In Robert Cantwell’s article, Hillbilly Music, he goes into great detail about the beginning of Bill Monroe’s career along with how the radio influenced cultural identities. Cantwell is not shy to admit that he believes the way people listened to their music in the early 20th century did put a “dust” over the pureness of the sound. He credits this dust to ideas that quickly became associated with bluegrass and old-time music.
Throughout reading this article I continually questioned the idea of stereotypes associated with music. I pondered about the recent Grammy winning songs and what makes them gain their level of popularity in today’s world. To me, I use music to take me back to my childhood or bring back memories of my home; however, when listening to today’s “popular” music it is simply the same overused topics. I, unlike most, do not consider certain stereotypes to be negative. For example, many people characterize bluegrass music as hick or rural; yet, to me this just states that this genre has a sense of identity. This music is easily identifiable to some. While listening to Sam Smith’s music that has gained him much fame I cannot help to feel disconnected. He is a homosexual man from England who has been trained vocally for years, my life and his do not share many of the same roads. I would much rather listen to songs about my region that provoke conversation amongst my family and I about history or outlooks on life. Below is a song that I recently came across that is about a place about 20 minutes from my home in Bluefield, WV. I find much enjoyment listening to this song as it reminds of family as well as past and current hardships people are facing.
Also while reading Cantwell’s article I could not help to question the future of bluegrass music. As noted in his article and throughout much of our course, many bluegrass musicians also served as advertisements for certain products during the genre’s infancy. Then, the larger acts seemingly started touring and playing at the Grande Ole Opry in about the mid 20th century. Fast forwarding a bit, today it seems that bluegrass often plays second fiddle (pun intended) to country music on the radio. Where does bluegrass music belong today? In my opinion, bluegrass fits well outside the mainstream. Bluegrass flourishes in smaller communities throughout Appalachia whether it be at jams, festivals or competitions. This background personality gives the genre its substance. Helping bluegrass in this current world is technology. This has helped the genre that Bill Monroe start grow into a worldwide community. Defining the future for bluegrass is challenging, but it is my hope that the music continues to keep up with technology. It is my belief that if the genre keeps up with technology it will be able to continue and grow. The idea of keeping up with technology is seen through the websites listed below, these websites allow people worldwide to be informed about festivals: