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Is bluegrass an attitude?

GUEST,Cap 16 Mar 11 - 11:49 AM
BanjoRay 15 Mar 11 - 04:37 PM
Barbara Shaw 15 Mar 11 - 02:10 PM
Stringsinger 15 Mar 11 - 12:39 PM
Mark Clark 15 Mar 11 - 12:28 PM
GUEST,Cap 15 Mar 11 - 10:00 AM
GUEST,Desi C 15 Mar 11 - 07:16 AM
The Sandman 15 Mar 11 - 01:25 AM
GUEST,999 14 Mar 11 - 11:09 PM
GUEST,999 14 Mar 11 - 11:08 PM
Barbara Shaw 14 Mar 11 - 10:45 PM
Bobert 14 Mar 11 - 10:01 PM
JohnInKansas 14 Mar 11 - 09:43 PM
GUEST,999 14 Mar 11 - 07:58 PM
Wesley S 14 Mar 11 - 07:50 PM
Wesley S 14 Mar 11 - 06:16 PM
The Sandman 14 Mar 11 - 05:07 PM
Barbara Shaw 14 Mar 11 - 04:07 PM
Barbara Shaw 14 Mar 11 - 04:02 PM
The Sandman 14 Mar 11 - 02:28 PM
Stringsinger 14 Mar 11 - 02:23 PM
Bernard 14 Mar 11 - 09:56 AM
JohnInKansas 14 Mar 11 - 12:09 AM
PHJim 13 Mar 11 - 11:32 PM
GUEST,Cap 13 Mar 11 - 10:45 PM
GUEST,Cap 13 Mar 11 - 10:30 PM
Bonzo3legs 11 Mar 11 - 04:28 AM
Little Hawk 10 Mar 11 - 07:59 PM
Murray MacLeod 10 Mar 11 - 05:29 PM
erosconpollo 10 Mar 11 - 05:13 PM
GUEST 10 Mar 11 - 05:05 PM
GUEST,leeneia 10 Mar 11 - 12:40 PM
eddie1 10 Mar 11 - 02:27 AM
GUEST,Cap 10 Mar 11 - 12:20 AM
Ron Davies 15 Sep 04 - 06:35 AM
McGrath of Harlow 14 Sep 04 - 12:58 PM
GUEST,Hootenanny 14 Sep 04 - 04:34 AM
GLoux 13 Sep 04 - 11:18 PM
Ron Davies 13 Sep 04 - 10:08 PM
PoppaGator 13 Sep 04 - 06:09 PM
GLoux 13 Sep 04 - 05:14 PM
Once Famous 13 Sep 04 - 05:05 PM
Once Famous 13 Sep 04 - 05:03 PM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 13 Sep 04 - 04:55 PM
GLoux 13 Sep 04 - 04:55 PM
Steve-o 13 Sep 04 - 02:15 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 12 Sep 04 - 06:04 PM
McGrath of Harlow 12 Sep 04 - 04:35 PM
pdq 12 Sep 04 - 04:04 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 12 Sep 04 - 03:13 PM
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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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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: 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: 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: 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: 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: GUEST,Desi C
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 07:16 AM

Yes


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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,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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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,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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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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