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Is bluegrass an attitude?

Jerry Rasmussen 06 Sep 04 - 10:47 AM
jimmyt 06 Sep 04 - 10:54 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 06 Sep 04 - 11:10 AM
wysiwyg 06 Sep 04 - 11:14 AM
GUEST,Frank 06 Sep 04 - 11:30 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 06 Sep 04 - 11:31 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 06 Sep 04 - 11:54 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 06 Sep 04 - 11:58 AM
wysiwyg 06 Sep 04 - 12:26 PM
BanjoRay 06 Sep 04 - 12:53 PM
wysiwyg 06 Sep 04 - 12:54 PM
Rabbi-Sol 06 Sep 04 - 01:41 PM
John Hardly 06 Sep 04 - 02:10 PM
Desert Dancer 06 Sep 04 - 02:16 PM
GLoux 06 Sep 04 - 02:28 PM
GUEST,sorefingers 06 Sep 04 - 02:42 PM
Linda Lee 06 Sep 04 - 02:56 PM
Bill Hahn//\\ 06 Sep 04 - 05:58 PM
kendall 06 Sep 04 - 07:58 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 06 Sep 04 - 08:13 PM
Once Famous 06 Sep 04 - 09:41 PM
jimmyt 06 Sep 04 - 09:43 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 06 Sep 04 - 09:54 PM
Joe Offer 07 Sep 04 - 02:32 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 07 Sep 04 - 05:06 AM
ThreeSheds 07 Sep 04 - 06:31 AM
Snuffy 07 Sep 04 - 08:43 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 07 Sep 04 - 09:47 AM
Jeri 07 Sep 04 - 10:29 AM
GLoux 07 Sep 04 - 10:46 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 07 Sep 04 - 11:06 AM
jimmyt 07 Sep 04 - 11:35 AM
wilco 07 Sep 04 - 04:22 PM
jimmyt 07 Sep 04 - 05:34 PM
M.Ted 07 Sep 04 - 05:55 PM
JennyO 07 Sep 04 - 10:37 PM
catspaw49 07 Sep 04 - 11:25 PM
Rabbi-Sol 08 Sep 04 - 04:23 PM
GUEST,Stephen 08 Sep 04 - 04:48 PM
Ron Davies 08 Sep 04 - 09:42 PM
The Fooles Troupe 08 Sep 04 - 11:11 PM
JennyO 08 Sep 04 - 11:27 PM
leeneia 09 Sep 04 - 12:52 AM
Dewey 09 Sep 04 - 05:42 AM
Dewey 09 Sep 04 - 05:46 AM
GUEST,Hootenany 09 Sep 04 - 06:07 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 09 Sep 04 - 06:19 AM
GUEST,Stephen 09 Sep 04 - 06:42 AM
Ron Davies 09 Sep 04 - 07:31 AM
BanjoRay 09 Sep 04 - 08:53 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 09 Sep 04 - 09:20 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 09 Sep 04 - 11:02 AM
GUEST,Stephen 09 Sep 04 - 12:54 PM
Barbara Shaw 09 Sep 04 - 04:51 PM
BanjoRay 09 Sep 04 - 05:09 PM
Once Famous 09 Sep 04 - 05:37 PM
GUEST,tony 09 Sep 04 - 05:40 PM
Once Famous 09 Sep 04 - 05:56 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 09 Sep 04 - 08:41 PM
Once Famous 09 Sep 04 - 09:26 PM
Ron Davies 09 Sep 04 - 10:31 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 09 Sep 04 - 10:43 PM
Rabbi-Sol 09 Sep 04 - 10:55 PM
GUEST,tony 10 Sep 04 - 12:54 AM
Ron Davies 11 Sep 04 - 08:10 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 11 Sep 04 - 06:19 PM
Ron Davies 12 Sep 04 - 08:43 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 12 Sep 04 - 12:40 PM
GUEST,Hootenanny 12 Sep 04 - 12:49 PM
McGrath of Harlow 12 Sep 04 - 02:00 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 12 Sep 04 - 03:13 PM
pdq 12 Sep 04 - 04:04 PM
McGrath of Harlow 12 Sep 04 - 04:35 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 12 Sep 04 - 06:04 PM
Steve-o 13 Sep 04 - 02:15 PM
GLoux 13 Sep 04 - 04:55 PM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 13 Sep 04 - 04:55 PM
Once Famous 13 Sep 04 - 05:03 PM
Once Famous 13 Sep 04 - 05:05 PM
GLoux 13 Sep 04 - 05:14 PM
PoppaGator 13 Sep 04 - 06:09 PM
Ron Davies 13 Sep 04 - 10:08 PM
GLoux 13 Sep 04 - 11:18 PM
GUEST,Hootenanny 14 Sep 04 - 04:34 AM
McGrath of Harlow 14 Sep 04 - 12:58 PM
Ron Davies 15 Sep 04 - 06:35 AM
GUEST,Cap 10 Mar 11 - 12:20 AM
eddie1 10 Mar 11 - 02:27 AM
GUEST,leeneia 10 Mar 11 - 12:40 PM
GUEST 10 Mar 11 - 05:05 PM
erosconpollo 10 Mar 11 - 05:13 PM
Murray MacLeod 10 Mar 11 - 05:29 PM
Little Hawk 10 Mar 11 - 07:59 PM
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The Sandman 14 Mar 11 - 05:07 PM
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Subject: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 06 Sep 04 - 10:47 AM

I've been listening to a lot of bluegrass recently, and as Martin Gibson says, bluegrass has been called "Folk music on overdrive." Seein's as how we can't even agree on what "folk music" is, I'm not suggesting we try to come up with a clean definition of bluegrass.
But, I've been wondering, in my usual, non-scholarly way. I've always thought of bluegrass as Bill Monroe or Flatt and Scruggs and the Stanley Brothers. There was a classic combination of instruments with each taking it's part, even to the point of runs and picking patterns becoming pretty standardized. Harmonies were mostly standardized, too. There is a tightness and drive to that kind of bluegrass that very few forms of music can touch. But then, I listen to my CD of Mainer's Mountaineers (What'll I do With The Baby-o is playing right now.) They have the energy and drive of a bluegrass band, but the banjo is'n Scruggs style, three finger, there are no typical guitar bass runs, and the harmonies are not the usual bluegrass harmonies. They call the music "bluegrass" on the record jacket, but it sounds more like mountain music on speed. If anyone would care to define what mountain music is, be my guest.

At the other end of the spectrum are more adventurous bluegrass bands who still seem like bluegrass because of the instrumentation and the roots that are showing. Segue over to the Dixie Chicks and I start to get lost. I don't know where bluegrass ends and country starts.
There's no real way to define bluegrass any more than any other kind of music.

What I'm wondering is, is bluegrass a matter of "attitude." I don't mean "attitude" as in "bad" attitude. Maybe "approach" or "mindset"
is part of what I'm trying to say. Is it also instrumentation? We all know that you can't play folk music with a piano. :-) At least not in the narrower definition of the term. Does bluegrass have to be acoustic? Does it have to have banjo, and does it have to be played Scruggs style? What about fiddle? Is electric bass allowed now? (I imagine it is, although I haven't been to a bluegrass festival in recent years.)

Come on, MG, tell me how you see this.. And anyone else who has an interest in bluegrass.

Meanwhile, I'll go back to listening Mainer's Mountaineer's. Or maybe The Stoneman Family. Whatever the record label may say, they don't seem like bluegrass to me. Just mountain music on speed.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: jimmyt
Date: 06 Sep 04 - 10:54 AM

well, on another note, I am entirely too animated to play bluegrass. I watch these guys doing that wonderful music and hardly MOVE at all, let alone have any expression on their faces. I tend to jump around a bit, and certainly can't hide my animation. I guess I could learn to play it.....but it'd have to be on the radio! grin   jimmyt


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 06 Sep 04 - 11:10 AM

There's some truth to what you say, jimmy... but far more so of old-timey bands. I think bluegrass bands have more footwork... diving up to the mike to sing harmonies (maybe that's where the Beatles learned to do that) and stepping back with perfect precision so the banjo or fiddle player can step forward for their break.

I think old-timey musicians think that because the old bands weren't moving in their photos and were standing stiffly posed, that that's they way you're supposed to play old-timey music. You can be Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers didn't stand there like statues.

The reason I like black gospel so much is that you can move as much as you want..

Must be our youth showing, jimmy..

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 06 Sep 04 - 11:14 AM

Don't forget blues was part of bluegrass. That's one reason why blues/black gospel and bluegrass gospel so often turn up in each others' back yards. Also if you listen to blues fiddle, all you need to do is speed it up and it's bluegrass fiddle. I bet picking patterns do that too. And "high lonesome" singing sounds an awful lot like soloists singing spirituals-- pushing the pitch a tad sharp on long notes for emphasis. "High lonesome" is pitch shading as much as tone shading.

~S~


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST,Frank
Date: 06 Sep 04 - 11:30 AM

The quote "folk music with overdrive" is attributable to Alan Lomax.

There is an attitude among some blue grassers that is exclusive to outsiders.
It is no cooincidence that there are no African-American bluegrass players which is not true in the Old Timey camp. Taj Mahal is a wonderful old time banjo picker.

The musicianship can be superb. The genre however seems resistant to change and a lot of petty bickering goes on about what is the correct way to play it. Often, some practioners reject any advanced harmonic structure and paint a psuedo-bucolic picture of quaintness and purity that confines the accompanist to fewer chords than necessary. It started not in the Blue Grass state of Kentucky but in the oil fields of Indiana. Innovation is resisted by traditionalists (what else is new?) but despite that, some wonderful developments have taken place because of it such as David Grissman, Andy Statman, Bill Keith and the advent of NewGrass. Monroe's forbidding presence has tended to suppress the genre by becoming an object of idolatry rather than an appreciation of what he accomplished musically. A lot of this is probably due to Monroe's personality although in fairness, he did have Bill Keith play with him and recognized this banjo innovator.

Frank


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 06 Sep 04 - 11:31 AM

Then you would certainly enjoy the workshop we're doing at NOMAD, Susan.. The Gospel In Black. Bluegrass and Blues.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 06 Sep 04 - 11:54 AM

Why do we need to get into an endless pointless discussion of what is and is not bluegrass. It is another branch of what is loosely known as American indigenous/folk music/mountain music, lots of influences and ingredients, several variations in style and delivery. You either appreciate it or some of it or you don't.

It would appear from some observations that some contributors have never actually seen live old time bands in action and with regard to the fancy foot work of bluegrass bands this is only apparent when they work to one mic, something which seems to be coming back into style for bands interested in presenting a more visual style than when the musicians are static across the stage and individually mice'ed (Is that a word?)


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 06 Sep 04 - 11:58 AM

Hey, Hootenanny:

I booked both bluegrass and old-timey bands for 27 years, so I have a fair idea of their general performing styles. Of course there are exceptions.

Why do we discuss it? Because this is a discussion forum. And, it's fun. We're not looking for definitive answers. Just having a good time. Guess you're not.

Sorry

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 06 Sep 04 - 12:26 PM

Jerry, yes, I would enjoy it, but I am already singing it, every week.

~S~


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: BanjoRay
Date: 06 Sep 04 - 12:53 PM

There are many styles and types of Old Time music, with many different instrument lineups. Bluegrass as started by Bill Monroe and followed by most of the bands since who profess to play Bluegrass is a carefully arranged version of a small sub-set of Old Time music, with a standard set of instruments played in a specific way, usually non-crooked tunes and three part harmony vocal choruses. It is arranged for performance on stage as opposed to informal back-porch sessions.
Someone once said, maybe here, that Bluegrass uses a tune to show how good the players are, while Old Time musicians use their skill to show how good the tune is.
I'm a keen Old Time fan and player who likes some (the best) bluegrass, but a lot of it is a bit boring.
Cheers
Ray


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: wysiwyg
Date: 06 Sep 04 - 12:54 PM

Bluegrass uses a tune to show how good the players are, while Old Time musicians use their skill to show how good the tune is.


THANK you!!!!!!

~S~


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Rabbi-Sol
Date: 06 Sep 04 - 01:41 PM

There is a big difference between the Bill Monroe traditional bluegrass bands and what has come to be known today as "Progressive Bluegrass". Good example of the latter are Northern Lights, Chesapeake, Tony Trischka & Skyline, Laurie Lewis, Out To Lunch, Nothin Fancy, Allison Krause & Union Station,& Amy Gallatin & Stillwater. SOL ZELLER


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: John Hardly
Date: 06 Sep 04 - 02:10 PM

There's a story that Sam Bush tells of his meeting the great Bill Monroe.

Sam was excited, as any young player would be to meet a hero. Bush was even more thrilled to know that the master had actually heard of Bush and his music when Monroe asked, "You fellas play that...what'dya call it....New Grass?"

Sam said that, yes, that's what they were calling it.

"Yeah...." says Monroe, ".....I don't like that stuff"


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 06 Sep 04 - 02:16 PM

re: moving, or not --

Something that seems to differentiate bluegrass from old-time for me (and it's an outgrowth of that "overdrive" thing) is that bluegrass has detached the tunes from their dance roots and made the tempos undanceable.

I think that's the main reason I'm not fond of bluegrass. :-)

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GLoux
Date: 06 Sep 04 - 02:28 PM

Did you know that at festivals/competitions like Union Grove, etc. that old-time bands and bluegrass bands were not "segregated" from each other until the early 1970s? Prior to that there was no classification...they just were bands competing against one another.

In addition to Scruggs-style or Keith-Style banjo picking, bluegrass also frequently uses Dobro. Bluegrass also features separate instrumental breaks...all part of the Monroe model.

I'm in an old-time band. I still get amused when someone comes up to us after we finish a tune or a song saying, "I love bluegrass music!"

-Greg


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST,sorefingers
Date: 06 Sep 04 - 02:42 PM

As an unrepentant OT revivalist for the 5 string Banjo, I once sat in the middle of so many BGBs that I could not turn but hear yet another differnt style, but I was totaly floored listening to an old guy with few teeth, a coke bottle inside a cooler full of mountain-dew ( hooch/poteen to our cousins across the pond), and a couple of bodygaurds. Looking as if there he was nothing but a bag of bones, he played his Mandoline and sang - to me like a bird - so high I could not believe he was really male! Sitting on a log and 'preaching' there almost unseen by hundreds because of the sound of the other bands, the few lucky select few were entranced by the show. Anyway he talked a little to me and a few other visitors/tourists before he left and told us that what the bands there did was NOT Bluegrass.

I swear to this day he had to have been Bill M, but OC you never know out here who's who becuase of age, publicity etc. But I will assert that what he did is totaly unlike anything I ever heard any BGB play or sing, either before or since.

To me, what he did was pure Mountain music like the Blues, but with a western structures.

The other claim that BG is not as good as or different to OT is nonsense since Scruggs and a few more of that era were about as good on OT as uppicking. Don't take my word for it, go check it out yourself.

However I do notice today that instrument technology is bringing an end to an era, in every type of music. For example Earl Scruggs' original Banjo was topped with calf skin, ie hide, NOT plastic. So the sound of the 5 string is vastly different today. Another example, drums tops are now synthetic and the instrument is a weak shadow of its former self.

To me then, BG is about instrumentation, while attitude can help it ain't enough to get it done.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Linda Lee
Date: 06 Sep 04 - 02:56 PM

Hi All,
I was searching on Google and found references to Clint Howard and Fred Price under old time music in some of the chat threads. Although Fred passed away in 1987, Clint is still playing and has a couple of new albums out this year. They are locally made here in Mountain City, TN, USA. The Ballad Of Finley Preston is no longer available, but we are considering reissuing it on CD. Clint now plays with his son Clarence, Jack Proffitt on bass, sometimes Garet Howard, Clint's grandson, joins them on banjo and lately Kenneth Price, Fred's son, has been playing with them on fiddle and banjo. They just played a live 2 hour show in Galax, Va Saturday at the Rex Theater and will be playing at the Kruger Brothers Carolina in the Falls Festival on September 18th in North Wilkesboro, NC. Let me know if you are interested in hearing more about what Clint has been up to.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Bill Hahn//\\
Date: 06 Sep 04 - 05:58 PM

Rabbi Sol:   You mentioned Out To Lunch. This group --which you have probably seen---appears rather infrequently. But, when they do it a real delight. They do all kinds of music but their send-up of the BG of Bill Monroe just breaks me up. They stand like robots doing an exact Monroe arrangement as each on robotically steps up to the mic and then retires again.

Best of all---they are having such a great time on the stage---and it shows.


Bill Hahn


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: kendall
Date: 06 Sep 04 - 07:58 PM

"Little" Roy Lewis of the Lewis family bluegrass band jumps around like a fart in a mitten. Drives me batty.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 06 Sep 04 - 08:13 PM

How do you fart in a mitten, Kendall? No, don't describe it to me...

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Once Famous
Date: 06 Sep 04 - 09:41 PM

Hi All

Back from a three day holiday weekend.

Great thread, Jerry. Bluegrass is such a major part of American folkmusic.

Doc Watson is bluegrass. So is Nickel Creek. So is Sam Bush. So is Ralph Stanley. So is Rabbi Sol. So is Hot Rise. And Patty Lovelace, and Steve Earle when he plays with Del McCourey. Grandpa Jones is bluegrass and so are the Osborne Bros. Stringbean (David Akeman) was bluegrass when he played in Bill Monroe's band. Jerry Garcia is bluegrass and so is Don Reno.

It IS an attitude. I feel it when I perform bluegrass. Who evever said you can't dance to it is wrong. When I'm playing upright bass, I'm jiggling my ass right with the beat.

Whoever said it's just about instrumentation, isn't listening to unbelievable 3 and 4 part harmonies.

It's American music. You can buy it polished or unpolished.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: jimmyt
Date: 06 Sep 04 - 09:43 PM

And Now Jerry and Kendall will discuss flatulance and wool hand protection and the various movements of such products. Who would have thought it would get to this so fast from Bluegrass? But don't get me wrong, we all enjoy it!


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 06 Sep 04 - 09:54 PM

Good to see you, MG. And that you see bluegrass as broader than Bill Monroe. And certainly, the harmonies are always tight in bluegrass.
Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver have one of the best vocal blends I've ever heard.

And Steve Earle has attitude to spare.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 07 Sep 04 - 02:32 AM

Well, there's one attitude I've noticed among bluegrass musicians. I don't play an instrument, but I love to sing. Bluegrass musicians tend to think of singing as an annoyance, or at least secondary in importance to the instruments. When I've sung with bluegrass musicians, they often don't want to sing all the verses of a song - one or two will suffice for them, even if you need a few more verses to tell the whole story.
It makes it hard on a singer, ya know.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 07 Sep 04 - 05:06 AM

Jerry

Carry on having a good time. Personally I prefer to play and/or listen to the music to have a good time.

There is undoubtedly a lot of interesting information that comes up on these threads but it is often outweighed by a load of nonsense.

And if after 27 years you still don't know the answers, then I can tell you that after 37 years plus it becomes clear that there are too many variables to even worry about.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: ThreeSheds
Date: 07 Sep 04 - 06:31 AM

Will someone please explain what mitten farting is all about?


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Snuffy
Date: 07 Sep 04 - 08:43 AM

Perhaps it should be a fart in a midden - but then how would you know?


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 07 Sep 04 - 09:47 AM

Jimmy: One thing I've seen, not just in bluegrass, that I don't understand. It's musicians who play stone-faced, never showing any sign of emotion, or that they are even there. There is no reaction with the audience or the other musicians, and no indication that they are even reacting to what they're playing. I've seen this in some bluegrass bands, some old-timey bands, and weirdest of all to me, in many instrumentalists who are accompanying gospel singing in black churches. Keyboardist in black churches seem particularly prone to the zombie approach, but I see bass guitarists and even lead guitarists doing it.

A few weeks ago, we sang at a big gathering of groups, and there were two guitar players who uninvited, got up and "backed" other singers.
One played bass and one played "lead" guitar. The first song they got up to play on, they were not in tune with each other, and worst of all, they started playing along with the group, which was singing a capella, playing in a different key. So, there they stood, completely emotionless, playing in the wrong key, out of tune and louder than the singers. Looking cool, man.

Total oblivion is not cool.

Sorry

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Jeri
Date: 07 Sep 04 - 10:29 AM

There's a line between old-timey and bluegrass that, at least for me, is pretty fuzzy. Is it that 3-fingered assertive attack on banjo that makes it bluegrass? Is it a mandolin (or other instrument) that plays a fast improvisation all over the scale? I never would have thought of Grandpa Jones as bluegrass. I haven't heard that much by him, and what I've heard him play was old-timey clawhammer. Then again, I've heard people play clawhammer banjo on bluegrass songs. Fuzzy line.

As to the immobility of some, it may just come naturally to whoever's playing, maybe they're just concentrating on their fingers, or it may be a style they picked up from emulating someone else. What gets me is how those guys can sing without hardly opening their mouths. (There was a local band "Lonesome Dave and the North Dixie Road Kings" that did a song called "Singin' Through My Nose.")


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GLoux
Date: 07 Sep 04 - 10:46 AM

And of course, fuzzy is beautiful. Since bluegrass evolved out of old-time music there will always be some fuzziness to the line between them. Ralph Stanley always tries to play at least one clawhammer piece when in concert (at least that's what he said the times I've seen him in concert). Grandpa Jones played old-time clawhammer banjo.

-Greg


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 07 Sep 04 - 11:06 AM

Get Fuzzy is one of my favorite comic strips.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: jimmyt
Date: 07 Sep 04 - 11:35 AM

We have a group in Chattanooga called The Dismembered Tennesseeans who play bluegrass, and extremely well I might add. They started playing in 1948 and still have a couple of original members. They have a cd called, and I love this title: Music Sung From the Heart and Through the Nose.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: wilco
Date: 07 Sep 04 - 04:22 PM

The Dismembered Tennesseans also had a CD called: Forty Years in the Wrong Band."
   This is very interesting to me. I look at the entertainment value. Many of the bluegrass bands are terrific instrumentalists, but they project nothing that is entertaining or exciting. They just stand there and play, stone-faced.
   I like a foot-stomping old-time string band.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: jimmyt
Date: 07 Sep 04 - 05:34 PM

wilco48 good to see you back around these parts! I know what you meanabout the lack of expression. I guess it works for them, but I really don't know how they can do it!


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: M.Ted
Date: 07 Sep 04 - 05:55 PM

When "Bluegrass" came out of the closet back in the 60's and 70's, many very talented folks who had been playing novelty music set the comedy aside and emphasized the music--It struck me that a lot of people really wanted to seperate themselves from the "Hayseed Hillbilly" rountine and be taken more seriously as musicians--

As to Bluegrass and dancing, I must agree with Martin--it is about only music that you can use for clogging--


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: JennyO
Date: 07 Sep 04 - 10:37 PM

We have a very good bluegrass group here in Oz called the Sommers Family. It includes a couple of adults and several children, all of them extremely talented. One really brilliant player in the group is a young teenage girl who plays the banjo. The music just tumbles amazingly out of that banjo, but, like the others in the group, she stands there, statue-like, looking off into the distance, as if she was bored - the only discernible muscle movement being in her fingers. When they sing, they cluster around one microphone, and the harmonies, although tight, are sung in a nasal drawl.

It seems to me to be a carefully calculated style that many bluegrass groups adopt. Yes, maybe the idea is that we should concentrate on the music, but this lot manage to look so supremely BORED, that I actually find it distracting. I just can't imagine having the willpower to play music that is so lively-sounding without moving to the beat or tapping the foot or something, but then that's just me.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: catspaw49
Date: 07 Sep 04 - 11:25 PM

An odd side theme seems to have developed here. Am I wrong or are some of you saying that players who are less "animated" might be technncally excellent but tend to lack real feeling or connection with the music? Just wondering.

Spaw

BTW, if you are suggesting that, I suggest you listen/watch a lot of the very greats in jazz like Charlie Parker or Paul Desmond.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Rabbi-Sol
Date: 08 Sep 04 - 04:23 PM

At every Bluegrass festival that I have attended during the past 20 years, the 2 most requested songs are always "Rockytop" & "Fox On The Run", without exception. SOL ZELLER


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST,Stephen
Date: 08 Sep 04 - 04:48 PM

Interesting thread... I spent a couple of gigs this summer as one of Ralph Stanley's Clinch Mountain Boys. I'm a harmonica player (after a fashion), and have never really played 'bluegrass' before (not that Ralph calls it that anyway - but instead 'Old-time mountain music')... it was one hell of an experience, let me tell you!


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 08 Sep 04 - 09:42 PM

I have a lot to say on this topic, but my stuff will keep.   Right now I think-- and I suspect that I'm not alone in this--that it would be fascinating if GUEST Stephen could tell us what it was like to do gigs this summer as part of the Clinch Mountain Boys. What was it like working with Ralph Stanley? Sounds like you have some good stories to tell.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 08 Sep 04 - 11:11 PM

Jenny O,
"Yes, maybe the idea is that we should concentrate on the music, but this lot manage to look so supremely BORED, that I actually find it distracting. "

Maybe they are trying to encourage people to buy their records? ;-)


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: JennyO
Date: 08 Sep 04 - 11:27 PM

LOL Robin! Hasn't worked on me, though. I like my bluegrass live, and I like a bit of energy in it. I'm one of those people who likes to jump around a bit. BTW Robin, have you seen the Sensitive New Age Cowpersons? What a hoot!

Jenny


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: leeneia
Date: 09 Sep 04 - 12:52 AM

I wonder if any of the people here who are commenting on musician's lack of animation have ever played an instrument.

Somebody who is in front of a large paying audience and is playing music fast and by memory has to concentrate on his hands and the sounds around him. The spatial and aural parts of the brain are doing all the work, and the communication centers (which are involved in facial expressions) are more-or-less turned off.

There are people who cannot play an instrument and talk at the same time. (I'm one of them.) If I am playing the piano and trying to talk, my words start coming out slower and slower, until finally I just stop talking. The same thing often happens to people who are drawing and trying to talk. It's a so-called "right-brain" thing.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Dewey
Date: 09 Sep 04 - 05:42 AM

Is Bluegrass An Attitude?

Yes!

Bluegrass has a number of infuences, Mountain Music as you say IS part of it, Blues of Course was very infuential, as are Beautiful Celtic harmonies, And even med-evil dissident fifth note harmonies.

In the end it was the conceptual ATTITUDE as you have rightly said that made the music what it is.

I credit Bill Monroe (the FATHER of Bluegrass Music) for bringing this all together. He was the one who taught the Original Bluegrass Boys to play at lighting speed.

He was the one who took a tiny Tator-bug Mandolin (a quiet a subtle instrument) and turned it into a raging monster.

He was also the one who told his fiddler to draw the notes of the fiddle OUT (long and smooth with the bow), which created the vocals necessary in the common meter of the songs; and, to drive the music to lightening speed and still sound great.

He was also the one who developed his bluesy rifts and fill-ins (from arpeggiated scales) which conceptualize Lester Flatts need to Create the G-run, as well as the Banjo licks (fill ins and back-up) that Scruggs began developing. Without Bill Monroe the elements of Today's Bluegrass would not BE.

Ralph Stanley and Others Quickly Followed Suite, perfecting their sound based on the Monroe Sound.

Of Course Mountain Music Sound similars, But Bill Monroe gave to music it edge and likability.

The Proper Bluegrass Attitude is What developes "the Sound" And the concept for the "proper way" it should sound is all Bill Monroe in my opinion.

Some would argue that he wasn't the greatest singer, or Musician, I would beg to differ because he had something more precious than hotpicking musicianship (although this was pretty darn good too)

He had an instinct for the sound. He is to Bluegrass what Robert Johnson is to Blues, Or Glen Miller is To Big Band: A Pioneer.

But it was his ATTITUDE toward the music, that created the music: not the other way around.

I think of this everytime a pick-up my Banjo, or Flatplick a tune on the Guitar, the importance is INSTINCTUALLY DRIVING the music.

I learned this important lesson the very first time a went to Bean Blossum Indiana, where before this time I was not playing with the proper enthusiasm (or drive) to appreciate the great music that was being created there.

Dewey

P.S. Congratulations on the Diet Jerry!, Keep up the Good Work.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Dewey
Date: 09 Sep 04 - 05:46 AM

Opps! Jerry. I meant to say Lifestyle change!

Dewey


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST,Hootenany
Date: 09 Sep 04 - 06:07 AM


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 09 Sep 04 - 06:19 AM

Dewey,

Monroe with a taterbug ??? possibly in childhhod but I don't think even Monroe could achieve what he did using a taterbug .

I generally agree with your observations BUT not with regard to Robert Johnson. Robert was one of many Delta blues musicians, his influences came from many others and himself influenced many more but he didn't "define" the genre in the same way that you can argue Monroe did with bluegrass.

Johnson was undoubtedly a great blues musician but so was Blind Willie McTell in a different style and Charlie Patton and later Fred McDowell plus others too numerous to mention. If Johnson hadn't died at such a young age and survived into the 60's "Blues Revival" I'm sure he would have been "just another" great bluesman.

Sorry if this digressed too much from the thread


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST,Stephen
Date: 09 Sep 04 - 06:42 AM

Haha, thanks Ron... Don't really know if there's much to tell; it all kind of happened by chance! I met him last November in London where I interviewed him for my university radio station, and we got on pretty well. This July I happened to be in Winfield, KS and Ralph was playing a gig up in Wichita... I went off to interview him again, and he invited me if I'd like to join the tour for the last couple of dates - naturally, I didn't refuse. Next morning on the tour bus his grandson Nathan (one of the CMB's mando players) was playing Nine Pound Hammer and I pulled out my harmonicas and started to jam along. Next thing I know Ralph asked me if I'd like to join them on stage for a few songs that night (which I did), and then he asked me again the next night... and that was the end of the tour.

I think I have to agree with Leeneia on the whole 'lack of animation' issue. The CMBs play incredibly intricate stuff at lightning pace - it was all I could do just to try and keep up.. Incidentally, if anyone's interested, here's an mp3 of me trying to do just that (on 'Nine Pound Hammer' in Lawrence, KS):
Nine Pound Hammer (Lawrence, KS)


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 09 Sep 04 - 07:31 AM

Thanks, Stephen. Bet playing with Ralph, if only for two gigs on tour, was a real kick. Ralph sounds exactly like he's sounded for decades--that's something for the rest of us to aim at---still belting it out at, what, 80? Harmonica sounded good, too. Now that's not a "traditional bluegrass instrument". Maybe we should, like Ralph, call the whole thing "mountain music" and forget artificial distinctions between "bluegrass" and "old time".


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: BanjoRay
Date: 09 Sep 04 - 08:53 AM

There's nothing artificial about the differences between Bluegrass and Old Time music as being played these days by current bands. Peoples tastes in music have become much more focussed in recent years, due to the easy availability of all sorts of music, and the names of the genres should reflect this new focus. 50 years ago it was all classed as 'Country Music' - nowadays that term has been hijacked by rock bands from Nashville with Stetsons and cowboy boots. I wouldn't want bluegrassers to hijack 'Mountain music' as a title.
Cheers
Ray


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 09 Sep 04 - 09:20 AM

I believe much of it is artificial Ray. I believe that you have frequented Gainsborough in February each year and Mount Airy in June.
Several "Old Timey" people were performing "bluegrass" songs at Gainsborough when I was there, some of whom I have heard vehemently disowning the term bluegrass over a number of years, and at Mt Airy many of the musicians will partake in jamming sessions in either camp. If it's good music played well I don't see any reason for trying to drive a division between two variants of the same music. I agree with you that the term "Country" has been hi-jacked by the "pop" music team in Nashville and sadly now if you describe one of your tastes in music as country then you have to go on to explain that's it's no longer what comes out of Nashville.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 09 Sep 04 - 11:02 AM

I realize that on a breakneck song, with complex precision breaks that bluegrass musicians might have to put all of their attention on playing, and show no emotion. Kinda. Tell Jimmie Hendrix that. But, not every bluegrass song is played at a breakneck pace. The great stone faces show no emotion, even on the slow songs when they aren't as completely preoccupied with fast breaks. I think that it's more a matter of "attitude" with some musicians.

I've had friends in old-time (and even punk bands) and I've kidded them that the band drew straws and whoever got the shortest one had to sing. They all laughed and said that was pretty much true. One friend, who never sang when he was playing in duos with a singer, never sang. When he joined an old-time band, he became their lead singer. No one else wanted to sing. Of course, there are bluegrass bands with great singers, but I think that most musicians are excited about the instrumental energy.

The great stone faces I see in old-time and black gospel music aren't stone faced because they are doing incredible instrumental breaks. They just think it looks cool... meaning detached, and above it all.
I'm surprised they don't yawn more often.

It ain't just bluegrass, friends.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST,Stephen
Date: 09 Sep 04 - 12:54 PM

No, again speaking only from my own (limited) experience, playing harmonica/guitar/singing, I think it's quite possible to get 'lost' in the music without betraying it by any external signs... you can get so absorbed by the music - and in trying to 'add something' to it yourself - that all your concentration goes into listening and playing. That's not to say that I don't move around a fair bit when I'm playing harp though...

Also, what I think you need to remember - with bands like Ralph Stanley & the CMBs - is that they're playing into microphones (i.e. not using pick-ups), and so aren't able to be much more than rooted to the spot.

SB


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Barbara Shaw
Date: 09 Sep 04 - 04:51 PM

I think bluegrass is definitely an attitude. It's so much more than just the music, it's the lifestyle, the approach to all music, the participation, the jams, the community. And I call a lot of things bluegrass that are probably string band or old-timey or mountain or folk or country or acoustic rock or whatever.

And I personally don't trust a musician who doesn't move when playing! The stiffs can be technically proficient, but I don't feel much from their music. I'm sometimes embarassed by showy displays and bouncing around while playing (especially on the bass, an instrument you can literally DANCE with!) but to me it means the music is felt, not just presented. I've seen bands where the musicians interact with each other and the audience, have fun on stage, move, and they give a much better show - and are appreciated more - than the ones who stand like robots presenting brilliant licks and technically daunting, dead arrangements. Some people are always in control or perhaps totally inhibited or reserved or perhaps don't feel it physically like others, but I find movement to be an important part of making music.

On the other hand, some performers are so forced, showing such extravagant emotion and stylized movements that you know it's phony.

And that's my attitude.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: BanjoRay
Date: 09 Sep 04 - 05:09 PM

Guest Hootenanny - It's not the song that's bluegrass, it's the way it's played. Old Time and Bluegrass have many songs/tunes in common. For an Old Time song to turn into Bluegrass you need to arrange it in a Bluegrass way, with instrumental breaks, Scruggs style banjo, flash mandolin, vocal harmonies etc. We had a little Bluegrass at the summer camp, but I never heard much at Gainsborough festival, except when someone's tongue was in their cheek.
Cheers
Ray


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Once Famous
Date: 09 Sep 04 - 05:37 PM

The attitude can be wrapped up in the opening announcement made in one of Ricky Skaggs' best albums:

"country rocks, but
bluegrass rules!"


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST,tony
Date: 09 Sep 04 - 05:40 PM

Allow me to offer a 2 cent piece for the table… (though it may be a little late in coming)

Perhaps Bluegrass music isn't so much a particular style of music determined by the instruments that are being played, or the way in which they are being played. And maybe it's not so much whether the lyrics are meaningless – or wonderfully poetic. Stuff that has been "sold" as bluegrass have had variations of all of the above.

I would offer for consideration that it has as much to do with the audience that the performer / artist is trying to reach and whether or not that audience is responding. The audience will define the genre by a mutual consent, and will eventually end up re-defining the meaning of the term in the process (capitalism at its best). So, is the meaning of the term suppose to be static or is it fluid?

I mean, I read above where one person considers Doc Watson to be a bluegrass performer – to me he is a folk artist. A great deal of his recorded work is not done with all of the traditional "bluegrass instrumental" accompaniment. But he does include songs that are known as bluegrass – because of who wrote them or has performed them in the past. And he does exceptionally well when performing in the company of known bluegrass performers.

Some have offered that it is determined by the instruments being played? …and how they are being played. What about Guy Clark? A lot of his music has been recorded with traditional bluegrass instruments – and some of them do have a definite bluegrass flavor – to me. (i.e. Soldier's Joy and Sis Draper) He is certainly not known as a bluegrass artist. I would consider he to be a contemporary folk artist – others might disagree and say he is country, but not the new Nashville type…

And as far as an animated bluegrass performance is concerned… have you ever watched Sam Bush on stage? …how would you label his style of music?   He calls himself a bluegrass performer and is billed as a bluegrass performer – and a large audience that identifies itself as bluegrass fans accept him as an exceptional bluegrass performing artist. One of those, it looks like, feels like, smells like, sounds like, - must be… kind of deals.

Naturally, this flies in the face of those who think that if it isn't written by and performed like Bill Monroe, it isn't truly bluegrass. And there is a lot of truth to that statement – everything is judge against his work (more or less). But if bluegrass is not allowed to grow beyond Bill Monroe – then his legacy will diminish over time – because fewer and fewer folks will do Bill Monroe like Bill Monroe. Why? Well, once you've heard the tunes – and you can only play them one way and remain true to form – folks will visit once – and then move on to the other stuff that will be called by another name if necessary. What ever we call it – the roots will eventually get lost – and all new performing artists will be the father of their own "(name here)" style of music.

Like any artist who is trying to define themselves. You do what you can in determining what label you want to be given – because there is an audience you are trying to reach, and that's how you promote yourself. When the folks that identify themselves as a follower of that genre of music come back because they appreciate your performance – then your claim to fame has been validated by those who have define the term. Until then you're a wantna be, or just confused about who you are – and they will be willing to give the name you should be called, know what I mean?

What is bluegrass? To me it is the folks who listen to it.

OK. I'll leave now... thanks for your time.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Once Famous
Date: 09 Sep 04 - 05:56 PM

I disagree on some of your stuff, guest Tony.

There is some format though it is not purely bill Monroe's. You can have an act like Del Mcourey open for the Juliard String Quartet. Same audience, different music.

Doc Watson is certainly more than a folksinger. He can be a pure bluegrass player as he was on the Strictly Instrumental album he recorded years ago with Flatt & Scruggs as well as with Scruggs and Skaggs on their 3 pickers album. He also recorded an album of rockabilly music so I guess he's a rockabilly singer, also.

Jerry Garcia as I pointed out has done much bluegrass either with Old & In the Way or bluegrass flavored hillbilly jazz with David Grisman.

On the other hand, foggy Mountain Breakdown played on trombones is hardly bluegrass, so the instruments DO matter.

However, if you played Foggy Mountain Breakdown on a trombone with the right ATTITUDE....................


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 09 Sep 04 - 08:41 PM

Good one, MG:

If I had the licks to do it, I always thought it would be to go to a bluegrass festival and do Orange Blossom Special as a Waltz..

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Once Famous
Date: 09 Sep 04 - 09:26 PM

I can hear it now, Jerry.

Look yonder comin'
comin' down the railroad track
1,2,3
1,2,3


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 09 Sep 04 - 10:31 PM

It's certainly true that Billboard "country" these days is almost without exception '70s rock under a different name. There are a few exceptions--Josh Turner's Long Black Train being one--much more a throwback to '40's country gospel.


At any rate, regarding bluegrass:   it's real easy to just define all the songs you like into the genre you prefer.   I happen to like bluegrass a lot. People seem to be relegating bluegrass to a standard set of instruments played a specific way. I'd agree there are certain instruments which don't fit in bluegrass.

But within the list of fiddle, guitar, dobro, string bass, banjo and mandolin, there are all sorts of combinations. Aren't Hazel and Alice (as a duo) bluegrass? What about the Louvin Brothers and the Blue Sky Boys? Ricky Skaggs and Tony Rice? Doyle Lawson? Doc Watson, as has been mentioned, fits in all sorts of categories. Where does Norman Blake fit in?

You can if you want define bluegrass into a very small subset of music--mostly Bill Monroe and his musical descendants--Flatt and Scruggs, Ralph Stanley? and a few others.
But I would claim all the above for bluegrass, as well as large parts of the Carter Family repertoire, and most of the Singing Brakeman, some Johnny Cash, Charlie Poole, and others. All these without venturing into jazz-influenced music (arguably Jimmy was a link between jazz and country, and country blues is another connection.)   All the above have been done, quite successfully, to the above instruments, and with lots of vocals, including, frequently, harmony.


Old time, on the other hand, seems to be overwhelmingly instrumental. And not only that, instrumental which doesn't allow for breaks. Every instrument plays the same thing over and over. Is this an unfair characterization? The only songs I know of that would be old time for sure would be Cumberland Gap, Old Joe Clark, and Sail Away Ladies, and a few more--usually doesn't tell a story, all verses interchangeable. So OK, my prejudices are showing--your mileage may vary.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 09 Sep 04 - 10:43 PM

Hey, Ron:

You're right, friend. Your prejudices are showing. Charlie Poole is my favorite old-time string band leader and he recorded a wealth of songs (and very few instrumentals or dance tunes with endlessly repeating lines.) He recorded ballads, vaudeville and pop tunes from the turn of the century (like Airship) humorous songs, love songs.. and on and on. I'd put other early duos like Grayson and Whitter, the Dixon Brothers and Darby and Tarlton in the range of old-time with generous portions of blues mixed in. Of course, it depends on which category you put groups in. The Blue Sky Boys could just as easily fit in old time music as bluegrass.

But, then ALL of us show our prejudices. Show me a man without any musical prejudices and I'll show him the door.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Rabbi-Sol
Date: 09 Sep 04 - 10:55 PM

What about Andy Statman,a Klezmer musician who is also a big name Bluegrass mandolin player ? SOL ZELLER


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST,tony
Date: 10 Sep 04 - 12:54 AM

Martin says: *"There is some format though it is not purely bill Monroe's. You can have an act like Del Mcourey open for the Juliard String Quartet. Same audience, different music."*

Marty! Marty! You've missed my point… ; - ) Who defines that format? A committee? The artist? Or the audience?   

BTW – when did Del McCoury ever open for the Juliard String Quartet. I wonder how many came because they wanted to hear both billings.

Listen to what everyone has been saying – even you:

*"Doc Watson is certainly more than a folksinger. He can be a pure bluegrass player as he was on the Strictly Instrumental album he recorded years ago with Flatt & Scruggs as well as with Scruggs and Skaggs on their 3 pickers album. He also recorded an album of rockabilly music so I guess he's a rockabilly singer, also."*

Yes. Of course you are right, he is more than just a folksinger. He's also done a some really fine work that could be classified as pure Mississippi Delta Blues. But if asked - I would still "classify" Doc Watson more as a folk artist than a bluegrass artist. Why? …as I said the great majority of the history of his recorded music was not done with traditional bluegrass accompaniment – nor were they traditional bluegrass songs (though he has done a good number of bluegrass tunes). But don't lose sight of the span of years and the sum of his considerable work. I'm not saying he doesn't do bluegrass music or that he doesn't do it well – I think I said the opposite. And if, as you say, instruments are an essential part of defining bluegrass music – Doc Wastson falls more into a category with Norman Blake. How would you define Norman Blake's music – mostly guitar and a lot of solo guitar. So… what is he? What was Doc Watson know as back in the 60's & 70's? Bluegrass?

*"Jerry Garcia as I pointed out has done much bluegrass either with Old & In the Way or bluegrass flavored hillbilly jazz with David Grisman."*

But bluegrass and "Old And In The Way" is really not what Jerry is most famous for now is it? Nor is his work with Daid Grisman (some would argue that David Grisman is not a true bluegrass artist). But Jerry sure did play well with Old And In The Way. There is a story I heard told about how Vassar Clemens was really amazed at the crowds that "Old And In The Way" was drawing on the west coast – not knowing much about who Jerry was.   And how would you classify Jerry as an artist / performer? Yes he does bluegrass well, but that's not the question…

*"On the other hand, foggy Mountain Breakdown played on trombones is hardly bluegrass, so the instruments DO matter."*

What if it was Lester Flatt playing that trombone? Huh, what about that?

"However, if you played Foggy Mountain Breakdown on a trombone with the right ATTITUDE...................."*

HA HA HA - ROTFLMHO! Wonderful Marty! I'm trying hard to hear that in my head. Now that would be classic.

Let me make another fly by... on a different attack angle this time. I don't think anyone is necessarily wrong when they say that so and so is bluegrass or such and such is bluegrass. The genre itself is best defined collectively by all of those who think they know what it is or isn't.

So, what is bluegrass?   The artist? The song? The words to the song? The instruments? The time period? The geography of origin? It's all of that! …and more. We could – and do – take rock and roll tunes, country tunes, gospel tunes – throw in some mando and banjo – wa la, bluegrass. And we can take traditional bluegrass tunes and jazz it up and wa la, it becomes something else. I'm thinking of Leon Russell and "Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms".

To me – bluegrass is a combination of performers saying "I play bluegrass" or "this is bluegrass" and folks who say "that is bluegrass". It is ever changing and at the same time somewhat the same - as long as the history of the art form lives on.

And – IMO – you have proven my point. So I agree with you. Thanks.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 11 Sep 04 - 08:10 AM

Jerry et al.--

Never heard of Darby and Tarlton--what songs did they do?   And who were Grayson and Whitter? Is this Grayson as in "hadn't 'a been fer Grayson, I'd 'a been in Tennessee?." Again, which songs?


This is great--I know Charlie Poole wrote a lot of great songs (that's why I claimed part of his attitude for bluegrass), but if I can get more songs into "old time" sessions, so much the better. In my (limited) experience, old time sessions have indeed seemed heavily instrumental, as I said. I can get my fill of that, just as I can get my fill of bluegrass musicians whose main goal seems to be to demonstrate that their speedometer is broken.

Also, is it true that, as in my experience, at an old time session everybody plays the tune over and over many times--no variations, no breaks--til it ends? Is that an unfair description?

The best session in my opinion is one which has both vocals and instrumentals---absolute best is both in the same song-----if something is good I want to make it last.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 11 Sep 04 - 06:19 PM

Hey, Ron:

We're both right about old-time music. You're much closer to right if you talk about people who are playing old-time music at jam sessions these days, and I'm much closer to right if I'm talking about the wealth of recorded old-time music that is the source.

Here are some songs recorded by what I would call old time musicians..
Many of them were recorded before bluegrass even existed, so it's missleading considering them bluegrass musicians.

Grayson & Whitter (recorded between 1928-30)
   Handsome Molly
   Going Down The Lee Highway
   Ommie Wise
   Rose Conley
   Train 45
   Short Life Of Trouble
   Tom Dooley
   He Is Coming To Us Dead

Dixon Brothers:

   Weave Room Blues
   Sales Tax On The Women
   Greenback Dollar
   Weaver's Life
   How Can A Broke Man Be Happy
   Down With The Old Canoe (a great song about the Titanic)

And then, there's:

Carolina Tar Heels - Peg And Awl
    "    "    "    Got The Farm Land Blues
Kelly Harrell & The Virginia String Band - My Name Is John Johanna
The Bentley Boys - Down On Penny's Farm
The Stoneman Family - Moutaineer's Courtship
"    "       "       Spanish Merchant's Daughter

And then, there's Uncle Dave Macon and Clarence Ashley with too many songs to list.

This is music that Bill Monroe, The Stanley Brothers and Flatt and Scruggs listened to when they were growing up. Some of it, they fueled up and did bluegrass arrangements of, but most hasn't been carried on by bluegrass bands. If they've been carried on at all, it's been by individual performers, or old-time bands.

Back to late night festival jam sessions. They are what they are, and if you're not playing, they can be a painful experience. There's nothing less joyful than hearing thirty musicians all out of tune with each other plowing their way through Soldier's Joy eighty times. I'll step out for a beer with you, Ron. I can't "jam" so I don't enjoy that. A counterpart, in some ways is the late night singing sessions where, because everyone wants to sing along, you end up being forced into a repertoire of songs with choruses(for obvious reasons) and mostly songs that most people know. Being a singer, I can enjoy those sessions a lot more, but they eventually become limiting, because the choice of songs is of necessity somewhat limited.

I enoy a good mix of instrumentals, songs with choruses, blues, individual singers doing songs without choruses, and even unaccompanied singing.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 12 Sep 04 - 08:43 AM

Jerry (and anybody else with interest--)

On the late night singing sessions.

At the Getaway we have those late night sessions, which frequently turn into those chorus-rich, unaccompanied songs. But there are not only old chorus chestnuts there but always new ones too--partly due to the new blood every year. And we are absolutely chorus- and harmony-mad. (Just try to hold us back). It's just an unearthly experience--Hope you can make it soon.

Uh-oh---that's the dread "thread creep". Sorry about that.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 12 Sep 04 - 12:40 PM


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 12 Sep 04 - 12:49 PM

The sheriff Grayson in the song Tom Dooley was apparently a relative of G.B but one or possibly two generations preceding him. G.B himself was from Laurel Bloomery, Tennessee.

Is it Laurel Bloomery that you are mis-hearing on Train 45 Jerry ??
must admit I haven't checked it but I will.

If there are a lot you folks out there that were unfamiliar with people like Grayson & Whitter, Darby & Tarlton et al and are looking for more I would suggest you subscribe to the Old Time Herald, and if you can look up the excellent but sadly now defunct UK magazine Old Time Herald you will find some great research and info.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 12 Sep 04 - 02:00 PM

If it's a choice between stone-faced musicians (or singers) letting music put across the emotion, and people emoting in order to keep the audience happy, I'll take the former anytime.

Generally it seems to me that, if there's real emotion, from time to time it'll make its own way out, without needing to be pushed. Sometimes there isn't and it's pure mechanical technique, which isn't something to scorn. In such cases I think I'd sooner see honest stone-faces than play acting.

I think that seems to applies in every type of music. Well, every type of music I can get close to.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 12 Sep 04 - 03:13 PM

I'm with you, McGrath. If those were the only two choices.... stone-faced excellence or phony enthusiasm. I think I'd probably go with a third choice, if those were the other two.

Put on a CD, or play some music, myself.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: pdq
Date: 12 Sep 04 - 04:04 PM

If bluegrass is "attitude", that might explain why so many bluegrass fans also like Western Swing.

Most of the early bluegrass fiddlers, such as Chubby Wise, Vasser Clements, Kenny Baker and Benny Martin all started out in Western Swing. For those worried about dancing to bluegrass, get some Western Swing and go to it.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 12 Sep 04 - 04:35 PM

And thank God, they aren't the only choices.

But I distinguish between the musician whose natural way of being, either because of their personality or from their cultural background, is to be extremely reserved and undemonstrative, even stone-faced, and the one who puts that kind of thing on as a front, when they aren't really like that at all. That is just another kind of play acting.

I suppose there are situations where play-acting is appropraite. For example when acting in a play, and on reflection there are probably types of singing where it is appropriate enough. But for me I have found that a central quality of what I look for in folk music is a kind of honesty and authenticity, with the song itself as the thing that really matters.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 12 Sep 04 - 06:04 PM

And your right too, Kevin. Some folks is just naturally stone-faced.
And some folks is just naturally hams. Just for me, personally, I always think of music as a form of communication. For some people who are more musically sophisticated than me, maybe they can enjoy a whole evening of music without the more personal interaction I look for.

A few years ago, when I was writing articles for a folk newsletter, I did one on the difference between bluegrass and old-timey bands. I just quoted some of the statements that people in the audiences at the concert series I ran made. One of the differences that I noticed over the years, and kidded about is that bluegrass musicians say they are doing a "show." That implies to me that they are consciously presenting their music in a way that they think the audience will respond to. Too often, I found old-time bands had a terrific time cracking each other up, and weren't paying enough attention to the audience. All generalizations, admittedly.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Steve-o
Date: 13 Sep 04 - 02:15 PM

The greatest Bluegrass flat-picker of all time was "naturally stone-faced"- Clarence White. But, oh, the music that shone through those fingers!! Talk about an attitude....


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GLoux
Date: 13 Sep 04 - 04:55 PM

Darby and Tarlton did a song, "Roy Dixon", that Arthur Smith recorded with the Delmore Brothers as "Kilby Jail" and again with the McGee Brothers as "Little Darlin'".

I've also got a comment about Grayson and Whitter's Tom Dooley, but I'm going to post it on the G&W thread that Jerry started...

-Greg


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 13 Sep 04 - 04:55 PM

Hi,

I believe that Old Time Music is dance music.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Once Famous
Date: 13 Sep 04 - 05:03 PM

Whoever said that Old Time music is just the same thing played together with no leads over and over again is right.

I have gotten involved in playing some of that stuff before and it is enough to put you to sleep!


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Once Famous
Date: 13 Sep 04 - 05:05 PM

As far as a bluegrass attitude goes, the best way to end a super bluegrass jam is for someone to set up a hammered dulcimer in the room...............


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GLoux
Date: 13 Sep 04 - 05:14 PM

Actually, some Old-Time music is dance music. A Definition of Old-Time Music is by Mark Humphrey. There also is an old-time newsgroup that has an FAQ posted By Steve Goldfield on the web with another Definition of Old-Time Music.

Hope these help to clarify things a bit...
-Greg


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 13 Sep 04 - 06:09 PM

My take on the "stone-face" question:

A big part of what I like best about my favorite kinds of folk music is a characteristically low-key, no-show-biz approach. You certainly find this quality in most acoustic blues, old and new, as well as various strains of mountain/hillbilly music. (In other words, both black and white American "roots" music.)

The same expression of fellow humanity (as opposed to that of a performer separate from an audience) seems to be a common quality of folk music from the rest of the world as well.

The highly stoic presentation that has become so common among bluegrass players is only the most extreme example of this anti-histrionic attitude. Sometimes, however, I get the feeling that such an over-the-top display of UN-feeling may itself be a kind of playacting.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 13 Sep 04 - 10:08 PM

Martin--

You may be interested to know that I was the one who said (11 Sept 04 8:10 AM) that in my experience, old time music had been mostly instrumentals, same thing played over and over, no breaks.

G Loux--

If old time music instrumentals are indeed dance music, that does explain a lot--and would raises the question of why people would play it if there are no dancers present, especially, since it repeats many times, with no variations. Is this an unfair statement?


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GLoux
Date: 13 Sep 04 - 11:18 PM

Disclaimer--

Before I state my opinion, let me say that it is not my purpose to be argumentative, nor to taunt the argumentative others in this thread who clearly haven't scratched the surface of old-time music, but won't let that stop them from voicing their negative opinions. Also, I feel limited by the general lack of what I'll call bandwidth of this forum to make a convincing argument. I'd feel much more comfortable sitting in front you each of you with my instruments nearby, and the rest of my band sitting next to me.

Ron Davies--

From your post above, it is clear you haven't read the well-written and well-considered definitions of old-time music that I posted links to. I wish you would because they were written by writers better than me.

----------

Classic square dance music IS old-time music. Fiddle, banjo, guitar, and, many times, upright bass with a great caller who energizes and motivates a room full of dancers for an evening has been deemed "the most fun you can have with your clothes on"...I have played hundreds of square dances and hope to play thousands more.

But, old-time music is not limited to square dance music. If you would invest the time to see an old-time CONCERT by one of the best, current, young old-time bands (the ones that come to mind: Big Medicine, Foghorn String Band, Dirk Powell, Bruce Molsky, ...) you'd find yourself entertained by great instrumentals, but also by songs by competent singers who have immersed themselves in the tradition and/or revival of old-time music. You would hear the roots of not only bluegrass, but also, western swing, contemporary country, folk, and other genres and you would be also probably be confused, as I am, by the blurring of the distinction between early acoustic blues and old-time. Or, start investigating the available source recordings of "the masters"...or dig deeper to find some still-around, authentic old-time. Go see Joe Thompson...is he old-time or blues?

If you're familiar with the "Oh, Brother" movie and soundtrack (which I mention only because of its popularity), then you've heard Ralph Stanley sing Dock Boggs' "Oh, Death". Is it instrumental music played repetitively? Is it square dance music? Is it bluegrass? Is it blues? No, it is old-time music.

You can't put a box around old-time music. Those who try, expose themselves as uninformed, in my humble opinion. It is a broad, rich spectrum of great music.

Even though I put the "disclaimer" at the top of this, I expect I'll get flamed for this, but I feel better anyway...

-Greg


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 14 Sep 04 - 04:34 AM

Greg,

Far from being flamed I would like to congratulate you on your considered view. Much of what has appeared above seems to come from people who are too ready to be argumentative and enjoy putting down others without having too much knowledge of the extremely wide field of music that we loosely call Old Time.

The comment that the tunes are played over and over again without change is the sort of comment that comes from people who are not really familiar with the music and NOT LISTENING. Most people that I know playing old time try variations within the main structure even if they are only subtle. However many tunes are so pleasing that they don't need variation.

Open your ears and your minds folks and forget the pigeon holes.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 14 Sep 04 - 12:58 PM

Most of the time, in most traditions I have come across, instrumental music is primarily dance music. That's what keeps its head on its shoulders. When people turn to playing it exclusively in a way that ceases to be danceable, and forget where it came from, the music tends to get lost, it seems to me. It may still be fun to play, and, for a time, interesting to listen to, but it's cut off from its roots.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 15 Sep 04 - 06:35 AM

Believe it or not, I really did not intend to step on any toes. I've read the definitions of old-time music, and in fact, I already knew I liked many old-time songs a lot---they freqently have a great dry sense of humor (e. g.--Giddyap Napoleon, Stay In the Wagon Yard, Give Me the Leavin's.) I'll try to listen harder in in the instrumentals for the variations.   Have to say I definitely prefer the vocals to the instrumentals. Well, we can't all have the same tastes, right?    There's room in this for everybody.

Re: stone faces:

If somebody is singing a song with the above dry sense of humor, a stone face can put it across even better.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST,Cap
Date: 10 Mar 11 - 12:20 AM

This is for Frank who said there were no African American bluegrass players....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrb6WDnDWSc


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: eddie1
Date: 10 Mar 11 - 02:27 AM

Having read all the way through this thread at one sitting (and that before 7.00am!) I think I've got it!

Bluegrass is old-time orientated folk music with jazz/non-Nashville country and blues influences, and elements of mountain music, but with a western structure, played on a variety of instruments by musicians who tend to vary between the over-animated to the fairly static depending on their personal choices, using often, but not exclusively, as some are quite individualistic, fairly standardised runs and picking patterns with several individual variations in style and delivery according to the personal influences of the player and singing, or not as the case may be, using overtones of blues-influenced Celtic, with even medieval dissident fifth note, harmonies, where the performed piece involves vocalisation from more than one person.

Pretty simple really – or have I got it wrong?

I'm reminded of the time I had a trainee sitting in on my radio programme with the aim of learning which twiddlers to twiddle, faders to fade and buttons to press. My programme is community focussed with musical interludes and I played a 70s pop song because the words related to the work of my studio guest. Afterwards, the trainee asked me, "What genre is it?"

I can enjoy bluegrass, old-time, folk, blues, Celtic, jazz and classical or even a mixture of them all with some Cajun, Zydeco, Soca, Calypso, R&B, blues, rock and even pieces of heavy metal thrown in for fun. I must admit I'm not over-enthusiastic about Garage, Hip-Hop, House or Dub – does that make me a bad person?

For folks on the right side of the Pond, can I recommend the European World of Bluegrass Festival in Voorthuizen, Holland, first weekend in June?

Eddie


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 10 Mar 11 - 12:40 PM

Cap, thanks for the link. I enjoyed the music.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Mar 11 - 05:05 PM

I believe that radio created Bluegrass, in a sense -- young country musicians, brought up in the Old Time styles of playing, were suddenly being introduced to Jazz/Swing via that new-fangled radio. Bill Monroe's mandolin swings in a manner we never heard in Old Time. That to me is the essence of what sets Bluegrass apart from its roots.

BTW, I can think of only two musicians who have created a distinct genre of music, at least in modern times. Bill Monroe, with Bluegrass, and Dick Dale, with Surf Music.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: erosconpollo
Date: 10 Mar 11 - 05:13 PM

Oopsy, didn't notice I wasn't signed in. Now I am, not that I have any more to say...


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 10 Mar 11 - 05:29 PM

Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: eddie1 - PM
Date: 10 Mar 11 - 02:27 AM

..."Bluegrass is old-time orientated folk music with jazz/non-Nashville country and blues influences, and elements of mountain music, but with a western structure, played on a variety of instruments by musicians who tend to vary between the over-animated to the fairly static depending on their personal choices, using often, but not exclusively, as some are quite individualistic, fairly standardised runs and picking patterns with several individual variations in style and delivery according to the personal influences of the player and singing, or not as the case may be, using overtones of blues-influenced Celtic, with even medieval dissident fifth note, harmonies, where the performed piece involves vocalisation from more than one person...."


That's easy for you to say, Eddie ...


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 10 Mar 11 - 07:59 PM

"Is bluegrass an attitude?"

No, it's a disease! ;-D (ducking and running...)

Actually I find it's a lot of fun to play with some Bluegrass people, but I always wonder why they want to play so danged FAST!? Seems to be a competition or something...


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 11 Mar 11 - 04:28 AM

They do sing in a funny way don't they!!!


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST,Cap
Date: 13 Mar 11 - 10:30 PM

Little Hawk-
We do play some fast but bluegrassers slow it down too-we just don't like to lose the drive; people who really know how to play bluegrass can keep it slow and keep the drive in the music-even something like Monroe's "Kentucky Waltz" (slow tune) has drive to it which invigorates it with energy! or take this one...(I will admit bluegrass has witnessed some borderline tasteless uniforms....)



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wNZxkFioyk&feature=related

-cap


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST,Cap
Date: 13 Mar 11 - 10:45 PM

case in point about bluegrass bands and drive....here's the same tune and you sure can hear the difference-both are duets with Bill Monroe and Emmylou Harris, but the one with the bluegrass boys backing has the drive for sure! here's the one with Monroe's band:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTAKLM4hAVk

and Harris' band:

(the Kentucky waltz starts around 2:55)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRZ8IL63TPI&feature=related


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: PHJim
Date: 13 Mar 11 - 11:32 PM

I played mandolin in a "bluegrass" band for a number of years ending in 2006 or so. Our guitar player, who was also the lead singer, had a very narrow view of what "bluegrass" was. I played a clawhammer tune on my open back banjo in each show and he would say,"This tune ain't exactly bluegrass, but we let Jim play it."
When we'd introduce something that wasn't traditional, he'd say,"That ain't bluegrass." The same comment appeared when I tried playing mouth harp for an old Jimmie Rogers tune.
When he said how much he hated "folk music" I'd say,"Then what are you doing playing bluegrass." He never admitted that bluegrass was a form of folk.
After hearing a comment someone made after seeing a photo of Sally Ann Forester playing with Bill Monroe, I made a sticker for my mandolin case that said,"Let's put the accordion back in bluegrass where it belongs!" The guitar player always turned my case to the wall when we played any place.
Personally, I don't care whether or not it's bluegrass as long as I enjoy playing it.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 14 Mar 11 - 12:09 AM

"Attitude" being a euphemism for "delusional mental-psychotic deviance" the answer is YES.

A useful explanation for the origins of bluegrass is first that it originated as "radio music."

Most other groups in the era when Monroe and his group appeared were bands put together to play at public appearances who just happened to be called in to play on the radio.

While Monroe had done some of that, the group that first became known as "bluegrass" was created to do radio, and "incidentally" made a few dance/concert appearances.

In a public performance, there is a benefit to some "stage action," but on the radio it's not necessary, so the robot-like "just stand there and play" was evolved partly because nothing more was needed, but also because less activity made it less likely that someone would knock over a microphone or kick a hole in a monitor speaker.

Relieved of the need to "perform" the Monroe syle required a "hook" to hold the audience, and the "hard driving style" was what they found. The members of the group were selected for their "virtuoso abilities" at playing fast and somewhat complex "melodies."

With the exception of vocals, bluegrass harmonization is virtually nonexistent, and nearly all the popular vocals are "sacred music" with typically simple chord structure that's easily faked. With the audio equipment of the time, complex chords and subtle harmony - especially played fast - simply didn't "present well."

In bluegrass instrumental pieces, one person stepped forward to the microphone and "did his thing" while the remainder of the group backed - mostly with very simple chords and/or the infamous mandolin "chops." When that person finished, he stepped back, and someone else stepped up and did a similar "solo." The "accompaniment" was mostly (apparently) just enough to keep the other players awake, a key characteristic of "original bluegrass" being that it is absolutely forbidden that anyone other than the soloist "do anything interesting" while the one at the mic is performing.

It was necessary that each solo be "technically impressive" but a whole piece was essentially a string of back-to-back solo performances.

While this "style" still works for performances for a dedicated "bluegrass audience, it's obvious that when the performers are seen as well as heard the group that evolves a little more active "stage presence" is likely to move ahead of the pack - and that has, of course, occured in obviously visible ways.

The sound that Monroe - and others - evolved to "sell best on the radio" is still enjoyable; but one must be careful about what elements of the style are retained, and what new elements are added, for the different venues that are now more common. For one thing, with better recording equipment now, even the "pure radio" version is less impressive than it was in its origins (except of course for the virtuoso solos) so the current thing is not quite the same as the "original," when done for us today.

At what point it becomes something "other than bluegrass" can be debated until ....; but it's great that many of us still honor the original.

(And even Bill Monroe said "everybody [who imitates us?] plays everything too fast.")

John


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Bernard
Date: 14 Mar 11 - 09:56 AM

"everybody [who imitates us?] plays everything too fast."

I'm always mindful of advice given to me by my piano teacher...

'Anyone can play fast. It takes a good player to be able to slow down.'

...meaning that speed can cover up the mistakes and fluffs, but slowing down and playing note perfect needs precision and control.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 14 Mar 11 - 02:23 PM

There is "attitude" among some members of bluegrass but the same can be said for
almost any musical endeavor.

Why are there so few African-American bluegrass players (if any?)

Bluegrass started in the gas fields up in Indiana. Bill Monroe had "The Bluegrass Boys"
hence the term Bluegrass which had little to do with Kentucky.

The chord structures are not interesting. The gymnastic aspects of playing fast, predictable licks is evident.

The best, like Scruggs, if you slow his banjo playing down, is precisely in rhythm whereas many of the bluegrass banjo hot shots are not.

The lyrics for bluegrass songs have been watered down so much that they appear to be
vacant as many of the output from Country commercial music or bland pop.

I've seen too many rebel flags at bluegrass festivals to make me comfortable there.

The important thing is that like most folk music, it is accessible to people by which they can learn to play music and enjoy it. That's the best part.

To try to "nationalize" bluegrass music as belonging to a certain sub-culture is futile.
It may work for those who are bluegrass snobs (and they exist) but it is like jazz which is an acculturated musical form that borrows from many sources. Unlike jazz, it is not
as creative with the exception of Bela and others who want to extend the form.

The Stanley Brothers carry with their performance folk music roots from Appalachia which inform their music with tradition and vitality. They are not so "slick" as the other bands you hear. They have the redolent quality of old-time mountain dance music.

The quote of Bluegrass as being "folk music with overdrive" comes from Alan Lomax and should be attributable to him.

Bluegrass as a musical form is too new to have developed in the way that jazz and blues have but there is promise as long as it is allowed to expand musically and lyrically.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: The Sandman
Date: 14 Mar 11 - 02:28 PM

100,
BLUEGRASS BANJO is about complicated finger picking,using melodies interspersed with pattern picking[rolls], speed, and showing off, Bluegrass fiddling is not the same, in fact it tends to throw bowing patterns away, which is why it is not as predictable as old thyme fiddling, which often has in the past used a bowing pattern, of a pair slurred and then two single bows.
unfortuntely it is often played n a mechanical manner, that is not the fault of the music but of the players, who seem to think music is about speed and showing off


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Barbara Shaw
Date: 14 Mar 11 - 04:02 PM

Stringsinger has expressed many opinions above about which I would like to comment. One in particular is:

Bluegrass started in the gas fields up in Indiana. Bill Monroe had "The Bluegrass Boys" hence the term Bluegrass which had little to do with Kentucky.


It has always been my understanding that Bill Monroe, who was from Kentucky (I visited his homestead in Rosine, KY) named his band "The Blue Grass Boys" after his home state, which was known as the blue grass state, meaning the native grass on the ground. His band instrumentation, which varied a bit in the beginning but then pretty much became fixed at mandolin, banjo, guitar, bass and fiddle, and his style of music eventually defined the genre and became known as "bluegrass" after his band's name.

In my opinion, bluegrass music does in fact have a lot to do with Kentucky, based as it is on Monroe's roots and influences and how he named his Kentucky band.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Barbara Shaw
Date: 14 Mar 11 - 04:07 PM

If you go to any kind of music festival in the South, you're likely to see rebel flags. My experience has been that if you go to bluegrass festivals in the northeast where I live, you're not likely to see any rebel flags. And I assure you there are many bluegrass festivals in the northeast and we go to many of them in the north and a few in the south.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: The Sandman
Date: 14 Mar 11 - 05:07 PM

bill monroe first employed a banjo player called string bean who was an old timey banjo player, in time he was replace by Scruggs who was a thumb melody player , his style became known as Bluegrass, and is ok for about 4 minutes 33 .


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Wesley S
Date: 14 Mar 11 - 06:16 PM

Frank said: "The chord structures are not interesting."

IF that's true couldn't the same thing be said about both folk and blues? All are based on I, IV and V chord patterns with variations of course. But if it can be said about bluegrass then the same observation would apply to all of the folk based musics. I think that's why all three appeal to me.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Wesley S
Date: 14 Mar 11 - 07:50 PM

I need to add that what I find "not interesting" about bluegrass is the lyrics of many of the traditional bands of the 40's and 50's. The whole genre of "you lied - see all these tears I cried" lyrics bore me to tears. It took the "newgrass" movement to bring more interesting song topics to bluegrass. "Hot Rize" and "New Grass Revival" come to mind as bands that broadened the horizons.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 14 Mar 11 - 07:58 PM

I think the same can be said of all musics that freeze themselves in time. It's something that makes me fear for traditional musics around the world. As the keepers of the flame pass on, and those willing to keep the flame decrease in number, so too does the future of the music diminish.

It's one tough nut to crack, imo.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 14 Mar 11 - 09:43 PM

Bill Monroe, who was from Kentucky (I visited his homestead in Rosine, KY) named his band "The Blue Grass Boys" after his home state,

While one person's story is about as good as the next one, at least one "Bluegrass History" relates that Bill Monroe didn't pick the Blue Grass Boys name.

At a first, or very early radio appearance, the band didn't have a name, and it was the announcer who introduced them who made up the name, off the cuff, and after it was used once Bill decided it wasn't too bad. Since about the only thing the announcer knew about the band at that performance was that they were "from Kentucky" it is clear that this story at least does tie the name to "the bluegrass state" of Kentucky.

The announcer, and the studio/station, were named in the history where I saw it; but I'm afraid I don't have the names at hand. Other "histories" have made reference to the story, but with less detail - and I won't argue the point if someone has a better version.

John


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Bobert
Date: 14 Mar 11 - 10:01 PM

Having played folk from a lotta different angles, yeah, the structure is the same but...

...over the years I have found bluegrass musicians to be the most obnoxious and lacking of an semblance of common courtesy at jams or festivals...

Seems like they just get into this "Let's go fuck up that blues jam" mentality...

Yeah, I played bluegrass (more old time music) for years and I don't recall ever thinking that it had to be "imposed" on people but over the years I have learned to despise blurgrassers because they are loud, obnoxious and think that bluegrass is the only music in the entire universe...

I have even been asked to come to festivals to do blues workshops and had bluegrassers come in and take over workshops...

Now I have respect for the old time players but this current crop of bluegrassers needs a course in jam etiquette...

That's my opinion and it's based on real experiences...

Sorry if it pisses anyone off...

B~


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Barbara Shaw
Date: 14 Mar 11 - 10:45 PM

Wow, Bobert, lots of generalizations in your post! I consider myself a bluegrasser but don't think I'm particularly loud or obnoxious. And I spent many years playing classical piano, contrary to your stereotype. Have however had many experiences with people from other genres ruining a bluegrass jam. I chalk it up to diversity and inexperience and try not to expect each jam to be perfect or rigidly defined.

John, I never heard that story about Monroe not naming his band, and it could very well be true. However, his band was named (by whomever) the Blue Grass Boys, presumably after Kentucky (not Indiana).

Another comment from Stringsinger that I have an opinion about:
The Stanley Brothers ..... have the redolent quality of old-time mountain dance music.


I don't associate dance music with the Stanleys although they probably have done that too. To me they are representative of the high lonesome mountain sound, the piercing mountain harmonies, the call and response and a cappella gospel sounds, simple, primitive and immensely moving. Think Ralph Stanley singing "O Death."


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 14 Mar 11 - 11:08 PM

"I don't associate dance music with the Stanleys although they probably have done that too. To me they are representative of the high lonesome mountain sound, the piercing mountain harmonies, the call and response and a cappella gospel sounds, simple, primitive and immensely moving. Think Ralph Stanley singing "O Death."


Barbara, Bobert ain't gonna disagree with that. I think he's talking attitude and you're talking music. Pardon me for interrupting.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 14 Mar 11 - 11:09 PM

Crap. I meant to tell you (Barbara) that what you wrote is one beautiful piece of prose.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: The Sandman
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 01:25 AM

the stanleys are associated with dance music, as well as harmony singing, there was a clip on you tube showing chick stripling doing the baggy waggy dance and the stanleys playing the music


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 07:16 AM

Yes


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST,Cap
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 10:00 AM

Barbara-
Great posts! Real bluegrassers won't be loud, obnoxious and crass in a jam circle-nor will they take over workshops. However, playing other genres in bluegrass jam circles at bluegrass festivals especially on non-conventional instruments in non-conventional keys does open oneself up to extensive criticism, many times rightfully so in my opinion (people go to bluegrass festivals to play with bluegrassers in bluegrass jam circles)......just a couple of thoughts....
-cap


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Mark Clark
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 12:28 PM

Quite a few of us here have experience with bluegrass music either as performers or as listeners and jammers. In either case, we've formed opinions based on our experiences and the lore we've picked up along the way. But Frank (stringslinger) not only has experience beyond the rest of us, he's also made an academic study of the subject. My own reading and experience supports what Frank has said.

There are a couple of very fine scholarly books on this subject. One is Robert Cantwell's Bluegrass Breakdown - The Making of the Old Southern Sound that goes into fine detail about the creation of bluegrass music and all the factors that contributed to its formulation. The other book I'd recommend is Neil V. Rosenberg's Bluegrass - A History. These books will provide valuable insight into the academic musicology of bluegrass as well as corrected lore associated with the music. If you have any interest in bluegrass music you'll enjoy these books.

Other authors to read include Bob Black, Gene Lowinger and Tom Ewing (all former Blue Grass Boys).

Opinions are fine but there's no substitute for actual knowledge.

      - Mark


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 12:39 PM

Wesley,

Blues is extensive from Blind Lemon Jefferson to Charlie Parker. Blues is a staple of jazz.

Folk music is all over the world with different harmonies in their music, some emphasizing harmony, some melody.

Bluegrass is a small tributary of Appalachian string band music.

That said (as the newscasters say) I like bluegrass music and see it's value as part of
a bigger picture of Anglo-American folk music with Irish, English, and Scottish roots.

What I object to is the narrowing of the style and the phony association that some have with it. There is no such thing as a pure music. It all contains influences from other forms.

Thank you Mark.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: Barbara Shaw
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 02:10 PM

I am fairly new to bluegrass, having been a fan for 28 years and a member of a local bluegrass band for 15 years.

I have indeed experienced some of the things mentioned above like predictable licks, rebel flags, jam busters, vacant lyrics, runaway banjos, loud and obnoxious camp neighbors, etc. Have also indeed experienced complex melodies and chord structures, thought-provoking symbolism and lyrical depth, spectacularly creative breaks, African-American players, and hundreds of live performances by 1st and subsequent generations of bluegrass musicians, both professional and amateur, including Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley, Bela Fleck, just about every "bluegrasser" who has appeared on a stage on the East Coast in the past 28 years and attended festivals from Galax to Prince Edward Island. I make no claim to academic credentials, but I feel strongly about this music, live it, and will always bristle at people who seem to criticize without affection and make claims without substantiation.

It is not my intent to criticize anyone, just to continue to support and defend the music I love. So that's my attitude.


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: BanjoRay
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 04:37 PM

Good for you, Barbara - exactly what I feel about Old Time music
Ray


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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST,Cap
Date: 16 Mar 11 - 11:49 AM

Well put Barbara!


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