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Thread: Cello in bluegrass?

  1. #1
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    Default Cello in bluegrass?

    So, iŽm trying to scrape together a stringband among my motley crew of electronica- head buckaroos and have just about cured one of them with a nice big injection of O.C.M.S and Del McCoury .. And as it turns out he was once a decent string instrument player.. Its just a crying shame he plays the Cello.

    So, i youtubed it, and there are some videos out there featuring Bluegrass, like the one below




    From the youtube- selection it seems to me that cello works on some more "melancholic" songs but kind of disappears in a stringband playing more up - beat pickinŽbluegrass stuff?

    My friend told me that The Cello is the instrument closest to the vocal register of the human voice, so i thought that in bluegrass it can kind of just follow the melody line and do the.. eh.. bluegrass- type 2. voice if you know what i mean??


    so, is there any use for a cellist in a stringband and how would you arrange that?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Cello in bluegrass?

    Check out Daryl Anger and the Republic of Strings; Purists might howl but
    the only limitation is your imagination.

    Tom

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    Mark Evans mandozilla's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cello in bluegrass?

    A CELLO! Why, that ain't no part of nothin'!


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    Default Re: Cello in bluegrass?

    Sorry, that's Darol Anger and the American Fiddle Ensemble on the album
    entitled "Republic of Strings". Check out, in particular, 'Old Dangerfield'.

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    Brentrup Evangelist Larry S Sherman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cello in bluegrass?

    I'm not arguing that it's traditional, but I really like Crooked Still



    Larry

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    mandolin slinger Steve Ostrander's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cello in bluegrass?

    Let's see, Bill said, (quote) "Well, real hot licks with a fiddle don't need to be in it; you don't need drums in it, you don't need Dobro in it, and, uh, a hot gi-tar, you don't need that in it."

    Nope, nothing about cello there...
    Never say "bouzouki" to a TSA agent...

  7. #7
    mandolin slinger Steve Ostrander's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cello in bluegrass?

    Larry, I really like that Crooked Still band. That's some real hot licks on the cello, right there! And a boatload of monitors--there's some feedback waiting to happen...
    Never say "bouzouki" to a TSA agent...

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    Registered Mandolin User mandopete's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cello in bluegrass?

    Quote Originally Posted by Larry S Sherman View Post
    I'm not arguing that it's traditional, but I really like Crooked Still
    Sure, that's traditional, almost all bluegrass banjo players wear a head-band!

    <grins>
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    Default Re: Cello in bluegrass?

    That's not a headband, they tried to tie his hands and it slipped...

    (Actually, Crooked Still is another good example)

    -tgs

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    Registered User loess's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cello in bluegrass?

    Can't find any footage of Nancy Blake bowing the cello, but here's a video of her plucking with Norman and James Bryan. Nancy does some lovely cello playing on the Rising Fawn String Ensemble's Live at McCabe's LP.



    There's a fellow who busks downtown in Omaha that has a pickup on his cello and puts it through a delay pedal & a small amp. He's got a great ear and a keen sense of dynamics. I've never felt overpowered or drowned out while jamming with him. Sounds like your friend might know a bit about effects pedals and such; maybe y'all can work something up with his electronica background. Go for it!

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    Registered User Salmon Falls Strings's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cello in bluegrass?

    I love hearing a cello in bluegrass music, whether it's Crooked Still or Darol Angers Republic of Strings and Darols Monster String Quartet. Natalie Haas is the cellist in the Monster String Quartet and Tristan Clarridge (sp?) is the cellist for Crooked Still and also the Republic of Strings. Rushaad Eggleston used to play with Crooked Still and he is a madman on the cello.
    Try to youtube search Crooked Still performing Mountain Jumper at Greyfox a couple of years ago, its pretty impressive. I think that the cello can handle a couple different roles in bluegrass whether it acts as a bass and is plucked or bowed to play fiddle melodies. I enjoy it either way.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cello in bluegrass?

    Sounds great. I don't care what the IBGMA says.
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
    funny....

  13. #13

    Default Re: Cello in bluegrass?

    Quote Originally Posted by Salmon Falls Strings View Post
    I love hearing a cello in bluegrass music, whether it's Crooked Still or Darol Angers Republic of Strings and Darols Monster String Quartet. Natalie Haas is the cellist in the Monster String Quartet and Tristan Clarridge (sp?) is the cellist for Crooked Still and also the Republic of Strings. Rushaad Eggleston used to play with Crooked Still and he is a madman on the cello.
    Try to youtube search Crooked Still performing Mountain Jumper at Greyfox a couple of years ago, its pretty impressive. I think that the cello can handle a couple different roles in bluegrass whether it acts as a bass and is plucked or bowed to play fiddle melodies. I enjoy it either way.
    As great as those bands are, what makes you think it's bluegrass?

  14. #14
    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cello in bluegrass?

    That clip of Norman and Nancy is just awesome music. And Crooked Still playing a Monroe song....music to my ears. I don't care what you want to label it but I call it GOOD music!
    And that's from a traditional hardcore Monroe bluegrass fan.

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    Registered User Salmon Falls Strings's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cello in bluegrass?

    Well, I guess it's not really traditional bluegrass but it is definitely an off-shoot of bluegrass music. It's a topic that I believe has been discussed frequently as to what makes bluegrass music....well bluegrass. The way I look at it is that there are not too many bands out there playing straight Bill Monroe style bluegrass but we still call a lot of these bands bluegrass (Infamous Stringdusters, Yonder Mountain Stringband, etc). It's a tough call but I would definitely put a fair amount of Darol Anger and Crooked Stills music into a bluegrass category.
    - Brett -

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cello in bluegrass?

    I hear the Bluegrass Taliban cut off the headstock curls of three mandolin players just for thinking about adding a 'cello to their bands. And Crooked Still? Haven't they learned about wearing the bluegrass burqua -- matching polyester suits, cowboy hats, and red string ties? I sense a fatwa in the works!

    Even Bluegrass Unlimited came up with an "On The Edge" category a few years ago, for those musicians and recordings which didn't conform to the traditional boundaries. Extended discussions about what is or isn't bluegrass are an invitation to wheel-spinning and didactic pomposity. If it's good music, with strong roots in the genre, who cares if someone plays a 'cello -- which, by the way, was the bass voice in many a pre-bluegrass string band?

    A few years ago, it was the electric bass; then piezo pickups on instruments; "Keith style" vs. "Scruggs style"; going outside of the "standards" for repertoire; J D Crowe's pedal steel player; and on and on. Orthodoxy persists, but unorthodox musicians are the ones expanding the frontiers and continuing the music's development. Remember when Monroe and Scruggs were unorthodox rebels? (Well, neither do I -- before my time, but they were innovative and revolutionary, and I'm sure the Taliban of that era didn't like them.)
    Allen Hopkins
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    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

  17. #17

    Default Re: Cello in bluegrass?

    Spurred by a conversation with a fan of my folk music radio show who also plays (classical) cello, I recently spent a weekend searching for folk, stringband, and Celtic albums that include cello, and put together several sets for my show (which isn't archived, unfortunately).

    Some of the best-known cellists in those genres have already been mentioned, including Rushad Eggleston with Crooked Still (among other bands) and Nancy Blake, who adds lovely rich backing to Norman's guitar on many of their albums together. In addition to his own bands, Rushad appears on many other people's albums, including Tim Stafford's [Blue Highway's guitarist] own CD "Endless Line," and a couple of albums by banjo player Ben Steed.

    I was surprised to learn that Mike Seeger played cello -- I guess I shouldn't have been! Although he rarely recorded with it, he plays it on one or two tracks of his album with Alice Gerrard, "Bowling Green," which was recently reissued on CD (and expanded with extra tracks) by 5-String Productions. According to Matt Brown, Mike would sometimes pick up the cello during jam sessions in his home, to add instrumentation that didn't duplicate what the others were playing.

    Though I didn't go through their albums checking for tracks, I understand that Matt Sexton, fiddle player with the bluegrass band Nothin' Fancy, also occasionally plays cello (and viola) with the band.

    Peter Ostroushko has used several cellists on his albums of original music. One of the more uptempo (and traditional) examples is the cello on "Virginia Reel from Hell" medley (with Peter playing fiddle on a medley of tunes) on his album "Heart of the Heartland."

    Here in Michigan, Pooh Stevenson is both a fine mandolinist and cello player, and has played both with the local folk trio Lady of the Lake.

    Going further from bluegrass (or even old-time stringband music), I should also mention Abby Newton's work accompanying folksingers like Jean Redpath and Priscilla Herdman, and Natalie Haas' extraordinary duets with Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser (on their CDs "In the Moment" and "Fire & Grace" -- truly empathic playing at the highest level!).

    Most of those examples aren't bluegrass -- at least not anything like traditional bluegrass -- but musicians and listeners with eclectic taste would enjoy them all.
    Bob Blackman
    Former host of "The Folk Tradition," WKAR-FM
    East Lansing, MI

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    Mark Evans mandozilla's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cello in bluegrass?

    HMMPH!

    Call it Roots music, Americana music, or whatever but it ain't Bluegrass Music! Cello is no more a part of a Bluegrass ensemble than a washboard or spoons or a squeezebox...There's nothing wrong with stretching the genre out of shape to create a new one but please stop calling it Bluegrass music! Make up your own dang name for it puleeze!


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    Registered User Salmon Falls Strings's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cello in bluegrass?

    Well, I think Allen sort of hinted at the idea behind this discussion, being that it is "on the edge" of bluegrass music. I am obviously not a die hard purist but love bluegrass music and its many offshoots. I have heard many a cafe member say that Sam Bush is their favorite bluegrass mandolin player, but if we look at it from a purists viewpoint he isn't a bluegrass player most of the time. He ventures into folk, country, newgrass styles on a regular basis but we still call him a bluegrass musician. I look at bluegrass kind of as the homebase for these other styles (such as Crooked Still) to grow and expand on, IMHO.
    - Brett -

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    Registered User tree's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cello in bluegrass?

    Quote Originally Posted by mandozilla View Post
    HMMPH!

    Call it Roots music, Americana music, or whatever but it ain't Bluegrass Music! Cello is no more a part of a Bluegrass ensemble than a washboard or spoons or a squeezebox...There's nothing wrong with stretching the genre out of shape to create a new one but please stop calling it Bluegrass music! Make up your own dang name for it puleeze!

    But Monroe had an accordion player in the Blue Grass Boys . . . she even takes a break on a song with Blue Grass in the title. Seem like that ought to make a squeezebox into some part of sumpthin'. I'm just sayin'.
    Clark Beavans

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cello in bluegrass?

    Quote Originally Posted by tree View Post
    But Monroe had an accordion player in the Blue Grass Boys . . . she even takes a break on a song with Blue Grass in the title. Seem like that ought to make a squeezebox into some part of sumpthin'. I'm just sayin'.
    And Monroe recorded with an organ player, an electric guitarist, even a xylophone player. If Harold Bradley had dragged a cellist into one of those Decca sessions, Mullah M and the rest of the BG Taliban would be plugging a different orthodoxy. It takes a special kind of semi-closed mind to convert fifty years of musical experimentation into a fossilized perspective of unchanging sameness. IMHO, that's what's really "no part of nothin'."
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

  22. #22

    Default Re: Cello in bluegrass?

    I think that a cello would sound great in rootsy string music. I believe some oldtime stringbands were known to use it and Waylon Jennings used a cello on his '70's album, Honky Tonk Heroes (a collection of tunes by Billy Joe Shaver). I saw Alejandro Escovedo with a cello in his group and was killer so it's not a total rarity.
    I guess I started this "bluegrass" debate in my earlier post but I just wanted to know why some folks define music that may be derived from the earlier form of bluegrass but has transformed into something quite different, as it naturally would. Every time the question is raised, people tend to react as if I'm somehow putting down their favourite music, I'm not, I'm just interested in how people use words. These days use the language pretty loosely and I wonder how we can communicate when words seem to mean whatever a person wants it to mean.

  23. #23
    Registered Mandolin User mandopete's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cello in bluegrass?

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    Sounds great. I don't care what the IBGMA says.
    What do they say?
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    Default Re: Cello in bluegrass?

    And Monroe recorded with an organ player, an electric guitarist, even a xylophone player.
    Which happened, I think, only at the behest of record company G-men looking for a modernized buck. Mullah M (love that) would likely have said 'No sir' to that line-up, 'twere it left up to him.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cello in bluegrass?

    Yo! Yo! Ma?

    That ain't no part of nuthin.

    I love the way cello's sound by the way.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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