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Thread: Bluegrass for the elderly

  1. #76
    Registered User Rex Hart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    Allen you made a good point. It does seem to be the listeners as opposed to the actual performers who tend to want to say what is or isn't Bluegrass. Most performers play what they want and let the people decide. Ricky Skaggs has numerous projects which can be described as Bluegrass and others that hardly qualify. He had a record out a few years back called Mosaic which is as good or better than anything he has ever done, but even he will tell you it wasn't Bluegrass. As long as there is "roots" based music around, whether you call it Bluegrass or not, there will always be players and an audience. There will always be people looking for something authentic when it comes to music. It's universal.
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    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    Quote Originally Posted by ralph johansson View Post

    By the 70's Bluegrass appeared to have painted itself into a corner of stylistic expectations, to the extent that any step out was a step into something else - already existing. Frankly, most of the "experimentation"
    was driven by survival rather than curiosity. When the commercial potential of these changes had been exhausted, and the situation for Bluegrass had brightened, many artists went back to their roots."
    I think everything Ralph said made sense, but I'll offer a different perspective on this part of his article. A different sort of energy came from up north, the New York City area, and down into Galax, and East Tennessee State's Bluegrass course refers to this exodus as "Jewgrass" which is a perfectly accurate representation (even Jay Ungar refers to himself as a "Jewish kid from the Bronx"). A look at all the early hippie bands that formed and competed at Galax will show that many are still quite active and influential. There's Brad Leftwich, John Specker from Queens, an early teacher to Bruce Molsky, all the Horseflies, some of the Highwoods gang, etc.

    Why this matters is that they were interested far more in experimentation than commercial success. The first record that's sort of accorded "the birth of Newgrass" status was John Hartford's Steam Powered Aereoplain from 1971, a loose jam-based experimental album if there ever was one. 1975 marks the David Grisman Quintet's birth, and that powerhouse band was much more of an intellectual experiment than simple a commercial enterprise. Those guys could have chosen to play anything, but went a quite different route.

    Richard Greene's Duets record, Darol Anger's Fiddlistics, Vassar Clements country jazz records, all were a labor of love and a decided step away from what could make them the most money. Those that wanted to make some cash went more Nashville mainstream, like Ricky Scagg's brief foray into country music. At least in Ricky's case, the tunes were good (at least liked them...) Anyway, it's during that time period that things really started to split from the genre-specific norm, and stuff was flying everywhere. Most of it was purely experimental; if you wanted to make money you were in Nashville, L.A., or NYC, and you were doing country or pop.

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  5. #78

    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandoplumb View Post
    I don’t see how you could call Stanley Brothers citybillies. Have you ever listened to Carter, folks from the big cities can’t even understand him he’s so country. I’ll agree a lot of what they sang was old country or Old Time but was done with a pretty good drive, if you want to say it wasn’t BG I disagree but can see where you are coming from but they would have to be hillbilly.
    I don't think Ralph's (Johansson) intent was to categorize the Stanley Brothers as citybillies. I believe he meant that they (Ralph and Carter) were idolized by citybillies. That's what I got out of it anyway.
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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    28 posts after the " What is..." gauntlet was dropped and no one has made many comments about age and the music since.
    As for the original BG for the elderly comment,
    The fans have simply aged, just like the performers, some have aged and died like the performers. Go look at the average age at a Bob Seeger show, it's the same kind of thing. We only think we are unique! (Well, we are but we know it!)
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    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    Well, Tim is right, so I'll agree: bluegrass fans are dying off. There, you have it. And the kids want to do different stuff. Here's a very telling video about what kids with bluegrass instruments want to do. Can't get much clearer than this.


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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    I see snare drum!
    Reference to the Marty Stuart goes to the moon thread in video forum.

    Interesting, but then, so is haggis (I'm told)
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  10. #82

    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlieshafer View Post
    Well, Tim is right, so I'll agree: bluegrass fans are dying off. There, you have it. And the kids want to do different stuff. Here's a very telling video about what kids with bluegrass instruments want to do. Can't get much clearer than this.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOPxHFiMrUM
    Well that was some different music! I actually didn't mind it at all, it was kinda interesting.

    It looks like that same band also is capable of playing 'normal' stuff too, they certainly have the rhythm down in the following video "Angeline The Baker", don't know if it's "bluegrass" (there is a 3-finger banjo style, but no mandolin) ... good toe-tapping dance music IMO:


    (or direct link)

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  12. #83
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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    Ya’ll are looking at the “now” music, just as in my youth there was an acoustic rock that most of my generation were going to, and the old folks said they hated it but BG as we have known it is dead. Now I’m the old folks and the tendency is to think BG as we know it is dead. When I really think about it I’m convinced that it will never die and equally convinced that very few (read none) will get rich playing it as those who play commercial music. I’m old enough to remember Bonnie and Clyde and the interest in BG that the movie made, not long after music for the masses was commercial, then came Deliverance, ditto. A few years later came Old Brother Where Art Thou. I read articles telling how people were coming to their roots and wanted their music simpler and this music ( which by the way was pre-bluegrass) was here to stay. I took that as so much B## Sh##. The problem is that real musicians play music for music sake, in any genre, commercial music is played to sell and the powers that be tell you what that is. Hardcore musicians of any kind don’t listen so good so record labels, promoters, etc can’t control them so the shun them, always have been that way, always will. Real BG will never be commercial but it will never die out.

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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    Nothing is constant but change.
    Well put Mandoplumb! I remember all three of the “Great movie impacts” you mention. All of them did spark a little interest but mostly failed in providing much more than a smattering of exposure. It was a sound track, not any more broadscoped educational tool than watching a WWII action in the north Atlantic movie will tell your u anything about real experience in those waters. If you want to learn about the music, what North Atlantic squall survival or anything is like, you can’t expect to know it all from the movies, you need to get wet, get calluses, get first hand exposure.
    Sorry, that changed course yet again! I need more coffee.
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  15. #85

    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    Finding myself simultaneously amused and baffled by the posters who believe "That isn't bluegrass" means "That isn't good music".

    I like the MC5.

    I do not consider the MC5 to be a bluegrass band.

    But WAIT! Can BOTH of those statements possibly be true?

    Yes.


    Signed,

    Just somebody who doesn't see the upside to using the term "bluegrass" for "any music played on acoustic instruments".

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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    Good music is good music within any genre (that I like at the moment, I suppose) poorly executed music is excrement and something I avoid, I do not force what I enjoy on others and expect mutual adoration for the genre. The opposite of that is often true, I will listen to what someone wants to share with me and either accept or discard it.
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    I`ll also be honest about this subject....I don`t like all bluegrass music, and I do like other kinds of music, but only if it is played with taste and played where instruments are well balanced and vocals the same...I like to do the mixing on CD`s when my band makes them, but that comes with being the leader of the band and not everyone will like what I like...I have listened to some older bluegrass recordings that I couldn`t stand and the same songs being recorded by folks like Skaggs and Cliff Waldron make them sound a lot better mainly because of the attention being paid to the mixing and of course much better sound equipment.....That being said I also hear that some of the older folks like to listen to old records as opposed to listening to CD`s, I guess it is because that is what they had when they were growing up, I know I have a lot of LP`s and I love that sound myself...I guess I am older than most of you...Enjoy what you like but don`t give up on traditional bluegrass, it is truly American music...

    Willie

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  19. #88
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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    Quote Originally Posted by FLATROCK HILL View Post
    I don't think Ralph's (Johansson) intent was to categorize the Stanley Brothers as citybillies. I believe he meant that they (Ralph and Carter) were idolized by citybillies. That's what I got out of it anyway.

    You got it right. The Stanley Brothers also appeared at the first Newport Folk Festival.


    I forget who arranged the European tour in 1966, but it was centered on the New Lost City Ramblers, with John Cohen doing much of the talking (or, you might say, lecturing). The other participants were Cousin Emmy, Roscoe Holcomb, and Cyp Landreneau's cajon trio.

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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlieshafer View Post
    I think everything Ralph said made sense, but I'll offer a different perspective on this part of his article. A different sort of energy came from up north, the New York City area, and down into Galax, and East Tennessee State's Bluegrass course refers to this exodus as "Jewgrass" which is a perfectly accurate representation (even Jay Ungar refers to himself as a "Jewish kid from the Bronx"). A look at all the early hippie bands that formed and competed at Galax will show that many are still quite active and influential. There's Brad Leftwich, John Specker from Queens, an early teacher to Bruce Molsky, all the Horseflies, some of the Highwoods gang, etc.

    Why this matters is that they were interested far more in experimentation than commercial success. The first record that's sort of accorded "the birth of Newgrass" status was John Hartford's Steam Powered Aereoplain from 1971, a loose jam-based experimental album if there ever was one. 1975 marks the David Grisman Quintet's birth, and that powerhouse band was much more of an intellectual experiment than simple a commercial enterprise. Those guys could have chosen to play anything, but went a quite different route.

    Richard Greene's Duets record, Darol Anger's Fiddlistics, Vassar Clements country jazz records, all were a labor of love and a decided step away from what could make them the most money. Those that wanted to make some cash went more Nashville mainstream, like Ricky Scagg's brief foray into country music. At least in Ricky's case, the tunes were good (at least liked them...) Anyway, it's during that time period that things really started to split from the genre-specific norm, and stuff was flying everywhere. Most of it was purely experimental; if you wanted to make money you were in Nashville, L.A., or NYC, and you were doing country or pop.
    To this list one might add Roger Sprung's progressive Bluegrass albums for Folkways, perhaps the most serious attempt to include drums in a BG band, among other things.


    But I was mainly thinking of the bands that played full time and had already made a name for themselves in the genre; mainly Jim&Jesse, the Osborne Brothers, and Flatt&Scruggs -- that is, 3/4 of the BG bands appearing on the Grand Ole Opry.

    And, frankly, I think of Grisman's Dawg Music as a complete departure from the BG canon.

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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Good points in the posts above, though I have a hard time understanding just what "contemporary American string band music" might be. Most of the old-timey performers I know don't necessarily reject bluegrass music; some have a foot in both camps, and there are bands that will play an old-time fiddle tune with clawhammer banjo, then shift to play a bluegrass vocal with finger-picked banjo, mandolin "chop," etc. One of the things that defines "contemporary American string band music" to me is a recognition, if not a total acceptance or incorporation, of a variety of styles and influences. A band like the Carolina Chocolate Drops, consciously and skillfully reaching into the long-neglected heritage of African-American string band music, can share the "contemporary American" stage with Crooked Still, Old Crow Medicine Show, Rhonda Vincent and the Horseflies.

    ....

    I do agree that some of the motivation for these musicians to expand outside of bluegrass -- or, alternatively, to expand what they called "bluegrass" beyond traditional definitions -- was survival, trying to make a living, playing music that had a broader appeal, both stylistically and geographically, than "trad" bluegrass. The Country Gentlemen, whom Ralph J cites, were to some extent a product of the "folk revival" of the late 1950's and early 1960's; they went after a college-based, "folk music" audience, rather than playing the rural schools and tent shows that Bill Monroe had played. And as a group with varied influences in their backgrounds -- John Duffey came from a family that sang opera -- they felt less need to stick to the Monroe template. But I do think that "curiosity," or rather comfort with experimentation, and more eclectic backgrounds -- outside the rural South -- played important roles.

    Bluegrass seems in little danger of going the way of, say, Dixieland jazz, which is definitely seen as "preserved nostalgia" rather than a vital, growing musical genre. There are quite a few young musicians playing bluegrass or bluegrass-influenced music, sometimes blended with rock, folk, old-timey, country and other styles. But, to bring the discussion back to the title of the thread, it is the audiences rather than the performers, that seem to want to be the arbiters of what's traditional, acceptable, and worthy of being called "bluegrass." Not entirely due to their age ("elderly"), but due to their immersal in the music over nearly 75 years, and their view of it as something unique and special -- under siege from the outside, the property of an in-group that alone truly understands and appreciates it.

    Bluegrass will survive its fans, I believe -- or rather, there'll be a large enough component of the genre (trying to avoid using the word "residue") to keep the "trad" audience at least interested and active, while continuing to add new audiences who enjoy the energy, virtuosity, and non-mainstream "vibe" of the music.
    Very good points. Allow me to quote again from my artice. In the last part I dwell on the perceived harmonic limitations of Bluegrass, turing to the scarcity of tunes in minor keys, at least in the early years:

    "Gene Lowinger was the first Yankee to fiddle with Bill Monroe, in 1965. In his book "I Hear a Voice Calling" he relates how Monroe once accompanied him to a synagogue in Nashville.
    Monroe was immensely fascinated with the minor dominated music. Afterwards he thanked the rabbi and
    expressed his hope of incorporating some of these sounds in his own music.

    I've looked into Wolfe-Rosenberg's Monroe discography. Up to this time I find only one minor tune (bordering on the Dorian), Kentucky Mandolin, a live performance with Doc Watson. The Lonesome Moonlight Waltz (also performed live with Watson) progresses from d minor to its relative major, F. The bridge of Cheyenne is in g minor, the relative minor to Bb flat. And that appears to be all.

    Later in his career we find, e.g., Land of Lincoln, Jerusalem Ridge (which Kenny Baker more than helped write), Crossing the Cumberlands, My Last Days on Earth, Southern Flavor, and My Love is Gone.
    The last song (never recorded by Monroe) has found interpreters far outside the Bluegrass tradition, most notably Katy Melua.

    I cite Monroe mainly because the myth portrays him as jealously guarding his creation against
    blasphemy, unwilling to develop after his sound was established. But then many people forget
    that he recorded a Rockabilly number, Sally Jo, in 1957, and a Dixieland number, Milenburg Joy,
    in 1976, which he learned in Chicago more than 40 years earlier. Why wasn't there more of that?
    I believe the angriest purists are among the fans and festival promoters (recall Cadillac Sky being
    run off the stage at a festival a couple of years ago). Musicians as a rule are more curious and often
    frustrated by the expectations of the audience, real or imagined.

    As for myself I did not grow up with this music and have always approached it without prejudice. If I play a Bluegrass standard I care only about my fellow musicians, the melody, the groove I feel and the way I hear the changes. Listening to others I am often drawn to mischief and impurity. I rejoice when Dailey&Vincent record with strings, when Rhonda Vincent and Claire Lynch do swing type numbers,
    when Sam Bush and David Grisman race through Daybreak in Dixie with flute and drums, when Cadillac Sky contribute a novel virtuosity as arrangers and players, when IIIrd Tyme Out do Only You a cappella,
    or Chris Stapleton lends his gravelly voice to some of the most musical lyrics in the whole genre.

    Drawing lines and quarreling about definitions therefore is not my bag. But I wouldn't mind a speed limit."

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  23. #91
    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    Quote Originally Posted by ralph johansson View Post
    You got it right. The Stanley Brothers also appeared at the first Newport Folk Festival.


    I forget who arranged the European tour in 1966, but it was centered on the New Lost City Ramblers, with John Cohen doing much of the talking (or, you might say, lecturing). The other participants were Cousin Emmy, Roscoe Holcomb, and Cyp Landreneau's cajon trio.
    Ah, back in the day when Newport Folk was actually all folk. And then came the Dylan electric show... Newport does represent an evolution of popular musical taste, though, and is an interesting petri dish of what it takes to stay alive in the music industry. If Newport were still 100% "folk", as in singer-songwriters, would it even draw flies? Who would be there performers? True folk music (whatever that is, but let's assume for this purpose it's the vision of the old folkie singing songs of lost love or labor disputes or some transgression by The Man) around here draws maybe 40 people a show.

    This past summer's festival was a lot of alt-hipster-pop, some southern blues-type rock and so forth. My daughter went, brought back a highlight playlist for me, and it was all really well done music, but not folk anymore. This transformation into a different kind of festival doesn't bother me in the least, I wouldn't go to a true folk festival either. I'd rather see Newport continue, even if in a tradition that supports different sounds, that have to be "folk influenced" as opposed to the real thing.

    The one constant in music is change, and when genres stay "pure," they tend to lose audience. Take Delta blues in it's pure, solo form. There are still some practitioners who are superb, but their audience is tiny. The blues morphed into Chicago blues and into rock. Or, was it New Orleans piano funk, with Professor Longhair and Little Richard that influenced Chuck Berry that morphed into rock? New Orleans parade music founded jazz, and that same jazz, combined with rock became funk. Old Time merged with early country and blues, with a little gospel, to make Bluegrass. The new string band stuff? Classical, old-time, bluegrass, blues, folk, all mix together. There's not an end-point to music, and those that try to pick a specific spot and extoll it's virtues over all others are perfectly welcome to do so, but the vast majority won't be listening.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jesserules View Post
    Finding myself simultaneously amused and baffled by the posters who believe "That isn't bluegrass" means "That isn't good music" I like the MC5.I do not consider the MC5 to be a bluegrass band.But WAIT! Can BOTH of those statements possibly be true?
    Yes.
    Signed,
    Just somebody who doesn't see the upside to using the term "bluegrass" for "any music played on acoustic instruments".
    I agree there is no upside to calling any acoustic music bluegrass, I see the reverse of your first statement and that also baffles me. There are people that seem to think if they like it it's bluegrass. Early rock and roll though not acoustic is closer to BG than a lot of acoustic music today. Think about it,there was a featured "break" electric guitar or sax, high close harmony, a deffinate drive. Really both came from the same roots and are about the same age, don't tell the Bluegrass Police.

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  26. #93

    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandoplumb View Post
    ... Early rock and roll though not acoustic is closer to BG than a lot of acoustic music today. Think about it,there was a featured "break" electric guitar or sax, high close harmony, a deffinate drive. Really both came from the same roots and are about the same age, don't tell the Bluegrass Police.
    The Bluegrass Police already have an outstanding warrant for Bill "Member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame" Monroe.

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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlieshafer View Post
    ...If Newport were still 100% "folk", as in singer-songwriters, would it even draw flies? Who would be there performers? True folk music (whatever that is, but let's assume for this purpose it's the vision of the old folkie singing songs of lost love or labor disputes or some transgression by The Man) around here draws maybe 40 people a show.....
    Well, I'd go, to be part of the dozens in the audience. There are festivals -- Philadelphia Folk Festival, e.g. that seem to mix in quite a few singer-songwriters, and even traditional folk acts, with the other genres. I do agree that it's hard to find a festival that's "100% folk," though the Old Songs Festival near Albany comes close; they've been going 38 years, no signs of stopping, must be drawing more than 40 people...
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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    My observation is that, congruous with broad societal demographics, trends in folk festivals are more diverse than just a variety of Appalachian-style, country, western, and "alt"-acoustic jazz stuff. Typically there's one or possibly two acts representing the various dominant folk forms and traditions in North Anerica. So there's one trad bluegrass act, and many others including blues, cajun, zydeco, new orleans brass, gospel, swing, tejano, native american, irish, scand, etc.

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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    I, for one, never thought I liked Bluegrass. That is until I started learning the mandolin... Now when I hear a bluegrass song or see a show, I'm mesmerized by the skill it takes. It sounds beautiful to me. Not sure how it happened. I think it's because I'd love to play that fast someday and I know how much I practice and where I'm at currently. Many younger people today don't take the time to learn an instrument, they want instantaneous gratification. They want to go on YouTube and quickly learn a song. When they realize how much practice and how long it takes, most quit. I struggled with the instantaneous gratification desire in the beginning, but luckily I have a teacher that helped me push through it and I'm finely starting to see results. The more results, the more addicted I get. I just saw a bluegrass trio at a festival today and I was in awe of the mandolinist' skill. I told my hubby, "one day"..

    I agree with most of the comments on this thread except, "Wagon Wheel" is a dang good song, and people are crazy if they don't like it. Darius Rucker could sing the phone book and I'd like it, though. Lori

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