It is currently Wed Nov 14, 2018 2:13 am

All times are UTC




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 19 posts ] 
Author Message
PostPosted: Fri Jun 19, 2009 1:58 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Tue Jun 02, 2009 12:04 pm
Posts: 83
Location: Ered Gelin
I was inspired by the first Bluegrass thread to start another on the history of this musical genre that is near and dear to my heart. Hope that is ok! A few years ago I was asked to give a little talk on the history of bluegrass to a local group, and I thought some of you might be interested. Some of this info has already been mentioned in the previous thread, so please pardon the repetition. I've been fortunate over the years to know, talk to, and in some cases even perform with some of these folks. One thing I can say without reservation is that bluegrass musicians are some of the nicest and most interesting people I've ever known.

Bluegrass: a short history: part one


If Bluegrass music is a tree, then Bill Monroe is the trunk.

Bill Monroe was born in Rosine Kentucky in 1911, and grew up on a farm outside of town. He was part of a musical family. His mother and older brothers were all musicians, and collectively they were heirs to a rich and diverse Appalachian musical heritage.

The roots of the Bluegrass tree are many, and include southern gospel music and harmony structure, which Bill learned in church and at home. Another root would have been the Appalachian and Celtic fiddle tunes Bill learned from his Uncle Pen, about whom he later wrote a song. Bill also learned old ballads from his mother and extended family.

Bill was certainly influenced by the popular country music of the time, which he would have heard on the radio or at live performances. The music of Jimmy Rogers and the earliest Carter Family music were certainly influences. One root often overlooked is the blues root. One of Bill's mentors was an African American delta blues guitar player named Arnold Schultz who came north to KY for seasonal work. Young Bill played square dances and informal gigs with Arnold, and it is through this connection that his distinctive bluesy mandolin style emerged. I once heard Bill Monroe say that there is a lot of "blue" in Bluegrass. I always took this to reflect his acknowledgment of the blues influence.

Bill went with his brothers north to Chicago to work in the 1930s, and it was here that he was likely inspired by another "root": jazz improvisation. Louis Armstrong and his contemporaries had turned music on its ear with the high energy improvisation style of popular jazz, and Monroe certainly would have been exposed to this wonderful music when he was in Chicago. Although Bill was not an acknowledged fan of Jazz (there are stories that he got mad at his band members for experimenting with Jazz), his innovative and creative mandolin solos certainly owe at least an inspirational nod to this improvisational musical root.

For a number of years Bill and his brother Charlie sang as a harmony singing, guitar and mandolin playing duo as The Monore Brothers; a style later embraced by The Blue Sky Boys, The Delmore Brothers, and The Louvin Brothers. But Bill had bigger plans, and in the 1940s he started his own band, calling it Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, in honor of his home state. He got a job playing on the Grand Old Opry in Nashville, and his career took off. The early versions of his band would not by current definitions be called "bluegrass" bands. He had various instruments in the band, including accordion and claw-hammer banjo, but with Bill's soaring tenor voice, great harmony vocals and an urgency in the instrumental arrangements, the basic groundwork for his eventual Bluegrass "sound" was formed.

In the later 40s, following WWII, Bill had the good judgment and fortune to hire a group of young musicians who would set the country music world on fire, and collectively form a genre of music, with Monroe's leadership, that would eventually be called "Bluegrass". Lester Flatt was a guitarist and vocalist with whom Monroe would form one of the (if not THE) greatest vocal duos of all time in the genre. Monroe also hired a young banjo player from North Carolina named Earl Scruggs, who was playing a driving three finger style banjo style that was knocking people off their feet. Earl did not invent this style of playing, but he was the first to play it on the national stage (with Monroe), and he certainly perfected it to a level that in a traditional sense has never been equaled. He was in lots of ways the Country Jimi Hendrix of his time. Added to this mix were Chubby Wise, one of the most exciting fiddlers of his time, and Howard Watts (aka Cedric Rainwater) who "drove" the band with his acoustic bass.

This particular version of Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys hit the Opry and the radio airwaves like a "perfect storm", and became the model on which all other Bluegrass bands have been formed. Even now, when you listen to the recordings of this band, it's easy to see why. There is a raw energy, finesse and power that is simply incredible. At this point in time Monroe locked in his "sound". Every other band he ever had would follow this model. Bill Monroe had many other great lineups over the years, but when aficionados talk about "The" bluegrass band, there was only one, and this was it.

After only a few years with Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs went off to form Flatt & Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys (Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Ballad of Jed Clampett etc.) and for many years they eclipsed Monroe as the premier band of this genre. And yet, when they performed people would often ask for some of the old "Bluegrass Boys music" from their days with Monroe. This is how the term "Bluegrass music" became associated with the genre in general.

Flatt & Scruggs, along with other first generation greats of the time: Jimmy Martin (who also played a stint with Monroe), The Stanley Brothers, Reno and Smiley, Jim and Jesse, The Osborne Brothers (who were slightly younger) and a few others formed the stout secondary branches of the bluegrass tree.

The late 1940s through the 1950s are often called the "golden era" of Bluegrass. The collective works of the bands listed above, in addition to others, was simply astonishing. The late 50s and early 60s brought hard times for bluegrass with the standardization of the "Nashville Sound". At this time Nashville basically shunned this more acoustic version of Country music, and the new popularity of Rock & Roll didn't help matters.

The first generation Bluegrass artists for the most part toughed it out and survived. Some (most noticibly Flatt & Scruggs and The Osborne Brothers) tried to incorporate more slick commercial sounds for a while. Bluegrass was ultimately saved, however, by the folk boom and the Folk Festival scene of the 60s. A renewed interest in traditional American music forms came just in the nick of time like a great wave, and on the crest of the wave rode the first generation Bluegrass stars (along with their blues and folk counterparts), and right behind them came a whole new crop of new remarkable second generation artists: new tertiary branches on the Bluegrass tree, if the metaphor is continued.

(more to follow)

_________________
"...the Sindar had the fairer voices and were more skilled in music...and loved the woods and riversides, and some still would wander far and wide without settled abode, and they sang as they went" - JRRT


Last edited by Lindréd on Sat Jun 27, 2009 3:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jun 19, 2009 2:43 pm 
Offline
Feeling grateful
User avatar

Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 12:41 am
Posts: 33915
Wow, great stuff, Lindréd. I look forward to more (and I'm going to seek out some recordings from your band).

_________________
'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jun 19, 2009 2:46 pm 
Offline
Pleasantly Twisted
User avatar

Joined: Tue Apr 18, 2006 6:35 pm
Posts: 8996
Location: Black Creek Bottoms
Quote:
there is a lot of "blue" in bluegrass


That's so very true. Take away the harmony, drop an octave, shave off the tempo, and many bluegrass songs are perfectly passable blues. And vice versa.

_________________

Resentment is no excuse for baldface stupidity.
-- Garrison Keillor

Image


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jun 19, 2009 3:01 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Dec 02, 2005 4:06 am
Posts: 2228
Fascinating stuff Lindred! I look forward to more.

I remember reading an interview with Vasser Clements many years ago where he said that Bill Monroe cordially disliked jazz and insisted that members of his band not play it. According to Clements jazz musicians were drawn to Bluegrass because they were some of the only ones who could handle the technically demanding style that Monroe played, and they were always on the lookout for paying gigs. He said Monroe would be furious when he would catch his boys jamming with the jazz players after rehearsals, and one of the reasons the Bluegrass Boys had such a revolving door of members is because Monroe kept firing them for playing jazz.

I have no idea if any of this is true - I’ve never read it anywhere else, but it makes for a good story. Clements, of course, was a noted jazz player who played a style of swing that he made uniquely his own. He also recorded with some of the great names of jazz, including ex-Miles Davis band members Dave Holland, John Abercrombie and Jimmy Cobb. He was such an amazing musician.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jun 19, 2009 6:29 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Tue Jun 02, 2009 12:04 pm
Posts: 83
Location: Ered Gelin
Tinwë: Since Vassar played with Bill for a spell, I'd bet there's some truth to it! That said, Vassar was always on the experimental edge, and that probably drove Monroe a bit nuts since he had a very structured idea of how he wanted instruments played. He was very much "the boss", and very protective of his "sound". There's a great book by Jim Rooney called "Bossmen" which traces the histories of both Monroe and Muddy Waters, and it explores this issue with both men. I've read that Bob Wills had a similar "my way or the highway" philosophy. But it did promote a consistent sound, and that was very important to all three of these guys as the "fathers" of their respective specific "sounds".

I guess what I was suggesting re. jazz is that the use of improvisational instrumental "breaks" links bluegrass to jazz (not in terms of melodic lines). If there was a jazz influence on Monroe it was in terms of spirit, rather than notes. Reminds me of a story about Bill (and I think it was in regard to rock music, but I'm not sure): someone asked him if (rock and roll) was a part of bluegrass. His reply was: "It ain't no part of nothin'", which I think mathmatically works out to the desired effect!! (triple negative??) Oh, I loved that man!!

And Ax: how true, how true! I've always felt the strong tie between blues and bluegrass. In fact, I've been known to adapt Robert Johnson songs to bluegrass (one actually made it to #3 on the BG charts! Wouldn't RJ have been flabergasted! What the......)

_________________
"...the Sindar had the fairer voices and were more skilled in music...and loved the woods and riversides, and some still would wander far and wide without settled abode, and they sang as they went" - JRRT


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jun 19, 2009 9:33 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Tue Jun 02, 2009 12:04 pm
Posts: 83
Location: Ered Gelin
OK, here's the second part. It's taking a while for me because I'm a terrible typist, and I only have an old hard copy of this talk. There is a third part. I'll add it at some point.

When I gave this presentation I played bits of songs from many of the artists mentioned. Wish there was a way to do that here!

Bluegrass: a brief history: part two

With the "folk boom" of the 60s, and the appearance of folk festivals across the country, performers of traditional American music genres such as Bluegrass, Traditional Folk, Old Time Music and The Blues now had more performing venues and a much wider audience. Geographic boundaries were broken. Bluegrass was being played in New York City and California as well as in North Carolina and Kentucky, by professional touring bands, but also by young local "pickers" who were buying records and attending every concert or festival in their area that they could.

This new expanded interest in bluegrass music also brought some previously lesser known first generation artists out of the woodwork. Guitar player and singer Doc Watson is a good example. Although the same vintage as Monroe, Martin and the Stanleys, he didn't become widely known until the 1960s. His mountain folk song based repertoire combined with his amazing dexterity in flat picking the guitar made him a star. He was a perfect fit for the time. And I can tell you from a few personal experiences and from everything I've ever heard, a nicer man never walked the earth!

In the late 60s and early 70s genre specific "Bluegrass Festivals" began to crop up everywhere, forming a reliable performance venue that is still the staple of touring Bluegrass bands today.

The first generation bands continued to generate great music at live shows, but maybe not quite as memorable in terms of recordings as the stuff of the late 40s, 50s and early 60s. Two exceptions were the aforementioned Doc Watson, who really hit his stride in the 70s, and Ralph Stanley.

From the late 40s to the mid 60s Ralph Stanley and his brother Carter, known as The Stanley Brothers generated some of the best music of this type ever recorded. Their catalog on King Records is some of my favorite bluegrass, period (although they NEVER called it that! To this day Ralph introduces his music as the "old mountain style music some folks call bluegrass"). After Carter's death in 1966 Ralph put a new band together, Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys with lead singer guitarist Larry Sparks (who later went on to form his own very fine bluesy bluegrass band). Several great singers, including Roy Lee Centers followed. Ralph's music from this late 60s - early 70s period is somehow even more "mountainy" and authentic sounding than the Stanley Brother's material. It is simply stellar music! It seems that once he was on his own, Ralph sank even deeper into his rich mountain roots. As one DJ I know has said, "when Ralph Stanley sings, you can hear hundreds of years of Appalachian history in his voice." The freaky thing is that Ralph already sounded that way when he was 25! I had the great pleasure of singing with Ralph on stage once, and I can tell you that from the first note to the last, there were shivers running up and down my spine! It was one of the single greatest musical experiences of my life.

In the early 70s Ralph Stanley hired two young Kentucky musicians, Keith Whitley and Ricky Skaggs, both of whom later became huge stars within and outside of Bluegrass. The music these two young musicians recorded with Ralph is a wonderful tribute to the passing of the flame to the next generation of Bluegrass performers. Even years later you could still hear the Stanley influence in their voices.

With all the expansion on the outside, bluegrass music also grew tremendously from the inside in the late 60s through the 70s.. Former hired band members were stepping away from their "mentors" to form their own "second generation" bands, and new musicians and bands were showing up everywhere. A few musicians and bands deserve special mention. Banjo player J. D. Crowe, who played with Jimmy Martin, quickly gained a reputation as the greatest banjoist since Scruggs. If you ever get a chance to hear his instrumental "Crowe on the Banjo", which he recorded with Jimmy Martin, you'll understand why!

In the later 60s Crowe left Martin to form his own band J. D. Crowe and the Kentucky Mountain Boys. He later changed the name to J.D. Crowe and the New South. J. D. proved he had an eye for talent as well. Later bluegrass giants Doyle Lawson and Red Allen passed through his ranks. In 1975 Crowe hired a phenomenal young guitar player and lead singer named Tony Rice, as well as mandolinist and tenor Ricky Skaggs and dobroist Jerry Douglas. The album recorded by this particular "super group" is considered a landmark bluegrass masterpiece, and Alison Krauss credits it as being one of her biggest influences. By hiring these three "third generation" killer players and singers, and adopting a somewhat more modern, though still hard-driving sound J. D. Crowe had set the stage for mainstream Bluegrass music for decades to come.

At this time Washington D.C. became a focal point of the "new" bluegrass sound. Two bands, The Seldom Scene and The Country Gentlemen had ties to this region, and both recorded some of the best Bluegrass of the 70s. Another influential band from this era, The Bluegrass Cardinals (from California) forged a new beautifully arranged, smoother vocal sound that would have a big impact on the bands of the next decade.

What was really different about this era? A smoother, updated sound, certainly, but also: Material! These new bands were expanding the bluegrass repertoire to include songs from folk music, country, pop and other forms. but they were doing it with great respect to the traditions of Bluegrass. The instrumentation and vocal arrangements were a bit more "uptown", but were still very "grassy". Many people who found Monroe or Stanley a bit too strident came to know and love bluegrass because of these bands.

At this same time a new expansion of another sort was going on as well. Bluegrass was being blended stylistically with other musical forms. Sam Bush and New Grass Revival led the way with combining Bluegrass and Rock music. David Grisman led the movement combining Bluegrass and Jazz. A myriad of other "jam wizard" players are associated with this general path, namely Bela Fleck, Tony Trishka, Edgar Meyer, and Mark O'Conner, to name a few.

These musical hybrid experimentations enraged some traditionalists, amused many fans as a curiosity, and appealed to some other younger fans for whom the straighter stuff was just a bit too "rural". But make no mistake, when they wanted to these players could all play hard driving straight ahead Bluegrass. Old and In The Way was a good example.

Old and In the Way, led by Grateful Dead Rock & Roller Jerry Garcia, who teamed up with David Grisman, Peter Rowan, Vassar Clements and others, introduced many young Rock fans to Bluegrass music. While this was not a great Bluegrass band compared to the other truly great bands of the 70s, their contribution to increasing the Bluegrass audience can not be denied. Peter Rowan continued on with a very successful solo career as a songwriter and performer in the "progressive" wing of the Bluegrass world, every once in a while returning to his Monroe roots to produce some fine traditional flavored music.

Another example of 1970s Rock musicians delving into traditional Bluegrass, thereby becoming Bluegrass evangelists, was the immensely popular Will The Circle Be Unbroken album, recorded by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and featuring Mother Maybelle Carter, Jimmy Martin, Roy Acuff, Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs and others.

In general, the 70s were an exciting time to be a bluegrass fan. At any given large festival you might hear Bill Monroe singing "Blue Moon of Kentucky", Ralph Stanley singing "Man of Constant Sorrow", The Country Gentlemen singing Gordon Lightfoot's "Redwood Hill", or the New Grass Revival doing Jerry Lee Lewis's "Great Balls of Fire". This is the era in which I first was bitten by the bluegrass bug. I was thirteen years old, and it only took one bite!

(more to follow)

_________________
"...the Sindar had the fairer voices and were more skilled in music...and loved the woods and riversides, and some still would wander far and wide without settled abode, and they sang as they went" - JRRT


Last edited by Lindréd on Sat Jun 27, 2009 4:08 pm, edited 4 times in total.

Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jun 19, 2009 9:50 pm 
Offline
Living in hope
User avatar

Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 12:43 am
Posts: 39631
Location: Sailing the luminiferous aether
Lindréd, just wanted to say that I am reading along with great pleasure, even though I have nothing to add!

_________________
“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jun 19, 2009 10:11 pm 
Offline
Best friends forever
User avatar

Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:33 pm
Posts: 11961
Location: Over there.
This is nectar and ambrosia to me. :D I am the only person I know in person who likes bluegrass. Rather like LOTR, it has been a sort of hidden part of my life!

Well, not hidden. And not now, obviously.

On the other hand, I can't get bluegrass and Middle Earth together.

Loreena McKennit was once heavily and seriously involved in setting Tolkien's poems to music. I wonder whatever became of that?

_________________
Dig deeper.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jun 20, 2009 2:17 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Tue Jun 02, 2009 12:04 pm
Posts: 83
Location: Ered Gelin
Glad you folks are enjoying the little history! :)

I'd love to hear what Loreena McKennit would come up with.
She'd be a natural!

vison wrote:
Quote:
I can't get bluegrass and Middle Earth together.


I know exactly what you mean! However, I could probably imagine Pippin playing a banjo tune somehow.

Hmmmm. wonder what it might be called?
"River Running Ramble"?
"Bilbo's Breakdown"?
"Trouble in the Trollshaws"?
(OK, I'll stop)

_________________
"...the Sindar had the fairer voices and were more skilled in music...and loved the woods and riversides, and some still would wander far and wide without settled abode, and they sang as they went" - JRRT


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jun 20, 2009 2:09 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Tue Jun 02, 2009 12:04 pm
Posts: 83
Location: Ered Gelin
OK, here's the final installment of this "talk" on bluegrass that I gave about five years ago. So, with this I open the floor to comments, conversation and questions (that is unless everyone is now incredibly bored with the subject). And special thanks to yovargas and her first Bluegrass thread which got me going on this. I've enjoyed revisiting this piece, although I now see it could really use some editing and revision!

Bluegrass: a brief history: part 3

In the 1980s many of the great first generation artists were still out touring (Bill Monoroe, Jimmy Martin, Ralph Stanley, Doc Watson, Jim & Jesse, Osborne Brothers), Many of the bands that rose to prominence in the 70s also remained on the scene with newer lineups (Seldom Scene, Country Gentlemen, Bluegrass Cardinals, J. D. Crowe and the New South, New Grass Revival), but some new bands appeared that really shook things up.

Ricky Skaggs formed his own band called Boone Creek which had a very modern, commercial, powerful sound, somewhat reminiscent of the J. D. Crowe and the New South sound, yet with a more "in your face" attitude. It was the first "power grass" band, and despite the band's short duration, they had a huge impact on many bands that followed.

Doyle Lawson, an alumnus of Jimmy Martin and the Sunny Mountain Boys, J. D. Crowe and The Kentucky Mountain Boys, and The Country Gentlemen, formed his own band Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver. They instantly became superstars in the Bluegrass world. This band definitely showed off Doyle's Bluegrass pedigree in terms of its terrific harmonies (Country Gentlemen influence), and straight ahead driving instrumental sound (Martin/Crowe influence). DL & Q were quite modern to begin with, in their material choice and use of electric bass etc., and along with Boone Creek were hugely influential to many young bands that followed and formed the new mainstream Bluegrass sound in the mid 80s to early 90s.

Colorado-based Hot Rize was another important band of the 80s, but a bit harder to classify. Their sound was unique in every way; modern, but with a definite air of traditionalism. They were an extremely entertaining band to see live, along with their alter ego trad-country band Red Knuckles & The Trailblazers, who would appear at every show (after a quick costume change).

With the more modern trend in Bluegrass music, the fans who really loved the old "hard stuff" were left out in the cold, until the appearance of The Johnson Mountain Boys, one of the biggest bands to emerge in the 80s. They came from the Washington D.C. suburbs, but they played and sang in a raw, flat-out mountainy manner, like the Stanley Brothers on steroids. The JMB became the darlings of the traditionalists, and put out album after album of their brand of hard-core Bluegrass. Though they lacked some of the subtlety of the original masters (they were pretty much "on 10 all the time"), there is no doubt that they brought back the hard-driving, rough-edged sound that caused many people to fall in love with Bluegrass in the first place.

The traditional mantle was picked up in the late 80s by The Nashville Bluegrass Band, which had a "swingier" more Flatt & Scruggs influenced sound than the JMB. They also gained a reputation for doing terrific Bluegrass adaptations of great African American Gospel a capella songs. Simply put, NBB put out some of the finest and most interesting Bluegrass of the 80s, or any other decade, and they continued to build onto their success in the 90s.

Another big band of the 80s wasn't really a band at all, but a group of Bluegrass superstars who got together to make albums. The Bluegrass Album Band consisted of Tony Rice on guitar, Doyle Lawson on mandolin, J.D. Crowe on banjo, fiddler Bobby Hicks (later: Vassar Clements), bassist Todd Phillips, and later Jerry Douglas on Dobro. The first few albums were a bit more traditional in feel, honoring the influences of these great musicians. Their first album in particular is considered by many to be a masterpiece of modern traditionalism.

Sam Bush's New Grass Revival, now sporting banjo wizard Bela Fleck, continued to hold down the Rock-influenced side of Bluegrass during the 80s, producing their best albums to date, and pleasing huge crowds at the more progressive festivals. Also, "New Acoustic Music", a mixture of Bluegrass, Folk, Jazz and other genres, gained popularity and was led by instrumental virtuosos like David Grisman and Tony Rice (in addition to his continuing Bluegrass endeavors).

By the 1990s most of the first generation artists were mostly doing "greatest hit" shows, and although they were still recording, the quality was in most cases a mere shadow of their former groundbreaking work. But still, there was nothing greater than seeing one of these legends "live" on stage, still cranking out great music: a reminder of musical history, and the glorious Bluegrass past.

A new crop of bands emerged to dominate the 90s with a style that has sometimes been called the "Southeast Sound" the "Carolina Sound", or "Power Grass". These bands were the heirs to the modern, smooth yet powerful Boone Creek and early Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver sounds. Led by The Lonesome River Band, IIIrd Tyme Out, and Blue Highway, these bands, "standardized" the sound of the new Bluegrass mainstream, with a more commercial vocal sound and a remarkable consistency of instrumental style and quality. This sound remains the mainstream commercial style in Bluegrass today.

The more traditional sound continued on the comeback trail as well in the 90s, led by the traditional leaning Nashville Bluegrass Band, and especially by two artists who returned to traditional Bluegrass after having in large part formed the modern sound of the 80s: Doyle Lawson, and Ricky Skaggs. Traditionalists, and frankly the entire Bluegrass community in general, rejoiced to see two of it's favorite sons return to the traditional fold. In Doyle's case, his bands' return to a more traditional approach was gradual. In Ricky's case it was precipitous. Ricky had a very successful mainstream Country music career in the 80s, but came back to traditional Bluegrass in the 90s. Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, and Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder remain two of the finest and most popular traditional Bluegrass bands today.

Other important traditional sounding bands of the 90s included the Lynn Morris Band, James King Band, Lonesome Standard Time and perhaps most noticeably the Del McCoury Band. Del had been around since the 60s, having played with Bill Monroe for a spell. He had several bands in the 70s and 80s which had some success, but in the 90s he added his two sons to his lineup, and his band took off in a big way. The Del McCoury Band became, with one exception, the biggest band of the 90s.

The 90s also saw the appearance of some other successful bands that could not be easily classified as being in one of the preceding groups. These bands were focused more on original songwriting, tapping various musical roots, and blending traditional and modern styles. Two of the more successful of these bands were from the West: California's Laurie Lewis & Grant Street, and Colorado's Front Range.

The biggest thing to happen to Bluegrass in the 1990s was without a doubt the appearance of Alison Krauss & Union Station. There hadn't been a star act to dominate the bluegrass landscape that way since Flatt & Scruggs had in the 50s and 60s. Alison was (and still is) a unique and compelling performer and recording artist. Her band is so well rehearsed and their arrangements so perfectly structured that there is almost something unearthly about them. Her appeal as a performer and star has gone way beyond Bluegrass in recent years, and much of her more current music can not be called Bluegrass, but the influence is still definitely there, and she can still "do Bluegrass" in a big way when she wants to.

So, what about the future of Bluegrass? It looks secure. In recent years progressive hybrid bands, such as the incredibly talented Nickel Creek, continue to stretch the boundaries bringing in new sounds and new fans. But these new sounds are balanced by the now settled-in "mainstream sound" crafted in the 80s and 90s (now led by Rhonda Vincent, IIIrd Tyme Out and others), and the more traditional sounds maintained by Doyle, Ricky and Del. As for me, while I always appreciate and enjoy what's going on right now, when I really want a bluegrass "fix", I pull out my Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs and Stanley albums (now thankfully all re-released on CD!), close my eyes, and let myself be carried away by those glorious "ancient tones". Long Live the High Lonesome Sound!!


(The preceeding posts are based on a talk I gave about five years ago. But as of right now, in 2009, if you want to see or hear the current cutting edge of traditional "kick-ass Bluegrass" you owe it to yourself to check out Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper. They are absolutely sensational!)

_________________
"...the Sindar had the fairer voices and were more skilled in music...and loved the woods and riversides, and some still would wander far and wide without settled abode, and they sang as they went" - JRRT


Last edited by Lindréd on Sun Jun 28, 2009 10:45 pm, edited 4 times in total.

Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jun 20, 2009 2:10 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Mon Apr 30, 2007 6:37 pm
Posts: 3728
Location: Engineering a monarchist coup d'etat
On the other hand, the folk-movement acceptance of bluegrass was not universal. I remember from a Jerry Garcia bio that his early-60's bluegrass band, the Sleepy Hollow Hog Stompers, had a very difficult time getting bookings on the West Coast folk circuit, as the more enlightened folkies claimed bluegrass was 'elitist' because it featured - indeed required - virtuosity (gasp!) rather than simple stuff "the People" could play a la Woodie Guthrie.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jun 20, 2009 2:25 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Tue Jun 02, 2009 12:04 pm
Posts: 83
Location: Ered Gelin
Indeed, and in addition to the trad folk crowd, the "Old Time" musicians have also always thought of Bluegrass as too "slick" and too "arranged".
We were playing a folk festival once, and someone came up to our CD sales table and asked us "which of your albums has the fewest minor chords!" :D now....who is the elitist??

_________________
"...the Sindar had the fairer voices and were more skilled in music...and loved the woods and riversides, and some still would wander far and wide without settled abode, and they sang as they went" - JRRT


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jun 20, 2009 4:13 pm 
Offline
Feeling grateful
User avatar

Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 12:41 am
Posts: 33915
There is a story that David Grisman likes to tell, about when he was touring with Old and in the Way with Garcia, Vassar Clements, et al. Apparently, they passed a billboard advertising a Grateful Dead show. Clements turned to Jerry and said, "Garcia, that looks like you up there." Apparently they had been touring and playing together all that time, and Clements had no idea that Jerry was a member of a world-famous rock band (and that he had almost mythical status to its fans).

Quote:
"Trouble in the Trollshaws"?


:rofl:

_________________
'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jun 20, 2009 4:51 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Tue Jun 02, 2009 12:04 pm
Posts: 83
Location: Ered Gelin
V that story about Vassar is just too funny!
And that story points out to me an omission or two in my piece above.

(Edit: I'm going to just add Old and In the Way, Peter Rowan, as well as the the Dirt Band's Will The Circle Be Unbroken into the main text of part two above.)

_________________
"...the Sindar had the fairer voices and were more skilled in music...and loved the woods and riversides, and some still would wander far and wide without settled abode, and they sang as they went" - JRRT


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jun 21, 2009 10:55 pm 
Offline
Fëanoriondil
User avatar

Joined: Tue Feb 14, 2006 8:13 pm
Posts: 1912
Thanks for the history!

Quote:
vison wrote:
I can't get bluegrass and Middle Earth together.


I know exactly what you mean! However, I could probably imagine Pippin playing a banjo tune somehow.


Yeah, it'd have to be hobbit music. Certainly not the elves ;). I...um...once did combine the two. I wanted a hobbit-y song for the first fanfic I wrote, but wasn't about to make one up myself. I ended up taking 'Peach Pickin' Time in Georgia' and re-writing the lyrics with Shire names. I'm sure it was an absolutely terrible filk.

For the morbidly curious: Plum Picking


But yes, Lorenna McKennit's take on those poems would be interesting. In the meantime, there is always Lingalad.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 1:05 am 
Offline
Best friends forever
User avatar

Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:33 pm
Posts: 11961
Location: Over there.
I can't get Middle Earth and bluegrass together, except in the way they both affect me. The language in LOTR (not the story, exactly, but certain passages) and the music affect the same part of my brain, the part where tears are formed.

It's the sound. Not the lyrics, in bluegrass, but the sound.

I guess it makes little sense, but it does to me.

Ah, well. Not all tears are evil. :D

_________________
Dig deeper.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 2:21 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Tue Jun 02, 2009 12:04 pm
Posts: 83
Location: Ered Gelin
You're welcome MithLuin! :)

vison wrote:
I can't get Middle Earth and bluegrass together, except in the way they both affect me. The language in LOTR (not the story, exactly, but certain passages) and the music affect the same part of my brain, the part where tears are formed. :D


Bingo vison! It's the same for me! What the heck makes our brains respond that way to certain things? I can not think of a biological reason; only a spiritual one.

There are a few other things that hit me that way: some Van Gogh paintings, listening to recordings of wolves "singing" in the wild (indescribably beautiful).

Just curious: are there other things that affect you (or others here) that same way??

_________________
"...the Sindar had the fairer voices and were more skilled in music...and loved the woods and riversides, and some still would wander far and wide without settled abode, and they sang as they went" - JRRT


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 5:18 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Dec 02, 2005 4:06 am
Posts: 2228
House Of Tom Bombadil

Riddles In the Dark (that really is the name of the song, even if it doesn't say so. The album this song is on is called "Not All Who Wander Are Lost" , which could have been the sound track for LOTR as far as I'm concerned :D)

by the way, if anyone wants to watch that second video, that dude, Chris Thile, it is just insane how talented he is.


Top
 Profile  
 
 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jun 27, 2009 4:40 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Tue Jun 02, 2009 12:04 pm
Posts: 83
Location: Ered Gelin
After sending these History of BG "notes" to some long term fellow Bluegrass buddies, I received back some corrections (and in some cases understandable minor gripes about omissions) So with those in mind, in addition to a few comments from folks here, I have edited the above three segments a bit. But if I put in every artist/band of note, this thing would be way too long (instead of the just plain "too long" that it is). So I'll just let it stand, as it is now, as my take on the history of BG. (btw, I was at a great BG jam last night across the river in Monroe NH - how perfect is THAT!!)

_________________
"...the Sindar had the fairer voices and were more skilled in music...and loved the woods and riversides, and some still would wander far and wide without settled abode, and they sang as they went" - JRRT


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 19 posts ] 

All times are UTC


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group