This week on the Mid-Week Beat we focus on bluegrass and three great bluegrass events that are coming up over the next week in California, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
The title “bluegrass” was believed to be first applied to the folk music of the Appalachian region in the late 50s, supposedly derived from the name of the band The Bluegrass Boys, formed and led by the “father of bluegrass” Bill Monroe. The music is a mixture of the folk music of the Appalachian region, English and Scottish jigs and reels and the blues music played by the African-American musicians of the region. The introduction of blues was a key element in the development of the music, including the introduction of the iconic instrument most associated with bluegrass, the banjo.
The “golden age” of the genre was in the 1950s when Bill Monroe, the Stanley Brothers, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, Mac Wiseman and others ruled the charts. The music continued to evolve and change over subsequent decades with rock and jazz elements getting into the mix and electric instruments becoming more common. In recent years, thanks to the success of the 2000 Coen Brothers film “O Brother Where Art Thou?,” its Grammy-winning soundtrack and with more mainstream country artists like Dolly Parton and Patty Loveless releasing bluegrass albums, the music now reaches more listeners than ever before. As a result, bluegrass festivals are popping up all over the country and sub-genres like “nu-grass” and “jamgrass” are bringing the music to younger music enthusiasts raised on punk rock and jam bands. All proof that bluegrass is here to stay!
We have some great bluegrass events coming up featuring some of the hottest bands on the scene at the moment. Check these out:
Internationally acclaimed Foghorn Stringband has been at the vanguard of a revival in American old-time music for over a decade now. They’ve travelled the globe, been signed to a major label, and inspired a new generation of old-time musicians, all without compromising their love of traditional American music.
A typical Foghorn set is based around exquisitely rare old-time tunes and songs, but a vast knowledge of early country music and recent explorations in Cajun song traditions have molded a powerful new sound. Any band would be happy to have mastered one music genre, but Foghorn Stringband have a roaming spirit, and are already sparking new revivals of American roots music traditions.
They play the old way, the way you’d have heard stringbands play on Southern radio stations back in the 1930s. They don’t fancy up the music to make it more modern, instead they reach deep into the heart of the songs, pulling out the deep emotions that made them so enduring in the first place. It’s a whole new world today for folk musicians, but the four powerhouse musicians in the Foghorn Stringband prove that they’re still riding on the cutting edge, with one foot in the analog past and one foot in the digital future.
Loafers’ Glory features some of the finest musicians not only in California, but in the entire country. Four fabulous pickers and singers perform a seamless and compelling blend of traditional bluegrass and-old time music. Three of the band members have each been playing acoustic music for more than 40 years, and the fourth is one as the hottest young banjo players on the scene.
Herb Pedersen, who played banjo in bands such as The Dillards, The Country Gazette, Old & In The Gray, Here Today, The Laurel Canyon Ramblers, and Vern & Ray, plays mostly guitar here. He also played with The Foggy Mountain Boys for a time, subbing for Earl Scruggs back in the late ’60s. Bill Bryson, bass, is also an accomplished old-time banjo player as well as an amazing singer/songwriter. Some of the bands that he has played with are The Bluegrass Cardinals, Desert Rose, and The Laurel Canyon Ramblers. Tom Sauber has been in the forefront of the traditional old-time music scene for a few decades now. An accomplished fiddle and five-string banjo player, he has appeared on countless recording projects and movie sound tracks. Patrick Sauber, Tom’s son, comes from the same musical background as his dad. He’s an astounding multi-instrumentalist who feels as much at home on the five-string as he does on the mandolin and guitar.
The band is also playing tomorrow, Thursday, March 21 at Studio 55 Marin in San Rafael, California. Opening the show will be local twosome Keystone Crossing – Larry Carlin and Claudia Hampe whose angelic harmonies hearken back to the early days of country and bluegrass music. You can pick up tickets for this incredible show right over here.
The Hi-Tone Ramblers
The Hi-Tone Ramblers’ music, both traditional and original, is inspired by American roots music, both instrumental and vocal. They offer up a melting pot of Anglo and African-rooted songs, rhythms, blues, and old-time fiddle and banjo tunes – driving and stately, bouncy, quirky, and eerily beautiful. They play traditional acoustic music for crowds, parties, dances and events of just about any size and shape. You can find them at old-timey jams thinly disguised as regular people playing good foot-stomping music or on stage at venues in and around the greater Boston area.
They’re playing this Saturday, March 23 at Sandywoods Center for the Arts in Tiverton, Rhode Island. Opening the show will be Pages of Paul, playing crisp original pop songs with overtones of country and rock. You can pick up tickets for this stellar lineup right over here!