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Thread: Bluegrass Music's Civil War

  1. #1

    Default Bluegrass Music's Civil War

    Bluegrass Music's Civil War: Why New and Heritage Acts Don't See String to String, from Rollling Stone.

    "As fans and musicians convene in Raleigh, North Carolina, this week for the annual World of Bluegrass gathering, they bring with them loads of talent, an unparalleled passion for the music and definite opinions on the ever evolving sound of bluegrass. A truly American artform, bluegrass music today encompasses everything from the jamgrass of Yonder Mountain String Band to the traditional sound of Del McCoury to the more eclectic flavor of Trampled by Turtles..."
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    Moderator JEStanek's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Music's Civil War

    My favorite quote.

    "There are hardcore people that [think] if you even have a microphone you're way too far out," Del McCoury says with a laugh. "I exaggerate, but you have the hardcore folks. They can listen to whatever they want to but you need variety. You need to have that. You've got to have young people coming in all the time. That's what brings young people in, more progressive sound and variety. I just like variety in music. I think it's a good thing."
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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Music's Civil War

    Interesting article.
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    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Music's Civil War

    "Though Hot Rize became one of the most successful acts in the genre before stepping aside in 1990, O'Brien says they weren't immediately accepted at first. "It was a little bit suspect. Our hair was a little too big. We wore suits and ties, but the ties were suspect. They weren't matching suits. We had loud ties," O'Brien recalls with a laugh."

    My favorite quote. When will everyone just settle back and realize they're room for everybody? We just had a concert a week ago with Harpeth Rising (odd name, sure) but they're three young girls, all graduates of Indiana University's Jacobs Conservatory (just ranked #1 music school in the nation.) The violinist, Jordana Greenberg, was being fast-tracked to a soloist career, one of the very few Americans who would be able to tour the world with the best of them. Of course, she turned to the dark side, and their music is a strange blend of old-time, bluegrass, gypsy jazz, and a few other things, all played amazingly well. They had a great turnout, and an incredibly positive reception, save for three older folks who left at halftime, telling me "This isn't bluegrass. We want bluegrass." They missed their chance to see one of the most exciting young players around today, and we've pretty much had them all at one point or another.

    On one hand, everyone gets to choose what they like, on the other, can we be a little open-minded?

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Music's Civil War

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlieshafer View Post
    When will everyone just settle back and realize they're room for everybody?
    There is even room for those who don't think there should be.

    They missed their chance to see one of the most exciting young players around today,
    That's not what they came for.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Music's Civil War

    I am sorry, I guess that was kind of harsh.

    While it doesn't reflect my tastes or musical curiosity, I have a whole lot of sympathy for folks who want the tradition, and I forgive folks for feeling "bait and switched" when it becomes "a strange blend of old-time, bluegrass, gypsy jazz, and a few other things" from a band billed as bluegrass.

    I was in Scotland more than a few years ago and sat in on a concert of Hamish Moore and Dick Lee, bagpipes and saxophone. The music did a complete journey, very tastefully, from hardcore Scottish piping to a jazz/swing type thing, and I loved every second of it. Also, the band Kornog did quite a few very tasteful transitions from very Scottish to traditional Bulgarian music. Just amazing. But in both these cases I knew it before hand, and its exactly what I signed up for. But as well in both cases I know folks who were taken by surprise and upset enough want to walk out.

    While it is vitally important that folks attempt new stuff, its also good to try and let everyone know there is new stuff coming, and let folks decide.

    I dunno, something like an announcement: OK folks, on this stage we have bluegrass, on that stage we have a strange blend of old-time, bluegrass, gypsy jazz, and a few other things. And if its the same band, then the band gets up and goes to the other stage. Symbolically if nothing else.


    There is a killer modern jazz quartet, that go as far as going off stage, changing clothes and coming back on stage under another name, to do country music. And they are killer at both. I am trying to remember the name.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Music's Civil War

    It is an interesting article BTW.

    And it is extremely ironic that Bill Monroe didn't get there by holding slavishly to the tradition, yet many folks do hold on tight to what Bill created.
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    humble novice 2Sharp's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Music's Civil War

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    And it is extremely ironic that Bill Monroe didn't get there by holding slavishly to the tradition, yet many folks do hold on tight to what Bill created.
    Indeed

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    Default Re: Bluegrass Music's Civil War

    [QUOTEWhile it is vitally important that folks attempt new stuff, its also good to try and let everyone know there is new stuff coming, and let folks decide.
    ][/QUOTE]

    Yup. We were at Wintergrass a few years ago and the Jerry Douglas Band came on stage.

    Drums.

    My wife left right away - I stuck it out through a few more songs.

    (and we weren't that old then!)

    Kirk

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    Default Re: Bluegrass Music's Civil War

    I too like different styles of music and all types must grow but bluegrass is a simple hard driving( I don't mean it has to be fast) acoustic music. If you lose the fundamentals it ain't bluegrass. Monroe's music changed over the years but he never outgrew the basics. I love classical for all the different music happening at the same time in different ways I like Jazz for the free expression I like some rock for the beat, but to try to combine 2 or 3 style just lessens them all IMHO.

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    Economandolinist Amanda Gregg's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Music's Civil War

    The traditionalist point of view is a bit of a straw man in the article.
    Amanda

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Music's Civil War

    This "civil war" has been going on for decades. The Country Gentlemen caught some flak in the '60's for playing The World Is Waiting For the Sunrise and MTA at college concerts. Ask Sam Bush how the Bluegrass Alliance was received -- or the New Grass Revival, or the Earl Scruggs Revue, or the Dillard & Clark Expedition. And it wasn't just "those darn kids," as first-generation bluegrass acts like Jim & Jesse and the Osborne Brothers "plugged in" to work the Nashville-country circuit.

    Disputes over electric bass vs. bass fiddle, female lead singers, Keith vs. Scruggs style banjo, rock-influenced song repertoire, extended "jam" numbers vs. the standard 2:30 bluegrass song, harmonica, brushed snare drums, long hair, jeans and T-shirts vs. matching polyester and Stetsons -- seen 'em all. Bluegrass is a genre that seems to generate orthodoxy vs. heresy conflicts pretty regularly.

    I love traditional bluegrass -- but it bothers me not that McCoury sings 1952 Vincent Black Lightning. And if a band wants to try something a bit different, give 'em a listen; some innovations work, some don't, some persist, some quickly vanish. Doubtless there'll be bands playing hard-core trad bluegrass a century from now, and not as historical artifacts. Doubtless there'll be others doing something different, and fans arguing about that too.

    In the meantime, there's Bad Bascomb:

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    Default Re: Bluegrass Music's Civil War

    Labelling is a mug's game.

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    Default Re: Bluegrass Music's Civil War

    I'll listen to almost anything,that's how i get to find out if i like it or not. If i like it i'll listen, & if there are recordings around,i'll buy them. If i don't like it,i'll avoid 'whatever' in future. It's certainly not trad.Bluegrass by any means,but i really like much of the music by the 'Infamous Stringdusters' & 'Greensky Bluegrass'. It's different enough to be 'interesting' & i like to play it because of that. It tells me that i'm not stuck in a trad. Bluegrass rut & it allows me to play a music that's parallel to that genre ie. ''the same as - but not quite''.
    All music evolves,if it doesn't,it stagnates & that's bad for everybody. Beethoven broke all the rules of symphonic composing & his music wasn't received at all well at the begining of his career. However the people who actually listened & didn't dismiss it,came to realise just what an immense musical genius Beethoven was - the rest as they say....... !,
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Music's Civil War

    Welcome to the world, "truly american artform".

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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Music's Civil War

    I listen to lots of different music, I play pretty traditional bluegrass, the guys I play with listen to different genres too. We choose to play more traditional style, it's what we grew to love when we started this trip.
    There are those who have never listened to the old guys or care are the ones that are missing something. I enjoy so many newer bands but, they are starting to sound a lot alike, girl singers who are just"waif like" send me to the cooler for a fresh beverage most of the time. Some are just fine but, how many Allison "clones" does the music scene need? How many "jam bands" who just drone out whangity, whangity, whang? And when it comes down to it, we can all simply exercise our right for ultimate censorship and turn it off or leave.
    It's not going to change the way music grows, stagnation would be miserable,traditionalists will be in the minority more often than not. I remember so many of the "grand old masters" of several styles "Martin, Bogen, and the Armstrongs", "Peg leg Sam", "Tommy Jarrell",Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt, and so forth, it was always amazing to see living history. We are becoming that living history, the new guys , the old ##### like me, those who break new ground with respect to the old are the ones who impress me the most, Tim O'briens work is new but, tips the hat to the old school.
    I think I will go listen to something different!
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Music's Civil War

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    There is a killer modern jazz quartet, that go as far as going off stage, changing clothes and coming back on stage under another name, to do country music. And they are killer at both. I am trying to remember the name.
    (Was it really 35 years ago?) Hot Rize would leave the stage and return as Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers. Morphing from Bluegrass to Western Swing/Old Country. Added some comedy and it was Golden.

    My take: The title was misleading. Professional musicians can't afford to be purists. On the other hand, for the fan, that hard earned entertainment dollar is getting even harder to come by. In a world where Garth and his guitar command 500USD per couple, as a fan, I'm gonna get a little picky. Truth be told, that's why I play. We can go off behind the barn, camper, or trailer, and make the kind of music we want.

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Music's Civil War

    Quote Originally Posted by farmerjones View Post
    (Was it really 35 years ago?) Hot Rize would leave the stage and return as Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers. Morphing from Bluegrass to Western Swing/Old Country. Added some comedy and it was Golden..
    Another good example.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Music's Civil War

    Quote Originally Posted by Amanda Gregg View Post
    The traditionalist point of view is a bit of a straw man in the article.
    Yes
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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Music's Civil War

    The most interesting thing about this article is that every one of the performers - to a man - is just fine with both traditional and progressive approaches. The civil war, if there is one, is in the fan base. So, perhaps the author would have better served his premise by interviewing some audience members to get some of their opinions, rather than making some broad unsubstantiated pronouncements (however reasonable-sounding). But if you take it as a given that this disparity is factual, perhaps fans might want to follow the leads of their idols, and give both styles a chance.

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    There is a killer modern jazz quartet, that go as far as going off stage, changing clothes and coming back on stage under another name, to do country music. And they are killer at both. I am trying to remember the name.
    Well, yes and no. That was not a jazz band, but a bluegrass quartet, Hot Rize, who would slip off stage one by one in the middle of their set, then come back as a country band, Red Knuckles And The Trailblazers, and then change back the same way to finish their set with bluegrass, sprinkling some comedy in as well. And they were excellent in both incarnations. That was a long while ago; maybe your memory's a little fuzzy.

    Oh, wait - you're serious? Well, then!



    PS: I see that while I was composing my brilliant, hilarious riposte, farmerjones did much the same and best me to the punch. Dang! They say great minds think alike, but I don't know how to explain this.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Music's Civil War

    I think also there is a way to move the borders of the envelope that more folks can grasp, and there is a way that leaves folks behind.

    What I mean is this.

    If the evolution you are trying to accomplish can be understood, if the antecedents of what you are going to do can be found by most listeners within the tradition, so that however surprising the end of your journey might be the path makes sense, it has a better chance of being accepted.

    If the evolution seems arbitrary, or seems like "we'd actually rather be playing this other stuff", or seems like "we need to look cool with our contemporaries", then it can feel offensive.

    Evolution and pushing the envelope and musical development are of course important. Its not a museum or cast in amber. But the need for movement is not a carte blanche to do any old thing.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Music's Civil War

    Bill Monroe put blues in old time fiddle music. That does not mean it will work to put rap in country music.
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Music's Civil War

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    . . .
    In the meantime, there's Bad Bascomb:

    That's not funk. That's not real traditional funk. I wanted to hear some real traditional funk.
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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Music's Civil War

    Ha! Yeah, me too. No idea who Bascomb is/was, but that was pretty bad. If I wanted to hear rap mixed with country or bluegrass, I'd just slap on some Big And Rich. (Actually, I like "Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy," but I'm not gonna listen to it every day. Once a month is about right.) But thanks for sharing.

    And I agree about the bluesy component of Bill Monroe's music. That's a main reason why I also like Del McCoury's music as much as I do. The article didn't mention this at all.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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    mandolin slinger Steve Ostrander's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass Music's Civil War

    I love traditional bluegrass -- but it bothers me not that McCoury sings 1952 Vincent Black Lightning.
    I'm glad he did. I love that song.
    Never say "bouzouki" to a TSA agent...

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