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Is bluegrass an attitude?

GUEST,Hootenanny 09 Sep 04 - 09:20 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 09 Sep 04 - 11:02 AM
GUEST,Stephen 09 Sep 04 - 12:54 PM
Barbara Shaw 09 Sep 04 - 04:51 PM
BanjoRay 09 Sep 04 - 05:09 PM
Once Famous 09 Sep 04 - 05:37 PM
GUEST,tony 09 Sep 04 - 05:40 PM
Once Famous 09 Sep 04 - 05:56 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 09 Sep 04 - 08:41 PM
Once Famous 09 Sep 04 - 09:26 PM
Ron Davies 09 Sep 04 - 10:31 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 09 Sep 04 - 10:43 PM
Rabbi-Sol 09 Sep 04 - 10:55 PM
GUEST,tony 10 Sep 04 - 12:54 AM
Ron Davies 11 Sep 04 - 08:10 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 11 Sep 04 - 06:19 PM
Ron Davies 12 Sep 04 - 08:43 AM
GUEST,Hootenanny 12 Sep 04 - 12:40 PM
GUEST,Hootenanny 12 Sep 04 - 12:49 PM
McGrath of Harlow 12 Sep 04 - 02:00 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 12 Sep 04 - 03:13 PM
pdq 12 Sep 04 - 04:04 PM
McGrath of Harlow 12 Sep 04 - 04:35 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 12 Sep 04 - 06:04 PM
Steve-o 13 Sep 04 - 02:15 PM
GLoux 13 Sep 04 - 04:55 PM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 13 Sep 04 - 04:55 PM
Once Famous 13 Sep 04 - 05:03 PM
Once Famous 13 Sep 04 - 05:05 PM
GLoux 13 Sep 04 - 05:14 PM
PoppaGator 13 Sep 04 - 06:09 PM
Ron Davies 13 Sep 04 - 10:08 PM
GLoux 13 Sep 04 - 11:18 PM
GUEST,Hootenanny 14 Sep 04 - 04:34 AM
McGrath of Harlow 14 Sep 04 - 12:58 PM
Ron Davies 15 Sep 04 - 06:35 AM
GUEST,Cap 10 Mar 11 - 12:20 AM
eddie1 10 Mar 11 - 02:27 AM
GUEST,leeneia 10 Mar 11 - 12:40 PM
GUEST 10 Mar 11 - 05:05 PM
erosconpollo 10 Mar 11 - 05:13 PM
Murray MacLeod 10 Mar 11 - 05:29 PM
Little Hawk 10 Mar 11 - 07:59 PM
Bonzo3legs 11 Mar 11 - 04:28 AM
GUEST,Cap 13 Mar 11 - 10:30 PM
GUEST,Cap 13 Mar 11 - 10:45 PM
PHJim 13 Mar 11 - 11:32 PM
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Subject: RE: Is bluegrass an attitude?
From: GUEST,Hootenanny
Date: 09 Sep 04 - 09:20 AM

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


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

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

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

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

It ain't just bluegrass, friends.

Jerry


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

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

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

SB


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

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

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

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

And that's my attitude.


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

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


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

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

"country rocks, but
bluegrass rules!"


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

I disagree on some of your stuff, guest Tony.

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

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

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

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

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


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

Good one, MG:

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

Jerry


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

I can hear it now, Jerry.

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


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

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


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

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

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


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


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

Hey, Ron:

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

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

Jerry


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

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


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

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

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

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

Listen to what everyone has been saying – even you:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Jerry et al.--

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


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

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

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


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

Hey, Ron:

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

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

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

Dixon Brothers:

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

And then, there's:

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

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

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

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

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

Jerry


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

Jerry (and anybody else with interest--)

On the late night singing sessions.

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Jerry


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

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


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

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

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

-Greg


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

Hi,

I believe that Old Time Music is dance music.

Frank Hamilton


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

My take on the "stone-face" question:

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

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

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


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

Martin--

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

G Loux--

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


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

Disclaimer--

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

Ron Davies--

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

----------

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

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

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

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

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

-Greg


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

Greg,

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Re: stone faces:

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

Pretty simple really – or have I got it wrong?

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

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

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

Eddie


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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


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

"Is bluegrass an attitude?"

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

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


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

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


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

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



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

-cap


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

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

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

and Harris' band:

(the Kentucky waltz starts around 2:55)

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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