I love bluegrass. The first memory I have of seeing live music is of being at a bluegrass festival with my family. I was VERY young, but I loved it. I’ve always had a soft spot for this music and over the years I’ve listened to more and more. We’re lucky here in Pittsburgh (and thanks to the web, the rest of the world is lucky, too!) that we can listen to the brilliant Bruce Mountjoy play some of the best bluegrass every Sunday night on WYEP.
One of my all-time favorite bluegrass artists is Hazel Dickens. She has one of the most distinctive vocal styles ever and her songwriting and playing is fantastic. Her work with Alice Gerrard remains some of the best the bluegrass world has to offer. The Smithsonian-Folkways collection Pioneering Women of Bluegrass is nothing short of BRILLIANT.
An artist that I knew while growing up as a mainstream country artist who indeed got his start in bluegrass is Ricky Skaggs. His early recordings are terrific bluegrass, but he shifted to a more mainstream country sound for a while.In 1997 he came back to genre of bluegrass with the FANTASTIC record Bluegrass Rules! I highly recommend it!
A new tradition here in Pittsburgh, the so-called Paris of Appalachia, is Bluegrass Day at the Three Rivers Arts Festival. It’s a whole day of free bluegrass music in Point State Park. Two years ago we got to see Del McCoury headline (which was fantastic) and this past year we were treated to see a living legend in the bluegrass world, the amazing Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys. Ralph Stanley, aside from having one of the best voices in bluegrass, and keeping the “high lonesome” vocal style alive, is also one of the people literally responsible for bluegrass sounding the way it does! It’s not often that you get to see such a pivotal performer…someone who helped define a genre from the very beginning.Can’t You Hear the Mountains Calling is a great collection. Also, his autobiography, Man of Constant Sorrow is an excellent read.
There you have it, dear Eleventh Stack reader! Enjoy the summer and some excellent bluegrass music!
– Eric (who is listening to lots of bluegrass, and trying to figure out how to get a banjo)