complained about Monroe. Now all the Monroe "trad" bluegrass players can complain about the "jamgrass" players. And the next evolution of our music will complain about the jamgrassers.