Gender Shifts in Bluegrass

Bluegrass is historically and presently a male-dominated genre of music (I believe the same goes for any genre of music, with maybe the exception of modern pop). Women in bluegrass typically played the bass–which meant they were in the back of a band. They also played with male family members, which implies a certain scope of dependency or  However, there’s a definite shift in women’s roles in bluegrass from the back of the band to the front. Voices from Hazel Dickens, Alice Gerrard, and Alison Krauss broke through the gender barrier in commercial bluegrass as front-women. I see their impact in new bands taking off in present day.

For example, Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys–a firm female presence right there in the band title, just like with Alison Krauss Union Station. Although two of the male members, Mark Lavengood and Joshua Rilko also sing, Lindsay is the lead vocalist. She’s there front and center.

Humming House is another band with a strong female voice. Leslie Rodriguez isn’t the lead–she shares the spot with Justin Wade Tam. Her voice alone commands the room in this video.

The center of any band during a performance is the lead vocalist. Frontmen (or frontwomen) physically make a statement because they receive the most attention from their audience. I see more women taking that lead spot, even though bluegrass is a male majority genre. It might take a really long time for the gender ratio to even out, and it might not ever happen. Women have already made their way from the back of the stage to front and center–in my opinion, that’s a huge positive shift.

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