I’ve got nothing but backwoods Louisiana and rural southeast Texas in my blood, so a big part of me is always longing to be sitting on a dilapidated porch, pipe in my mouth, boots stompin’, fiddle under my chin, swillin’ bathtub gin, me and some kinfolk howlin’ tenor harmonies at the blue moon, swattin’ skeeters, poor as dirt but we don’t quite know it, pickin’ for an audience of magnolias and weeping willows, battling a chorus of locusts and crickets, the humid air as thick as gravy.
Yes, a lot of my love for traditional bluegrass stems from nostalgia (and a desire to start droppin’ my g’s), the ethos of an entire genre all about a simpler time.
To me, country music is about storytelling, a longing for the past satiated by narrative. Bluegrass, on the other hand, is about the music, the longing for the past satiated by instrumentation and arrangement, the oft-frenetic standards luring all the down-home virtuosos. The instruments associated with bluegrass are some of my favorite regardless: The staccato mandolin, the plinking and plunking banjo, the resounding dobro, the fiddle – always a bit lonesome and soulful – and the weeping and wailing steel guitar. Some of these are seldom heard outside of bluegrass, so, you know, what choice do I have?
And the fiery yee-haw pace of most bluegrass makes it ever danceable, which, coupled with its apparent wholesomeness, also makes it easy to offer a dance to a pretty gal without suspicion of ulterior motives. Now that’s the darn tootin’ music for me.
– David HolubHate it
I don’t hate bluegrass, it’s just not my go-to jam. Perhaps the lineage of my reincarnated selves hopscotched over the Appalachias on its tour du monde and bluegrass never had a chance to settle into the deep time of my heart. To my diversity-craving ears, the ubiquitous twang of bluegrass can often sound monotonous, and when everybody’s kickin’ and stompin’ and smilin’ like they’re listening to the bells of heaven, I’m often standing there, body-confused as to how to jiggle to the bluegrass wiggle. Mad respect for the musicians – make no mistake about that, but this girl needs some funk, some spice, some flavor, some kick. I need fat beats and drops and sex and rock. I need wake-up drums, a throbbing bass line and the heart-arresting genius of some really good electric guitar.
If I don’t have a jukebox packed with options, you’ve lost me. Set my playlist to shuffle and give me the smooth slide of a jazz sax lullaby, the heartbeat syncopation of a dub trance dive, the clever utterations of a hip-hop sonnet or the hip-charming slither of some Latin glide.
I own two excellent bluegrass albums I like to kick on from time to time: Bill Monroe live at the Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival and the South Austin Jug Band’s “Dark and Weary World.” So no, I don’t hate bluegrass. I just love to travel through diverse musical landscapes, opening sonic windows into other worlds to hear the stories of other ways.
– Jaime Becktel