Putting limitations on art? …Its indefinable!

As a new blogger let’s just get this out of the way: Everyone has blogged about it, so here’s my opinion.  The subject is …What is Bluegrass Music?  And why does this subject keep coming up?  

I love all forms of music.  And playing many forms of music best represents who I am and what I want to be as an artist.  I like old music, new music …I don’t care as long as it’s good music.  I do play a lot of Bluegrass and one thing I notice is that generally bluegrass people are very territorial with their music.  We all like to take ownership of it.  We love it.   But if we aren’t careful we’ll stifle it and keep it from growing and potentially being heard by the masses. 

Bluegrass is like ice cream…there are so many flavors. Maybe not all bluegrass is for you, but I truly think the general public would find if exposed to it they would like some form of it. They’d find their flavor.  I get tired of people trying to define Bluegrass Music. First of all, you can’t put limitations on art. Everyone has their own opinion, and so few people care anyway.  We should be trying to make good music to draw people in, instead of making it a sub-culture, pushing good musical ideas and people away.  I love all forms of music and I never try to categorize it.  Music is either good or bad.   

Bluegrass is a form of Country Music. And by that I mean Country, not in style, but country, as in where it came from…the hills. It’s derived from Scotch-Irish, Mountain Music with Gospel and Blues influence.  I am a huge Bill Monroe fan and love him as an artist, creator, and musical pioneer.  To put some perspective on his American music footprint, he has been inducted into the Rock and Roll, Country, and Bluegrass Halls of Fame.  If Bill had not been experimenting with music in 1946, Bluegrass as we know it wouldn’t even exist.  Flatt and Scruggs never called their music Bluegrass …they called it “Country Music” or “Folk Music in overdrive”. 

If you really look at the history of it, “Bluegrass band” and “instrumentation” include: duets, trios, quartet, quintets …on to orchestral configurations.  Fiddles, banjos, mandolins, basses, guitars, drums, resophonic guitars, harmonicas, washboards, spoons, bones, electric basses, electric guitars, pianos, jugs, saws, violas, cellos …the list could go on for days.  Ironically, this isn’t what it’s revolutionized into today, but from the beginning it was a hodge-podge of experimentation.  Strictly American Music. 

Flatt and Scruggs, Jimmy Martin, Bill Monroe, The Osborne Bros, and Jimmy Jesse …the founders all used the instrumentation just named in the beginning.  Oddly enough, as years have passed, for some reason people have tried to put a choke hold on this music making it what they want; limiting all these things.  I see it a lot in people who aren’t from the regions it was created in, and people who don’t play but feel so passionately about the music they write about it or form an association of the “Here’s my 2 cents worth in something…anything!  Let me be involved.”   I see this hurting our industry and all the veterans of this music I have ever talked to agree completely.  Let it just be music and let it grow.  That way maybe someday everyone can get a taste of Bluegrass.  Then we can keep enjoying it for years to come.

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