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Cantwell’s “Hillbilly Music”

The piece of Cantwell’s chapter on “Hillbilly Music” that struck me the most was his (Cantwell’s) description of Monroe’s sound. Cantwell says he “scrapes” (p.50) the strings of his mandolin as opposed to, I assume, strumming them. Monroe is portrayed as a very aggressive and overbearing artist, demanding the attention of the audience. His rough and grainy sound was signature, and he picked somewhat like a blues guitarist. You can see in the attached video what Cantwell was talking about. While I was reading this section, I couldn’t help but think of Alison Krauss, who can play and sing the most peaceful, almost lullaby-esque Bluegrass songs. Bluegrass music seems to expand with every reading.

Discussion Questions:

Is Bluegrass relevant in the media today? Did O Brother bring Bluegrass into the spotlight permanently, or just for a year or two?

Were the Monroe Brothers smart to try to pursue radio instead of phonograph recordings?

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