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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.

Sierra Hull Takes the Wheel

 

I came to Sierra Hull and her remarkable talent from a completely different place than Ted Lehmann. Unlike Ted, bluegrass has never been a music that I listened to extensively -- like my old friend Barbara Meier says in the first hour of the long documentary about the Grateful Dead, at a certain point I got bored with it. Don't get me wrong -- I don't hate bluegrass, I just found that blues and rhythm & blues made my body respond more and that jazz, especially jazz from the mid-50's through the early 60's, offered a greater display of fearless exploration. In recent years, though, I've found myself attracted to a whole slew of young accostic players, some of whom grew up in bluegrass and others in other traditional musics, who managed to get thrown together at Berkelee or the New England Conservatory (or at any one of a number of other music schools or the general cauldron of Brooklyn) and were encouraged to really study music and to step out of their comfort zone. Their music wasn't uniformly successful or at least not to me, but while they might not have been as resolutley committed to exploration as some of my earlier heroes, neither were they willing to settle for the familiar even within the context of playing traditional music. Sierra Hull's Weighted Mind and the dozens of concert videos available on YouTube are evidence that she is very much aligned with being unwilling to settle for the familiar, and her music swings like crazy. I had the good fortune to see Sierra and Ethan play at the Vancouver Island Musicfest in the summer, and even though I was by that point quite familiar with her playing and singing I was completely blown away by her presence, her listening as she played (As John Lewis once said of the MJQ, even after playing together for 20 years they still learned through listening to each other every time they played). So I encourage everyone reading this to go see her if you get a chance -- she truly is a rare talent, one who I think will bless us with a lot of wonderful music in the years to come.