The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #61355   Message #986070
Posted By: GUEST,Russ
18-Jul-03 - 02:03 PM
Thread Name: Old time and Bluegrass-- Differences
Subject: RE: Old time and Bluegrass-- Differences
Defining "Old Time Music" isn't much of a problem for the people who play it. There's a pretty generally accepted canon of recorded music and musicians that we all (mostly) agree is old time. The problem with this canon is that it is so varied it is quite difficult to come up with some sort of definitional "essence." What, for example, does Eddn Hammons' "Star of Bethlehem" have in common with the Carter Family's "Keep on the Sunny Side" that makes them both old time music?

If you are trying to define the term for a non-player, the vaguer the better. My standard definition for such a person is "It is the music that you would've heard on the radio if you lived in the south during the first few decades of the 20th century. It's the music that sort of metamorphosed into modern bluegrass and modern country music."

I sometimes use "old time" in a sort of via-negativa way. I say that I play old time music to distinguish myself from other stringed instrument musicians who play "folk" music or "singer/songwriter" music, or bluegrass. It's more about what I don't do than what I do.

Finally, for me, the litmus test for bluegrass is the banjo playing. If there's a banjo in the band, and s/he's playing Scruggs's style (not just fingerpicking), it's bluegrass.