Bit of an informal post this week, but I just wanted to share some Bluegrass covers that have been done of songs from different genres. I enjoy listening to covers and have a decent amount of memory on my mp3 player being taken up with cover songs from an array of genres. For example, I have liked many songs from the “Punk Goes Pop” series and also am subscribed to a classical guitar player named Igor Presnyakov on YouTube. Igor takes songs from many different genres and applies his sound to them, and I think he does an excellent job at doing so.
Go Radio cover of “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele (I’ve seen Go Radio live twice):
Tonight Alive cover of “Little Lion Man” by Mumford & Sons (I have seen Tonight Alive live twice as well):
Igor Presnyakov cover of “Snow (Hey Oh)” by Red Hot Chili Peppers:
Now for some Bluegrass covers that I enjoy…
Honeywagon cover of “When I Come Around” by Green Day:
Honeywagon cover of “Dammit” by Blink 182:
Cornbread Red Cover of “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day:
Cornbread Red cover of “Come Sail Away” by Styx:
Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard cover of “Gimme Three Steps” by Lynyrd Skynyrd:
Iron Horse cover of “Mama I’m Coming Home” by Ozzy Osbourne:
Iron Horse cover of “Polar Opposites” by Modest Mouse:
And of course, since we are at Virginia Tech…
Iron Horse cover of “Enter Sandman” by Metallica:
*** WARNING: The videos in this post may contain explicit content; NSFW; Viewer discretion is advised. ***
This week’s class discussion featured some topics that one might not think would ever come up in a class covering Bluegrass music. One of those topics was the rap/hip-hop scenes and artists from the Appalachian region and “Dirty South”. While I am familiar with some of the artists within this overall genre, my knowledge is limited because rap is not the primary genre of music that I listen to (Yelawolf, along with songs and artists primarily from the 1990s and early 2000s. Possibly could include artists that were associated with the “nu metal” genre/movement during that same time frame such as Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit. Certain songs by Korn, Mudvayne, Mushroomhead, Slipknot and System of a Down have lyrical and instrumental elements and flow similar to rap).
Examples of Nu Metal songs that I think contain rap elements:
After our discussion on Monday, I was surprised to learn about amount of rap artists that are from the Appalachians and Dirty South (ex: Gucci Mane, Lil’ Wayne). Mentioned above, Yelawolf is the artist that I am most familiar with when it comes to rappers from this area. Some reasons that I like to listen to his music is because of his flow and that a good portion of his songs are either about or reference elements that are common (maybe even stereotypical) to living in the South. And while some comments made in class were along the lines of that “rappers involved with Rappalachia and hick-hop are not going to be taken seriously by other established rappers,” I think Yelawolf is a prime example for a counterargument to that statement. On his album “Radioactive”, Yelawolf collaborated with rappers such as Eminem, Kid Rock, and Lil’ Jon. He also did an EP with Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker.
While our discussions in class of music genres that are prevalent within Appalachia was certainly interesting, I found that there was a lack of discussion regarding the rock genres. Whether it is classic rock, metal, punk, etc. I know that there is a definite fan base for these genres within Appalachia. There have also been bands within my hometown area that are associated within these genres. One in particular, Blitzkid, has been successful on a global scale. They were a horror punk band based out of Bluefield, WV, that disbanded in 2012. Another group is Curses, formerly known as War Torn Angel. This is a metalcore/post hardcore band (featuring two members that went to my high school) that is trying to establish themselves, performing mainly local shows and competing for a slot to play on this year’s Vans Warped Tour. To further illustrate my point that the rock genre is loved within Appalachia, it should also be noted that legendary southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd will be headlining this year’s Second Chance Learning Center Concert in my hometown of Bluefield, VA (which is usually predominantly a country music show).
So basically this blog post is meant to showcase some of the music that I am familiar with in regards to our class discussions this week, and to also show that Bluegrass and Country are not the only genres of music that people within the Appalachia listen to and perform. Despite what stereotypes might be associated with any region, if you dig deep enough there is evidence to prove those stereotypes wrong. That is one thing I take away from class this week.
Class this week consisted of watching the film “Bluegrass Country Soul”, reading “Portable Community” by Owen Gardner, and some in class discussion on both of these topics.
“Bluegrass Country Soul” is a documentary-style film that covers Carlton Haney’s 1971 Labor Day Weekend Bluegrass Music Festival in Camp Springs, North Carolina. The film features some interview-like scenes, mostly with Haney himself, but mainly focuses on the festival performances.
Here are some of the performers/groups that were featured in the film:
Jimmy Martin & The Sunny Mountain Boys
The Bull Mountain Boys
The Country Gentleman
The New Deal String Band
The Osbourne Brothers
The Bluegrass 45
Mac Wiseman & Blackwell & Collins & The Dixie Blue Grass Boys
The Bluegrass Alliance
Overall I enjoyed watching this film and seeing an example of what Bluegrass festivals were like during this time period. I also found interest in looking at the instrument arrangements of each group. I saw that some groups were using instruments that may not be considered to be a part of Bluegrass (percussion, using amplification/electric instruments, harmonicas/”chromatic harp”). I like that the filmmaker(s) made the decision to include shots of the audience. This allows the viewer to see what types of people were interested in this type of music festivals, as well as their reactions to the performers on stage.
“Portable Community” by Owen Gardner takes a look into the community that is associated with these types of festivals. His study examines how an “increasingly mobile subset of individuals grapples with courting community in a society that frequently moves, travels, relocates, or pursues leisure or lifestyle away from home” (Gardner). Gemeinschaft and sittlichkeit are two terms associated with types of communities, and are featured in this piece. Gemeinschaft relates to the “communal grouping of individuals defined in opposition to self-serving individualism” (Gardner). This is “sought in multiple forms, places, and spaces and emphasizes the communal over the individual” (Gardner). Sittlichkeit is a communal term associated with the “places where we live and work and where social problems may be addressed. Contingent on a stable sense of geographically rooted place” (Gardner). Gardner also states that there are three rhetorics of motive when it comes to these types of communities – intimacy, inclusion, and simplicity. This piece is perhaps a bit more theoretical compared to other readings that have been assigned for this class. I feel like this reading could be a great addition to Dr. Fine’s Appalachian Communities class here at Virginia Tech, especially considering that community within a festival/music scene is not really addressed in that class.
The readings by Goldsmith and Rosenberg that were assigned for this week sparked an interesting conversation among my classmates on “authenticity” and if Bluegrass is a product of Appalachia. If you consider Bluegrass starting with Bill Monroe, it should be noted that he was born in Rosine, Kentucky. Rosine is located within Ohio County and is not included in the Appalachian Regional Commission’s (ARC) list of counties within the Appalachian Region.
In the maps above, you can see that Edmonson County is the most western County in Kentucky that is within the Appalachian Region based on the ARC’s definition. Ohio County is located roughly two counties further westward of Edmonson. While I am rather unfamiliar with the physical geography, economics, and demographics of Central and Western Kentucky, I do question the decision to not include Ohio County within Appalachia based on the history of Bluegrass. Another reason I question this is because there are counties within Tennessee (specifically Lawrence and Lewis Counties), Alabama, and Mississippi that are located either just as far or even further to the west as Ohio County, Kentucky. Plus it should be noted that there are “breaks” within the region in Mississippi (Lafayette) and Tennessee (Bedford, Giles, Lincoln, Marshall, Maury, Moore) where counties bordering or between ARC definition counties are left out.
Again, I am unfamiliar with these counties/regions of these states, but I do not see how the differences between these counties and those nearby within the ARC Appalachian Region are enough to not include them within the region.
Okay, so enough rambling about me not completely understanding the ARC’s Appalachian Region maps and definitions. When it comes down to it, I don’t think it really matters all too much whether or not Bluegrass was “born” within Appalachia. Bluegrass has become a music genre that has not only become a tradition and celebrated within Appalachia, but also within many other regions of the United States and other countries across the globe.
Gerald Calvin “Jerry” Douglas was born on May 28th, 1956 in Warren, Ohio, and is a renowned resonator guitar/lap steel/Dobro player and record producer. Throughout his career, he has played on more than 1,600 albums, won 13 Grammy awards, and is a three-time Country Music Association Musician of the Year. He began playing the Dobro at age eight, and by his teens he was a member of his father’s bluegrass band, the West Virginia Travelers. His playing was influenced by Josh Graves, a member of Flatt & Scruggs’ Foggy Mountain Boys. The Country Gentlemen discovered Douglas at a festival and took him on tour with them, later bringing him into the recording studio. Afterward, Douglas was an in-demand session musician, and during the 1970’s he worked with artists such as J.D. Crowe, David Grisman, Ricky Skaggs, Doyle Lawson, and Tony Rice. Douglas and Skaggs co-founded the bluegrass combo Bone Creek in 1976.
Douglas released his debut solo album, Fluxology, in 1979 and followed that with Fluxedo three years later. During this time, he also became a full-time member of the country group the Whites. He left the Whites in 1985 and became Nashville’s most in-demand session Dobro player while he continued to develop his own solo career, releasing Under the Wire on Sugar Hill in 1986, Changing Channels in 1987, and Plant Early in 1989. In the early 1980s, he had formed the group Strength in Numbers with Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer, and Mark O’Connor. He continued to work and collaborate on other recording projects including Slide Rule in 1992 and The Great Dobro Sessions in 1994, which won a Grammy.
In the late ‘80s, Douglas was asked by Alison Krauss to fill in on a Union Station tour. The shows went so well that he became a permanent member. Since his association with this group, Douglas has balanced his work with Union Station and his ongoing solo career, along with a variety of collaborative projects and being a co-Music Director for the BBC TV series Transatlantic Sessions. Douglas also collaborated with Jan A.P. Kaczmarek for the music score in the film “Get Low” that released in 2012.
In 2011, Jerry Douglas received the Annual American Honors and Awards Lifetime Achievement Award for Instrumentalist.
In 2012, he released the solo album Traveler, which was recorded in Nashville, New Orleans, New York, and Banbury, England. Guest artists featured on the album include Alison Krauss and Union Station, Eric Clapton, Mumford & Sons, and Paul Simon.
On his website, Douglas ends an interview about Traveler with:
“Making Traveler has really been an eye-opening experience. After doing this, I’m not interested in going back to making records the way I was, going to the studio with 12 songs and recording them with the same group of people. This one taught me about what options are out there, what other ways there are to do things, and what other kinds of music I can play. That’s important when you’ve been doing this as long as I have. Now I’ve got all kinds of records that I want to make.”
2014 marked the first release from the Earls of Leicester. This group features Barry Bales, Tim O’Brien, Shawn Camp, Charlie Cushman, and Johnny Warren, and was assembled by Douglas to pay homage to his greatest musical influences including Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, and the Foggy Mountain Boys.
“Hillbilly Music”, the second chapter of Robert Cantwell’s book “Bluegrass Breakdown”, details some of the influences from other music genres such as jazz and also the impact that the radio made on Bill Monroe’s bluegrass sound. Elements associated with jazz were implemented Monroe’s music and became a defining trait to not only his music, but as well as other aspiring groups that took influence from Bill Monroe. The radio helped Monroe and other bluegrass artists spread their music out to a wider audience because of its wide use at the time. It provided a source for listeners to enjoy genres they were already familiar with or even discover new sounds that may not have been as prevalent within their region/location.
What are some other examples of music genres being influenced from another to the point where that influenced style/sound has become widely used within that genre?
What is your primary source for discovering new artists/bands/genres/sounds?
The Carolina Tar Heels was an American old time string band featuring a rotating group of four musicians from the mountains of North Carolina. The group first began to form in 1927 when Dock Walsh (banjo and lead vocals) and Gwen Foster (guitar, harmonica, vocals) traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to record songs for RCA Victor. Songs recorded during this session include “Going to Georgia,” “There Ain’t No Use Working So Hard,” “Her Name Was Hula Lou,” and “Bring Me a Leaf From the Sea.”
A year later some changes to the group’s line up were made. Guitar player Clarence “Tom” Ashley was added and Gwen Foster was replaced with Garley Foster (no relation) on guitar and harmonica. The group continued to record with the Victor label six more times, recording 18 records overall. The last recording sessions for the Carolina Tar Heels took place after the Great Depression, in which the economic hardship ended up being a contributing factor to the disbandment of the group in 1932.
The Carolina Tar Heels’ Dock Walsh implemented a three-finger banjo picking style, which was common at the time. However, one aspect of the group that was unique was that the Tar Heels did not have a fiddle as most string bands did at the time. Instead this role was replaced with the harmonica playing of Gwen Foster and Garley Foster. Gwen Foster’s harmonica playing has led to him being referred to as one of the greatest harmonica players in country music and all time.
After many decades of inactivity, the Carolina Tar Heels were reformed in the early 1960s with Doc Walsh, his son Drake, and Garley Foster. This version of the band recorded an LP for Folk Legacy in 1964.
This week’s post is meant to provide my interpretation of what defines the Bluegrass music genre based on sources such as “Bluegrass: A History” by Neil Rosenberg, “The Bluegrass Reader” by Thomas Goldsmith, and the music section of Ted Olson’s “Encyclopedia of Appalachia”, and the film “High Lonesome: The Story of Bluegrass Music.”
It can be difficult to narrow down the factors and features of what a particular genre of music is, especially since genres are subject to change overtime with styles, methods, and mixing between other genres. For example, in “High Lonesome: The Story of Bluegrass Music”, there is a section in the film where Bill Monroe discusses the influence of blues and rhythm into his style of Bluegrass. There was also some controversy over whether or not bluegrass instruments should be heard through amplifiers or if the music should stay acoustic. I am by no means an expert of Bluegrass or any other genre of music for that matter, so it should be noted that the following definition will be based on the information listed above along with my personal experiences with the genre from growing up in Southwest Virginia.
I define “Bluegrass” as a genre of music that utilizes acoustic, usually stringed instruments such as the banjo, guitar, fiddle, mandolin, among others that typically play songs of up-beat tempos. Vocalists of the genre provide a harmony and “high lonesome sound” that is fairly unique to Bluegrass. I have found it common that Bluegrass songs tell a story. This story can be about a place, a person/loved one, or just an experience. Regardless of what it is about, Bluegrass music contains a raw sound that is hard to come by in other genres today. Perhaps it is in part due to the acoustic/non-electric traditions that give it this feeling.
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