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Bluegrass Rambles

Everything you need to know about bluegrass, whatever that is

Ted is an IBMA-nominated music writer who travels to bluegrass festivals with his wife and picks guitar in as many jams as he can.

Bluegrass Rambles

Everything you need to know about bluegrass, whatever that is

Ted is an IBMA-nominated music writer who travels to bluegrass festivals with his wife and picks guitar in as many jams as he can.

Outside Influences: Jerry Garcia, Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, and Bluegrass

    This is a popular theme and it is all true. Garcia was a guitar player and he always had a guitar around him, He was always practicing. The Dead started out as a non electric group, til pigpen came along and wanted to do blues. So, having their original name, The Warlocks changed to "The Grateful Dead", they picked up a drummer, and started playing rock and blues. They got into pot and LSD for their early records, which didn't do that great. They gradually became super popular thru their fans, and today, 30 years after Garcia's death, they still release 4 concerts a year from back in the day, mostly 70s and they sell well. They recorded every show they ever played. In Jerry's electric playing, I could always hear the bluegrass influence.  

Heres a true story about the attitude of hardcore bluegrassers and Alison Krauss. I was browsing in a bluegrass music store of all places, lots of instruments for sale, instructional DvDs, CDS and the like. The lady at the counter who co-owned it was speaking to a customer about a recent trip to a bluegrass fest that Alison had played. She was describing how horrified and sickened she was by Alisons music. In her words "I dont know what she was playing, but it wasnt bluegrass." She then proudly told her customer how she then abruptly left the offending performance with a certain amount of vitriol in her tone! So, I guess having Jerry Douglas and Dan Tyminski in your band and a champion fiddler like Alison  in the band just doesnt pass the muster for some folks! And I thought that some of us hardcore country fans could be picky...yowsers.

Apparently, you gotta play like Flatt and Scruggs all the time to be legit. Do these folks realize that Earl later had drums in his band? Heresy!!

Sure they do, but they say he really didn't want to play that music he played with the Earl Scruggs Review. They say he only did it to maintain his relationship with his sons and be with them. Should have spent his entire, productive life re-creating two years with Bill Monroe and the first years of Flatt & Scruggs. 

Some folks just can't enjoy themselves, they always have to be upset about something...and some folks want to keep bluegrass small and to themselves...the people who push the boundaries and encorporate other generes or give contemporary songs a bluegrass feel, or step outside the confines are seen as traitors...heaven forbid one should play what they want to play...

Nice article Ted.  Several salient points...as the commentor above said, you should just enjoy the skill and artistry of the players instead of worrying about whether or not it's exactly "bluegrass"...

Thanks, Jim. I think it's also important to remember that every band you hear doesn't need to be to your own particular taste. As someone else once said, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Goes for music, too. For me, variety is still important, especially when it's delivered during ten or twelve hours of performance. 

My beef with Alison is not that she explores interesting music.  It's that this seems to come at the expense of her fiddle playing.  She is a killer fiddler, but too many of her performances have her mainly singing.  When she became a "star," she started to sacrifice the fiddle for her voice.  I'd prefer to have her play a bit more.

Alas, she has a beautiful, pure voice, so she sings impeccably, and her tasteful arrangements are striking and beautiful...and restrained for the most part...and that does impact the fiddle playing...I do understand your complaint...she does allow the fiddle to take a back seat...