Bluegrass Music
February 4, 2005 10:05 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking to expand my knowledge of bluegrass. [MI]

Bluegrass occupies a special place in my heart. The first song my father taught me was "Bringing Mary Home" by The Country Gentlemen. I remember loving the steady stream of bluegrass drifting out of my father's workshop. Aside from the aforementioned Gentlemen and the recent 'O Brother Where Art Thou' soundtrack, I know nothing about bluegrass. Could someone in the know guide me towards bluegrass worth listening to?
posted by LeeJay to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I likes me some Bill Monroe.
posted by RustyBrooks at 10:31 PM on February 4, 2005

"High Lonesome: The Story of Bluegrass Music" is a great DVD that will turn you on to some of the older artists, as well as newer ones like Nickel Creek.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:43 PM on February 4, 2005

I'd recommend this list for anyone looking for good music, not just bluegrass:

The Seldom Scene
Ricky Skaggs (hokey showbiz asshole but great trad. stuff)
Bela Fleck (stay away from his jazz stuff, bad bad)
Tony Rice (a tragic figure, a great singer and a legendary guitar player)
Sam Bush
Jerry Douglas (without him there'd be no dobro)
Strength in Numbers (early stuff)
Rhonda Vincent
Alison Krause
David Grisman (mandolinist, historian, hippy)
Chris Thile, or Nickel Creek (virtuosity)
The Del McCoury Band (could not recommend more, simply the best! Buy his stuff with Steve Earle)
posted by greasy_skillet at 12:05 AM on February 5, 2005

Okay, here it is real simple-like:

Bill Monroe is the father of blue grass. You will buy his stuff.
Flatt & Scruggs are two ex-sidemen for Bill Monroe. You will buy their stuff.

There is no debating the above.

I also like the Stanley Brothers, which would tie in with your OBWAT soundtrack, and the Louvin Brothers.

nu grass sucks
posted by keswick at 12:28 AM on February 5, 2005

You must listen to Bluegrass Ramble on KBCS on Sundays from Noon to 3pm pacific time. You can listen online. While there's lots of bluegrass all over the internet, this show has decent djs whose words help the listener connect styles, musicians, etc. They have several djs that rotate from week to week so the quality may vary, but it's usually a fun show to listen to, although three hours of bluegrass can be exhausting.
posted by gluechunk at 1:36 AM on February 5, 2005

Go here! Check out the lineup. I went to my first one of these several years ago and swore I wouldn't miss another one, and I haven't. The place where it's held is a Florida state park called The Spirit of The Suwannee Music Park. My buddies are playing there. It is an idyllic setting for lovers of acoustic music...or just lovers.
posted by wsg at 2:22 AM on February 5, 2005

I love the stained-glass bluegrass. Any recommendations along those lines would be welcome.
posted by anapestic at 5:10 AM on February 5, 2005

Alison Krauss, shurely?

Not overly sure of the genre, but you should absolutely, totally check out Gillian Welch - her Time (The Revelator) is on of the finest albums recorded. Also +1 on the Nickel Creek - their first album is better than the follow-up. You could also checkout The Old Crow Medicine Show - it's a great album and they're very, very good live.
posted by TheDonF at 6:45 AM on February 5, 2005

On the Stanley Brothers thing—if Ralph Stanley plays in your area, you should go to the venue. You don't necessarily need tickets or to hear the concert, but if you can get to the merch table you will be able to buy some live CDs that you can't get elsewhere, and at least one of them is totally awesome. (If you do go to an RS concert, be aware that Ralph Stanley Jr. will sing a few numbers, and he blows.)
posted by kenko at 6:55 AM on February 5, 2005

Greasy_Skillet's right on the mark about Del McCoury/Steve Earle; check out Earle's album The Mountain. Also, listen to the Del McCoury band perform here. And for your 24/7 bluegrass needs, don't forget this station.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:08 AM on February 5, 2005

This is a fun and accessible introduction, and there's a LOT of great talent on there.
posted by socratic at 8:56 AM on February 5, 2005

I second greasy_skillet's list, though I'd recommend Bela Fleck's excellent live performances over his studio stuff, which has always sounded a bit overproduced to me. I also heartily recommend Rhonda Vincent.

A great bluegrass-folk band that doesn't seem to be on too many people's radar is The Be Good Tanyas. Their work doens't really fit into the classic bluegrass schema, but they're a great old-time mountain band, and they perform the most haunting version of "Oh, Susannah" I've ever heard.

(Speaking of covers: The best bluegrass cover I've ever heard was the Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer" by Pavlov's Dawgs, a cool PA bluegrass band.)
posted by hifiparasol at 11:14 AM on February 5, 2005

A very similar askMe thread from a few days ago here.
posted by obloquy at 11:42 AM on February 5, 2005

If you're interested in new talent, I'd certainly recommend Mindy Smith. She does a cracking bluegrass cover of Jolene.
posted by wackybrit at 1:25 PM on February 5, 2005

Oh, and how could I forget Laura Cantrell? One of the sweetest voices in the genre, and she was one of the late John Peel's favorites.
posted by wackybrit at 1:57 PM on February 5, 2005

The Bee Good Tanyas' cover of "Waiting Around To Die" is also very, very good. On the subject of Oh Susanna, the namesake group are very good (in an alt-country manner)

I'll add many, many recommendations for Mindy Smith. It was my joint top album of last year (with Wilco's A Ghost Is Born). I saw her in London this week and, even though her voice was on the way out, she was still amazing. There isn't anything bad to say about her debut album, and if you get the chance to see her live, then do. Hopefully a stunning career is ahead of her.
posted by TheDonF at 4:53 PM on February 5, 2005

I second the Be Good Tanyas - Canadian bluegrass rocker chicks rule!

Doc Watson's gotta be on the shortlist.

Luther Wright and Wrongs may be stretching the definition of bluegrass a bit, but their cover album of Pink Floyd's "The Wall" is awesome.
posted by jimray at 5:16 PM on February 5, 2005

Bela Fleck is NOT bluegrass or even close, unless you're talking about his early stuff. He's a hell of a banjo player and is capable of playing bluegrass, but rarely does anymore. If you want bluegrass avoid the Flecktones.
posted by wsg at 6:12 PM on February 5, 2005

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's Will the Circle Be Unbroken. It's not 100% bluegrass, but it's really good. And the bits of studio conversation between the various old timers (Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, Roy Acuff, and Vassar Clements, among others) and the band is great.

And I second (or third) The Mountain.
posted by crumbly at 7:29 PM on February 5, 2005

Response by poster: I just wanted to say thanks to everyone for giving me some great leads.
posted by LeeJay at 5:45 AM on February 7, 2005

A couple of seconds:
Stanley Bros.
Flatt & Scruggs
Bill Monroe

A friend of mine swore to The Old Crow Medicine Show's live set. They're playing Annapolis on March 1.
posted by hellbient at 9:13 AM on February 22, 2005

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