My Dad and I went to the Bluegrass Fan Fest, sponsored by the International Bluegrass Music Association, Saturday. In a word, wow.
He won tickets by calling in to WSM. He even won tickets to the Bluegrass awards show! He asked me to join him Saturday afternoon for some unbeatable music. They had workshops (we sat in on the mandolin and guitar sessions; he heard Bela Fleck, a classical banjoist on Friday!), display booths (I strummed a $13,000 Martin guitar, no melody mind you, but it still counts in my mind at least), and absolutely superb performances (we heard Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, J.D. Crowe and The New South, and Larry Cordle and Lonesome Standard Time). That’s just a fraction of what was available. Dad heard the really big names Friday night (IIIrd Tyme Out, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder and the Del McCoury Band). Need I say more?
While this may come as a surprise to many of my friends and an utter shock to some of my students, I love bluegrass. I’m not as up on the rising stars and new bands, but I love it nonetheless. I just about wore out one of Dad’s Flatt and Scruggs tapes when I was a kid. When I was working at Hill’s Grocery store in college (and opened the store at 5 am) I played the Early Bird Gets the Bluegrass on WSM AM over the PA system and drove the stockers crazy. Dad and I listened to a lot of bluegrass on little dinky low wattage Nashville area radio when I was in high school. We also listened to bluegrass while tinkering on cars. Saturday brought back great memories.
Dad played a little dobro for fun; I can play a dobro CD pretty well. My lack of musical ability does not hamper my affection for the genre. I suspect that it is the Ice West Virginia/Eastern Kentucky/Ohio River heritage coming through; roots that find a fine mate in my other set of musical genes – the middle TN Grand Ol Opry “Nashville Sound.” How could I escape it? More than that, why would I want to???
There is an earthiness and simplicity in bluegrass (and in mountain music, yes, there is a difference, and the older country) that really strikes a chord (no pun intended) with me. I very much appreciate the fact that bluegrass is all about the music. I appreciate that these musicians have to be musicians. There is no glitz, glamour and image. No amount of smoke and mirror tricks can hide a sloppy bluegrass musician. Its just real a authentic soul experience. The music is real, the song-writing is real; and it certainly isn’t edited, polished and packaged by record executives.
I love my NPR, my Saturday afternoon Metropolitan Opera and hard core bluegrass. Don’t lose any sleep trying to figure it out; I just love what I love.
I see where ibma.org has something about podcasting. Check it out.
Finger pickin good, indeed!