Bluegrass Corner

New Year’s Bluegrass

As we welcome in the New Year, here are a couple of fun bluegrass events to get you started on the right foot. On New Year’s Day at 1pm is the 3rd annual Flash Jam at the Cardiff Kook. This informal gathering of musicians assembles at the Cardiff Kook statue next to the State Campground at Cardiff Beach. Bring your instrument!

Over the weekend of January 9-12 at the Bakersfield Double Tree a throng of bluegrass musicians, bands, and jammers will gather for a great weekend experience. Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper will be there in concert; there will be a band scramble, show case bands, and lots of informal jamming. Many bluegrass organizations host suites as well. Look for a suite hosted by the San Diego Bluegrass Society, Summergrass, and the North County Bluegrass and Folk Club attended by Jim Blakemore. Visit the California Bluegrass Association on the web for info and to book reservations.

On February 6th stop by and see Nu Blu (a bluegrass band up for a Grammy) in concert at the Frist Baptist Church of Pacific Beach at 7:30pm. The concert is presented by the SDBS. Admission is free, with donations solicited.

BLUEGRASS TRIVIA. Here are a few bluegrass trivia questions to test your mettle. The answers are below:
1.    What was the first album to win a bluegrass Grammy?
2.    Which two well-known bluegrass musicians worked as writers on the old Smothers Brothers Show?
3.    What female vocalist has won the most Grammys ever? Hint: Aretha Franklin is in second place with 17.

Have you ever noticed how the reach and influence of bluegrass music continues to evolve and expand? Well, it has and it does. In the performance area there are super popular bands playing bluegrass instruments in a modern way derivative of the old classic bluegrass. Groups like Mumford and Sons, Yonder Mountain String Band, Trampled by Turtles, Railroad Earth and more pack arenas and large venues. Solidly in the modern bluegrass fold is super group Alison Krauss and Union Station Featuring Jerry Douglass and groups like the Infamous Stringdusters, all selling out large venues.

Even in the traditionalist fold we see a surge of popularity for groups like Danny Paisley and the Southern Grass, the James King Band, Sideline, Ralph Stanley, and others playing it the way Bill Monroe and Flatt and Scruggs did. A great example of the trend toward tradition is the super group Earls of Leicester with Jerry Douglass, Tim O’Brien, Sean Camp, Noam Pikelney, Charlie Cushman, and Johnny Warren (son of Flatt and Scruggs’ fiddler Paul Warren) doing an impeccable recreation of classic Flatt and Scruggs from the 1950’s.

Even in the younger generation there is a boom with hit bands like Flatt Lonesome, Della Mae, the Barefoot Movement, the Railsplittrers, and more. Heck, even Adele, the super pop star, cut a bluegrass single of the Steeldrivers hit: “If It Hadn’t Been for Love” and performed with a banjo on the Grammys! Been to the movies lately? If you pay attention you will hear lots of Dobro, banjo, and other acoustic soundtrack material.

So, what gives? Maybe, finally, the broader market is discovering what we have known all along – bluegrass music is great stuff! Maybe it is a desire for authenticity in music, as opposed to canned commercial music, that is drawing attention. Maybe it is the virtuosity required to be good at bluegrass music. Most likely, it’s a combination of these factors and others. Whatever the reason, it’s a good thing!

1.    Bill Monroe’s Southern Flavor won the Grammy in 1989, the first year a Grammy was awarded in this genre.
2.    Steve Martin and John Hartford
3.    Alison Krauss

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