Bluegrass Ska?
May 1, 2006 9:53 PM   Subscribe

So, I really think that a combination of bluegrass and ska would be really hella cool. Anyone doing anything like that? I can almost hear it in my head (all fiddles and guitars and mandolins, and horns, in a ska rhythm). I'd love to listen to any band doing that kind of hybrid-fusion.
posted by geekhorde to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like a great idea in my head, too. But... you're not reinventing rockabilly, are you? Or what? (I had a great idea about surf-swing some few years ago too, FWIW)
posted by Marla Singer at 9:58 PM on May 1, 2006

No, I think it would sound more syncopated than rockabilly. If no one is doing this yet, I might just have to cobble together a few bootleg-remixes.
posted by geekhorde at 10:44 PM on May 1, 2006

I play a ska-influenced banjo and tend to think it sounds good, but to my knowledge the closest you'll find to what you're looking for would be the Squirrel Nut Zippers (who are neither Ska nor Bluegrass).

Open invite to all Bay Area musicians: Let's do this thing!
posted by lekvar at 10:57 PM on May 1, 2006

The only approaching skagrass that I could find worth posting was Rocky Mountain Wind.
posted by tellurian at 11:03 PM on May 1, 2006

Bluegrass and Ska would sound good together, but I think that you need a good Klezmer influence to bring the whole thing together.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:11 PM on May 1, 2006

Dude, wish I lived in the Bay Area. If this thread starts a skagrass revival/devival, I want credit! Name a song after me. 'Geekhorde's rag' has a nice sound.

I've also been working on a ragtime/jungle hybrid. Sounds really wrong, but very funny.
posted by geekhorde at 11:18 PM on May 1, 2006

I saw a band some years back called "The Twistoffs" who played a blend of country and ska. They were pretty good; I used to have their CD (released on their own [?] Interrobang imprint) but I lost it years ago.
posted by jtron at 11:24 PM on May 1, 2006

Early Camper van Beethoven is a little like this, especially Camper II & III and their self-titled album. I can e-mail you something, if you can listen to m4a files.
posted by interrobang at 11:26 PM on May 1, 2006

The Clumsy Lovers are mostly Bluegrass Celtic Rock, but they often wander into Ska and Reggae as well. There are most definitely examples of Ska Banjo/Mandolin in their work. It tends to be a pretty white bread sort of ska, in my opinion, but they are from the suburbs of Vancouver BC afterall.

I've found their albums to be so-so, but they put on a kickass live show. Highly recommended.
posted by afflatus at 11:29 PM on May 1, 2006

Lonesome Jack
I'm not one much for blatantly promoting my own band, but I genuinely think some of the stuff we play is right along these lines. I'm linking to our (admittedly unfortunate) MySpace page because it's the only place online to listen to our music at the moment.
The only song posted right now on the MySpace page that's somewhat bluegrass is "Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms," but I'll see if I can't get some others posted up there. We added a trombone recently and that helps a lot on the ska side, but we don't have any recordings with him quite yet.
We started out as a bluegrass band and play a lot of bluegrass mixes. Right now we're working on bluegrass/reggaeton version of Bill Monroe's "Can't You Hear Me Callin'."
posted by Hadroed at 11:36 PM on May 1, 2006

If you look at the constituent parts (Irish folk, Spanish-ish rhythms), it doesn't seem like it's right, but I think The Pogues "Fiesta" actually sounds like what you're describing. Sort of.
posted by bunglin jones at 12:13 AM on May 2, 2006

Have you heard the first Camper van Beethoven album? that has some California-ska with fiddles, & it sounds great.
posted by misteraitch at 12:26 AM on May 2, 2006

It's not ska or bluegrass, but Sufjan Stevens' last album, Illinois, had lots of banjos, strings, brass, and syncopation. And it was excellent.
posted by ludwig_van at 4:46 AM on May 2, 2006

Not exactly what you want, but if this is what you want you also probably want Dread Zeppelin.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:25 AM on May 2, 2006

the problem here is that i'm not sure how one would fit the 3 finger picking style used in bluegrass banjo and a ska rhythm together ... 2 finger picking style could work, but that's more like old time banjo

the banjo is the key to this
posted by pyramid termite at 5:35 AM on May 2, 2006

the problem here is that i'm not sure how one would fit the 3 finger picking style used in bluegrass banjo and a ska rhythm together

clawhammer style, which is basically strumming a banjo, rather than picking it.

in any case, what the poster is talking about is not mixing bluegrass and ska, but playing ska on bluegrass instruments. i have seen/heard many styles played their own way, but on bluegrass instruments: an ac/dc cover band, celtic (as mentioned above), klezmer/eastern european stuff, jazz, children's songs, etc.

to answer the question, i don't know of anyone playing ska on bluegrass instruments, but it's always possible.
posted by poppo at 7:01 AM on May 2, 2006

Interrobang is right. Here's a second vote for Camper Van Beethoven, which woefully I have on cassette! Their album Radio Free Landslide Victory has "Take the Skinheads Bowling" and "Skinhead Stomp". You can listen at itunes.

Coeval's wife
posted by coevals at 8:04 AM on May 2, 2006

Yeah, Camper Van Beethoven's album Telephone Free Landslide Victory pretty much has this covered, but from a bit of an eastern european sounding angle.
posted by JekPorkins at 9:24 AM on May 2, 2006

Of course. Camper Van! Well, that's really the closest thing that I've heard. Thanks for all the suggestions guys. ;)
posted by geekhorde at 10:05 AM on May 2, 2006

Actually, I think Eddie From Ohio's song "Eddie's Concubine" off Looking out the Fishbowl fits this description almost perfectly.
posted by sarahnade at 10:15 AM on May 2, 2006

eddie from ohio sounds like a cross of western swing and ska to me ... interesting
posted by pyramid termite at 12:23 PM on May 2, 2006

i'm not sure how one would fit the 3 finger picking style used in bluegrass banjo

I use a modified 3 finger pick - the thumb picks the low G, A, and the drone D whie the index and middle do a simultaneous pluck on the A and high G. This is somewhere between Scruggs-style and proper clawhammer as near as I can tell, but it allows for some interesting rhythm work. The thumb picks out the melodic line while the fingers lay down chords on the up beat. This can also be alternated with Scruggs-style fills.
posted by lekvar at 1:01 PM on May 2, 2006

Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution (aka BOTAR or B.O.T.A.R.) may be what you are looking for. They were/are an acoustic side project of members from the ska band Streetlight Manifesto with fiddles etc.

I would recommend the Squirrel Nut Zippers and The World/Inferno Friendship Society from NYC for bands that are the closest I can think of.
posted by The Wig at 2:52 PM on May 2, 2006

A few tracks on Duck and Cover by the Mad Caddies (mostly ska/punk) have a bona-fide ska syncopation, horns, and banjo. Not quite bluegrass, though, more like dixieland jazz. Which is equally bizzare.

To wit: I saw a live show about 8 years ago (yikes) with no lack of tough-ass mohawks and be-checkered college kids completely losing it to the banjo groove.
posted by fatllama at 9:15 PM on May 2, 2006

Brave Combo
posted by The White Hat at 8:40 AM on May 3, 2006

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