Mudcat Café message #1267929 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #73111   Message #1267929
Posted By: GUEST,tony
09-Sep-04 - 05:40 PM
Thread Name: Is bluegrass an attitude?
Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
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.