I have always had an extremely high interest in new music, emerging artists, and the evolution of the sounds of a genre over time. However, in the last several months, after deciding to take a course on bluegrass music, I have redirected my attention to music, both old and new, that has come from my area of the country.
My mom and dad have never let me forget that I have Blue Ridge blood. Although the more deeply rooted Appalachian cousins of mine joke with me about being a “city boy” from Southside Richmond, I have always found a strong connection with the bluegrass and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The sound not only reminds me of the family that I see less than I would like, but of particular places that been painted in my memory. Long, aimless drives with my grandpa, heading no place in particular, but to find a good look at Smith Mountain Lake, or the mountains surrounding it.
In the bluegrass community today, the definition and classification is highly debated. I find it ironic that Ralph Stanley, widely considered one of the fathers of bluegrass, considers bluegrass to be strictly the music created by Bill Monroe.
While there is such a hot debate going on over what is considered bluegrass, place is undeniable. Just as bluegrass music is widely considered the sound of Appalachia, I have begun to associate the music from artists nearby to represent myself and my culture. When we are sprouting from the same valleys and rivers, there are sure to be similar ideologies and shared beliefs.
The evolution of music in Appalachia has come a long way in the last 100 years, and yes, of coarse, this is due in part to the advance of modern technology, but certain elements from old time bluegrass, even if they are minimal, can be heard in the music of emerging artists.
Mipso is an emerging group from Burke County, NC. The have been praised by critics as cutting edge traditionalists, incorporating strong harmony, fiddle, upright bass, guitar and mandolin. Elements of bluegrass influence are evident as they put their own unique “dark holler pop” sound on display. There certainly seems to be something truly Appalachian in their sound.
Jim White vs. The Parkway Handle Band also incorporate undeniable aspects of bluegrass. Their group sing, swing stomp sound has elements of bluegrass that aren’t quite old time, but are sure to provide a good time.
Other notable artists such as Travis Book, the bassist from the Infamous Stringdusters, and Gill Landry, supporting member in Old Crow Medicine Show, have also been working on their own projects. Book has teamed up with his wife to form the group Sunnier, will Landry has been pursuing his solo career.
All of these artists are coming from areas all around the Blue Ridge. I can honestly say they are representing the area well, while also not entirely forgetting their roots. As they grow in popularity and times change, it is good to know that the evolution of music in the area can still remain relevant and relatable to the people.
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