Author: acsmith3

Gender as Articulated by Bluegrass Music

“In writing it, Ledford did a rare thing for her time: she made the free-wheeling, globe-trotting, banjo-playing protagonist a woman. If her man thinks he can persuade her to give it up and stick close to home, he might as well save his breath” – Jewly Hight It would be difficult to discuss gender in Bluegrass without … Continue reading Gender as Articulated by Bluegrass Music

Reflecting on the Semester

It’s hard to believe this semester is coming to a close and my studies with Bluegrass are ending (for now). Although it’s impossible to articulate the sum of my experiences over the course of a few months, this final post is an attempt to reflect on what I’ve learned and what has impacted me the most. I’ve … Continue reading Reflecting on the Semester

Are we really ‘Saving the World with Banjos’?

The American Music Abroad program (AMA), run by American Voices (an NGO) and highlighted in Craig Havighurst’s article “Saving the World with Banjos”, has provided many folk and Bluegrass artists with the opportunity to take their talents to other countries, with the intention of showcasing authentic American music and building connections through performance across the … Continue reading Are we really ‘Saving the World with Banjos’?


Last week, I attended a workshop that asked me to listen and watch my surroundings carefully, to heighten my senses and notice how sound shapes my world. On top of our soundscape class activity, this workshop was the second opportunity I had last week to break from my everyday perspective and take a minute to focus on what … Continue reading Soundscapes

Reflection on Authenticity: Mumford & Sons

Our class discussion about authenticity a couple weeks ago got me thinking a lot about Bluegrass and the standards I hold for authenticity within the genre. Mumford & Sons is one of those bands who certainly push boundaries, but retain the instrumentation, themes, and look of a folk band from the past. I used to be … Continue reading Reflection on Authenticity: Mumford & Sons

On Bluegrass and Politics

“Music embodies political values and experiences, and organizes our response to society as political expression.” – John Street Bluegrass, as we have discussed in class, is markedly apolitical. This trait cannot possibly be attributed to the genre’s regional roots, as Appalachia is and always has been a political hotbed for a number of controversial issues. Perhaps it was … Continue reading On Bluegrass and Politics

The Osborne Brothers

Bobby and Sonny Osborne were born in Hyden, Kentucky and raised outside of Dayton, Ohio. Bobby learned he had a natural ability on the guitar when he started playing in bands as a teenager, and Sonny followed suit a few years later on the banjo. Starting in 1949, Bobby had a few stints with radio stations … Continue reading The Osborne Brothers

Discussion Questions 2/11

Cantwell often refers to themes of nostalgia and longing for times past within Bluegrass, but he also brings up the fact that performers had to pay attention to changes in popular taste and remain commercially current. How was this balance struck…

Samantha Bumgarner

Samantha Biddix was born in Jackson County, North Carolina in 1878 and grew up in the hills southeast of Asheville. Her father, Has Biddix, was a well-known local fiddler who was at first unsupportive of her interest in music, and then later grew to encourage her talents on both the fiddle and banjo. The first banjo she … Continue reading Samantha Bumgarner

What is Bluegrass?

Bluegrass is a unique genre of music whose origins rise from the cultural intersection of the Appalachian Mountain region (with influences including but not limited to African American, Scotch-Irish, traditional). It is characterized by the use of specific instruments (banjo, guitar, dobro, bass, mandolin) and harmonies, generation of a raw, acoustic sound, and themes of … Continue reading What is Bluegrass?