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Thread: Lengthy article on bluegrass in the Guardian (UK)

  1. #1

    Default Lengthy article on bluegrass in the Guardian (UK)

    Interesting article in a publication where a story about bluegrass might come up once every few decades.

    It strays into areas that will get the thread closed down very quickly if you insist on taking issue with them, and that I neither condone nor condemn. I only present the article as one worth reading.

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  3. #2

    Default Re: Lengthy article on bluegrass in the Guardian (UK)

    Yes Ron, that is an interesting article.
    And you are also correct that any comments re the basic premise of the article would surely result in the post, or the poster winding up in the cornfield.
    It is tempting though.
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  4. #3
    Administrator Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lengthy article on bluegrass in the Guardian (UK)

    I think it's a generally well written article with interesting points, and if anyone gets their shorts in a wad about that then so be it, but the sub-title is... wow, that's WAY out there. Hard to wrap your head around.

    It was once derided as hillbilly music. How did bluegrass become the new sound of political protest across the US?

    So let me get this straight: bluegrass is now the defining new sound of political protest in the United States against all music genres? Uh, no, it is not. That is factually incorrect. It's a very small sub-genre that gets a fair share of its current definition from IBMA, an organization with fewer than 2,000 voting members, many of which probably don't vote but packs a marketing wallop way beyond its size. Multiples less than the membership of California Bluegrass Association that dwarfs it in size. Ah, but the term "bluegrass," everyone has their own idea on what they think it is, and they all think they're right. But it's the new sound of political protest in the U.S.?

    Wow, just wow. YMMV.

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  6. #4

    Default Re: Lengthy article on bluegrass in the Guardian (UK)

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandolin Cafe View Post
    Ah, but the term "bluegrass," everyone has their own idea on what they think it is, and they all think they're right. But it's the new sound of political protest in the U.S.?

    Wow, just wow. YMMV.
    Agreed. There is a lot of interesting content, but the premise it tries to build on is quite ridiculous.

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    Registered User wreded's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lengthy article on bluegrass in the Guardian (UK)

    Why in the world is everything suddenly a "protest"? Whatever happened to just plain having fun?

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  9. #6

    Default Re: Lengthy article on bluegrass in the Guardian (UK)

    Quote Originally Posted by wreded View Post
    Why in the world is everything suddenly a "protest"? Whatever happened to just plain having fun?
    I'll leave that one alone - for sake of thread duration.
    ......

    Ya I wonder if the authors have heard any hip hop, reggae, jazz, rock 'n roll...all historically subversive..

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    Default Re: Lengthy article on bluegrass in the Guardian (UK)

    Quote Originally Posted by wreded View Post
    Why in the world is everything suddenly a "protest"? Whatever happened to just plain having fun?
    To some degree, I think that's just the angle the author took (a good article usually starts with a good "hook"), and to be fair, on the surface it's not a bad angle from which to explore a music whose 15 minutes of fame have far eclipsed what I think a lot of people would have expected post Oh Brother Where Art Thou. However, it's also worth emphasizing that the author is doing the thing that a lot of people who actually "get" bluegrass hate, which is to conflate a whole bunch of artists as being "bluegrass". I like Rhianna Giddons, and I like Gillian and Dave...but neither are bluegrass, nor would they claim to be. It's one thing to talk about the American socio-political fault lines solely in the bluegrass community and another to talk about them in regards to what is essentially the most current iteration of country-rock, alt-country, folk-rock, contemporary folk music, and/or Americana...depending on what you want to term it. And when you talk about that vague nexus of music, it's always been a music spearheaded by younger artists (who eventually become older artists) which has always displayed a bent for progressive politics, from Woody Guthrie to the Almanac Singers and Weavers through the Greenwich Village and West Coast folkies through the protest music of thre '60s and '70s folk-rock through the angry blue-collar/anti-Reagan sentiment of Uncle Tupelo through to a lot of today's more outspoken artists. But even acknowledging that, I still think the article overstates the overt political messaging of that whole genre, and certainly bluegrass. I honestly don't hear a lot of direct political messaging in the more strictly defined genre of bluegrass, though I suppose one could argue that simply being an openly gay bluegrass artist might count as a political statement (which is kind've sad to have to acknowledge) or having long hair, smoking pot, and courting an audience of people who go to hear long bluegrass jams while getting stoned...but is that really that new in the world of bluegrass? Hippies (and people with hippie tenencies) have been getting stoned at bluegrass festivals for nearly half a century, well before Yonder Mountain or Trampled By Turtles, and bluegrass musicians with long hair is certainly not new. No, I think the real issue is the cardinal sin of so many pieces written about bluegrass, namely an assumption that in its essence it is still largely defined by poor, white, conservative Appalachains playing it on the front stoop of their cabin home, in a style that is permanent and never changes, after a long day plowing the old family farm. That's a great origin myth, and not without some truth, but it's been an incorrect way of viewing the genre for more than half a century, and as such, it sort've makes the idea that bluegrass is just now rapidly changing from that origin a thoroughly incorrect assumption to begin with. IMO, the author's inability to understand that says a lot about his deeper understanding of the genre, despite the article actually giving a pretty decent thumbnail history of the genre.
    Last edited by Alex Orr; Jun-15-2019 at 1:59pm.

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    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Lengthy article on bluegrass in the Guardian (UK)

    The author is casting a pretty wide net with the term "bluegrass" here. Folk music has always been protest music.

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  15. #9

    Default Re: Lengthy article on bluegrass in the Guardian (UK)

    Agree with Alex.

    I think the subtitle about protest may have mainly been a reference to the Punch Brothers. The article makes more sense if "folk music" is substituted for "bluegrass". Interesting read in any event.
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  17. #10

    Default Re: Lengthy article on bluegrass in the Guardian (UK)

    It may have been the editor who wrote the titles? And the editor and the author sometimes have quite different motivations.
    Last edited by atsunrise; Jun-15-2019 at 3:41pm.

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    Default Re: Lengthy article on bluegrass in the Guardian (UK)

    I don't mean to drag the thread where it doesn't belong, I just mean that I enjoy playing the music (not that I'm that great at it). I just get disgusted at everything being made into a protest of something or other. It's just fun music. Let's leave it at that.

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  21. #12

    Default Re: Lengthy article on bluegrass in the Guardian (UK)

    Alex Orr does a better job of summing it up than I ever could have. Thanks, Alex.

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    Default Re: Lengthy article on bluegrass in the Guardian (UK)

    Quote Originally Posted by sgarrity View Post
    The author is casting a pretty wide net with the term "bluegrass" here. Folk music has always been protest music.
    I'd say you're casting the net pretty narrowly with that angle on folk music. To me it is much broader than that. Certainly I embrace folk music from many countries and folk traditions from different eras under that umbrella. I suspect you mean something else.

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    Default Re: Lengthy article on bluegrass in the Guardian (UK)

    From Satchmo:

    "All music is folk music. I ain't never heard a horse sing a song."

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    Default Re: Lengthy article on bluegrass in the Guardian (UK)

    Quote Originally Posted by Alex Orr View Post
    T...However, it's also worth emphasizing that the author is doing the thing that a lot of people who actually "get" bluegrass hate, which is to conflate a whole bunch of artists as being "bluegrass".....
    Yes Alex nailed it!

    And all I would add is if you are going to make comments and do analysis of the folk music from foreign country (I assume Emma John is from the UK?) it might help to first have a clue and to what that music is and what it is all about. Bluegrass lives in the hearts and minds of those who play it and love it not off the pen of an uninformed individual who has an agenda.

    Bluegrass music "plucked from obscurity and making a comeback" is the new medium of protest -- who knew?
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  26. #16

    Default Re: Lengthy article on bluegrass in the Guardian (UK)

    Quote Originally Posted by Bernie Daniel View Post
    And all I would add is if you are going to make comments and do analysis of the folk music from foreign country (I assume Emma John is from the UK?) it might help to first have a clue and to what that music is and what it is all about. Bluegrass lives in the hearts and minds of those who play it and love it not off the pen of an uninformed individual who has an agenda.
    I know of someone from the UK who does play Bluegrass and may have some interesting insights.
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    Default Re: Lengthy article on bluegrass in the Guardian (UK)

    “...the Carolina Chocolate Drops restores the tradition of the black string band that had been all but written out of bluegrass history.”

    I’m more into old-time, but do any of you bluegrassers consider the Chocolate Drops and their mentors bluegrass bands? Also, Lake Superior isn’t anywhere near either Indiana or Chicago...

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    Default Re: Lengthy article on bluegrass in the Guardian (UK)

    The author has an interesting background! I see she is just publishing a book called Wayfaring Stranger. Here are a couple of quotes about her I found.

    “Emma John is a writer and editor on the GUARDIAN and the OBSERVER. She is a former deputy editor of OBSERVER SPORT MONTHLY and THE WISDEN CRICKETER and in 2008 she was the first woman to win a Sports Journalism Award. She is also a classical violinist and bluegrass fiddler.”

    “Emma has spent the past two years travelling around the USA with her fiddle, on a quest to learn all there is to know about bluegrass. Her new book, Wayfaring Stranger, will be published by Weidenfeld and Nicholson on May 30.”
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    Default Re: Lengthy article on bluegrass in the Guardian (UK)

    1) It´s a book review by the author.

    2) The article gives a more in depth historical rundown than most other articles.

    3) It speaks of the deep love for bluegrass music (as the author defines bluegrass; as the author feels bluegrass).

    4) Bluegrass is what it is for the individual. For some it´s what BM played between 1945 and 1947. For some it´s music played with guitar, bass fiddle, mandolin, banjo and dobro (leave any instrument out at will). For some it´s acoustic (insert name here) music. I find it interesting that whenever I play "my brand of bluegrass" it gets misrepresented "in the worst way". Yet however it is called, people like my kind of sound.

    5) My conclusion: Whatever pushes bluegrass (and its offsprings) into the limelight is worth a positive mention. Whatever the criticizm may be can be left to an academic discussion amongst us who claim to be "grassers". More power to people who like music that focuses on a highly artistic acoustic sound that overcomes all shortcomings such as personal disabilities (BM crosseyedness), social backgrounds (farm (Jimmy Martin), oil drum cleaning crew (BM), professor [Dan Crary], research [Tex Logan, Bell Labs] etc.), nationality (Carrivic Sisters [UK], Nefesh Mountain [USA], Greenbriar Boys [no need to mention any of the topics here; y´all know], Turquiose [F/US]) and so on and so forth. There´s room for protest (as there´s room for protest in all other walks of life).

    There´s just no room here to discuss the protest angle here.

    Let´s pick.
    Olaf

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    Default Re: Lengthy article on bluegrass in the Guardian (UK)

    Quote Originally Posted by wormpicker View Post
    “...the Carolina Chocolate Drops restores the tradition of the black string band that had been all but written out of bluegrass history.”

    I’m more into old-time, but do any of you bluegrassers consider the Chocolate Drops and their mentors bluegrass bands? Also, Lake Superior isn’t anywhere near either Indiana or Chicago...
    Certainly not and you can pretty much bet that they don't think of themselves as bluegrass either!!
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    Default Re: Lengthy article on bluegrass in the Guardian (UK)

    Quote Originally Posted by ToyonPete View Post
    ...."Emma has spent the past two years travelling around the USA with her fiddle, on a quest to learn all there is to know about bluegrass. Her new book, Wayfaring Stranger, will be published by Weidenfeld and Nicholson on May 30.”
    Interesting. Give her credit for that then. But as a friend of mine pointed out despite that she still seems to think the tune "Dueling Banjos" came from the movie "Deliverance"?
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  35. #22

    Default Re: Lengthy article on bluegrass in the Guardian (UK)

    ‘Foul!’ -in soccer in the UK, they play the ball, not the player, ha , ha.
    I’m with the OP, I think, I’m not really bothered about Party Politics. Really I’d rather just make friends and play music.

    But I read the article and I found it interesting.
    I liked the story about Bill Monroe cleaning out beer barrels.
    The first thing was that I’m not sure what she meant by ‘Bluegrass’ nor the word ‘protest’.
    I do know that there are people who say that politics is personal, so for them, everything you do is political, like who you borrow or lend money to (just an example).

    Anyway, like a new tune I thought I’m going to learn something here, so I looked up ‘protest’ on wikipedia. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protest

    Then I looked down at all the different ways that people protest, and it’s a BIG list, and I thought:
    Has Bluegrass ever protested? (my idea of what Bluegrass is)
    Answer: Yes. (and it surprised me)
    Bluegrass at:
    A Vigil, yes.
    A ceremony, yes.
    A symbolic display, yes.
    A boycott, yes.
    A lawsuit, definitely!

    Riot? No... etc -though I did wonder who pays for riots.

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    Default Re: Lengthy article on bluegrass in the Guardian (UK)

    Quote Originally Posted by atsunrise View Post
    ...Riot? No... etc -though I did wonder who pays for riots.
    Sadly we do. Police, Firefighters, EMTs, City, County, State maintenance crews and insurance premiums

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    Default Re: Lengthy article on bluegrass in the Guardian (UK)

    Quote Originally Posted by atsunrise View Post
    Riot? No... etc -though I did wonder who pays for riots.
    Maybe the promoter?

    So long as they provide free beer and every guy in the band can make a $100, I'll play your riot! Hell, if you have free beer, you're providing the PA, and you have a good sound guy, I'll play your riot for $65!

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  40. #25

    Default Re: Lengthy article on bluegrass in the Guardian (UK)

    Oh no! There was a typo in my post, Bill Monroe didn’t clean out beer barrels there, he cleaned out OIL barrels.
    Sorry guys the beer’s gone bad!

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