Archive for the bluegrass Category

Extremely Productive Weekend and Plans for More in the Future

Posted in baseball, bluegrass, goals, music on 22 January 08 by mikevc

This past weekend I had a three day weekend off from work. Jonah and I had plans to join his Tiger Scout group camping at Brazos Bend State Park with the gators. However, rain and 28 degree nighttime lows helped us rethink that. So, with three days in front of me what did I get accomplished. Rather a lot I think. Here is my list:

  1. Finally got the mandolin chord “chop” down to a point where I can comfortably play along with most bluegrass songs.
  2. Finished two good books on the state of the Democratic Party and how to fix it.
  3. Made plans for attending College Classic at Minute Maid Park.
  4. Most importantly, finished Super Mario Galaxy, which for my money is the best Mario game yet.

So, I notice this list is slightly self-centered. I am setting myself a goal that for every day I have off from here on out, I accomplish at least two things that benefit others (specifically, my family) and not just me (although Jonah and Toby did love playing SGM I am exempting video game from this).

The Bluegrass Punk Connection

Posted in bluegrass, music on 4 September 07 by mikevc

I had no idea that Hilly Kristal, who unfortunately passed away verycb.jpg recently, originally opened CBGB with the hopes of booking Country, Bluegrass, and Blues (thus the name) bands. Apparently, he couldn’t find any to play and some of the early punk bands that blossomed there originally claimed to fit the bill. Very interesting. Also, it turns out OMFUG stands for “Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers”.

I found all this out in an 11 page thread discussing the similarities between Punk and Bluegrass, a point I have frequently made and folks just look at me as if I am nuts. Another interesting article looks at the banjo as the first truly punk rock instrument. It does seem that there are a huge number of punk aficionados who turn to the banjo and other bluegrass instruments in their early to late middle age.

I heartily agree with most of the points made. And if it will get folks to actually give BG a listen, I am willing to put this out there. However, the one place where the parallel seems to fall by the wayside is that bluegrass requires quite a bit of technical know how on your instrument; most punk does not.

Get to Know Some Great Bluegrass

Posted in bluegrass, music on 3 September 07 by mikevc

When I tell folks that I am passionate about bluegrass, they always seem to think that bluegrass died fifty years ago. While I find Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs as good as anything played today, I always share with them that there is some great bluegrass–more than ever, I would argue–being made now. And, more and more, artists are merging bluegrass with other genres, including punk, pop, and heavy metal. So, for someone who wants to discover bluegrass, I am listing my Top Ten Recent Bluegrass Records:

  1. mount.jpgThe Mountain by Steve Earle and the Del McCoury Band – Earle always includes one or two bluegrass-influenced songs on his album but this is nothing but. Joining one of the best songwriters of recent years with the legend of the high lonesome sounds leads to my single favorite bluegrass album ever.
  2. Delusions of Banjer by Bad Livers – Bad Livers fused punk and bluegrass to become a huge local draw in Austin, TX. Danny Barnes is one of the best banjo players in music and continues to dazzle with solo records and work for other artists.
  3. is.jpgFork in the Road by The Infamous Stringdusters– My vote for best new bluegrass band. These are a bunch of young guys writing great songs and playing at lightning speeds. I love the dobro playing on this one.
  4. The Company We Keep by The Del McCoury Band – There is usually a good reason why someone is a living legend. That is definitely true in the case of Del, who is almost 70 years old. This is a phenomanal album with some of the best bluegrass tunes recorded in the 00s. “Never Grow Up Boy” is one of my top five bluegrass favorites of all time.
  5. cherry.jpgCherryholmes by Cherryholmes – This family band is simply amazing. The kids in the band–all 22 or younger–are simply amazing musicians. Another band who puts on a great show. Their second album is great too but I expected that. This album was a real discovery.
  6. Never Make It Home by Split Lip Rayfield – Another band fusing bluegrass with punk (sometimes called “thrash-grass”), SLR plays at lightning fast speeds. Plus, how can you not love a band that features a bass made from the fuel tank of a Ford van. Unfortunately, Kirk Rundstrom, the driving force behind and songwriter for SLR, passed away earlier this year from throat cancer.
  7. hack.jpgLook Out by The Hackensaw Boys – This is a new discovery for me. They too play traditional bluegrass with attitude. This stuff just makes you happy. They would probably be higher on my list if I had been listening to them for longer than two weeks.
  8. Long Way Back Home by The Gibson Brothers – This is kind of bluegrass meets pop folk. It is great stuff that after a few listens you will find yourself singing along. All of their stuff is good but this is my favorite.
  9. Long List of Heartbreaks by The Grascals – I avoided these guys because of their seeming connection to bad contemporary country music. But, I was won over at a festival. They are extremely talented and put on a great show. Plus, all mandolin players should aspire to this level of playing.
  10. You Gotta Dig a Little Deeper by Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver – I couldn’t leave off Doyle. Another legend, Doyle Lawson continues to record great songs. This is the album I put on when I want something truly happy. I love their live shows: the banter between Doyle and Jamie Dailey, guitar palyer and singer, is quite funny.

There you go. Take your pick of any one of these and you can’t go wrong. And this is just the tip of the iceberg; there are hundreds more great artists making great bluegrass out there. Check out No Depression (hits on the more innovative stuff along with other great Americana-type music); or Bluegrass Unlimited (more traditional) for more great new and established artists. But, a warning, if you subscribe to either, expect to have some cash on hand to dedicate to buying new music when the latest issue arrives. I just spent $60 on iTunes after reading the latest No Depression–and that doesn’t count the albums that were reviewed and haven’t come out yet.

BTW, I am not including old time string bands as bluegrass unless they have significant bluegrass-y playing. I will do another string band list because there has been a real rise recently in great old time string bands as well.
Have fun! If you really like it, pick up an instrument and learn to play. I am studying mandolin and could use a banjo player, guitar picker, and bass player–if you can sing, all the better.