Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bluegrass 101: American Roots

Bluegrass on Rock Revival ! Well why not, given it's status as one of the critical roots of American music and as such part of the history of rock.

The instrumentation of bluegrass is perhaps the origin of the dominance of guitar solos, as exemplified by the fact that Jerry Garcia learned his craft as a bluegrass musician as part of the revival of the 60's. Listen to Mark Knopfler's solos, to Manassas, Lynyrd Skykyrd's Freebird; it all started with bluegrass !

Bluegrass has its own roots in Irish, Scottish and English traditional music. It relies of the fiddle, five string banjo, acoustic guitar, mandolin, and upright bass plus the are the resonator guitar or dobro.

The masters of the genre are Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt and the Stanley Brothers, all starting out in the 1940's and 50's, the golden era, when bluegrass first emerged as a seperate entity from country.

Jerry Garcia was part of the second generation, as was J. D. Crowe, Doyle Lawson, Sam Bush, John Hartford, and Norman Blake.

In recent times the Coen Brothers' movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? helped bring bluegrass back into the mainstream. Ricky Skaggs and Bela Fleck and The Flecktones have also been popular, plus jam band String Cheese Incident and the more pop-bluegrass star Alison Krauss

Here is Rock Revival's Top Ten

1 Mountain Dew The Stanley Bros
2 Cotton Eye Joe Bill Monroe
3 Orange Blossom Special Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys

4 White Freightliner Blues Sam Bush and Bela Fleck

5 The Old Crossroads Ricky Skaggs
6 Fox on the Run The Country Gentlemen
7 Saviour's Love Doyle Lawson
8 Daybreak in Dixie Keith Whitley and Ricky Skaggs

9 Appalachian Stomp Alison Krauss and Union Station

10 Old Joe Clark Flatt and Scruggs

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