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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
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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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