Tag: Blog Posts

The Dept. of Religion and Culture’s Undergraduate Research Day

(Sam Winter, Paul Wotring, Chris Youngs, Molly Hilt, and our fearless leader, Jordan Laney)   This weekend, four students from our class had the privilege of presenting our research at the Virginia Tech’s Department of Religion and Culture Undergraduate Research Day! With food, speakers, and excellent presentations all around (check out the lineup below), the event … Continue reading The Dept. of Religion and Culture’s Undergraduate Research Day

“It’s a boy!” (or how we gender instruments here on the fourth floor of West Ambler Johnston)

This week, I had the pleasure of reading Murphy Henry’s (founder of the Women in Bluegrass magazine) keynote address from the 1998 IBMA Trade Show. In the process of describing the successes achieved and the remaining obstacles faced by women in the genre, she touched upon the idea of gendered instruments, something I’d never really … Continue reading “It’s a boy!” (or how we gender instruments here on the fourth floor of West Ambler Johnston)


I have a confession to make. Every time I hear someone bring up Mumford and Sons as a bluegrass band, I cringe. I know, I know. I’m judgmental, and narrow minded, and old fashioned, but I do have my reasons! Before I make any more enemies, I’d like to give you a little bit more … Continue reading Confession

What’s On This Side of Jordan?

I first heard the singer-songwriter duo of Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz in a collaboration video with Peter Rowan and Tibetan vocalist Yungchen Lhamo at last year’s Merlefest. (Their performance of Rowan’s I’m Calling You still remains as my favorite example of the “High Lonesome Sound” in music today.) This Side of Jordan is their latest … Continue reading What’s On This Side of Jordan?

Bluegrass with a Stance

So maybe this isn’t politics, per se, but in the absence of a blog this week (time just got away from me) here is a fantastic song by Mandolin Orange addressing an issue that’s been in the news a lot lately: A poignant story of a love deemed sinful , Hey Adam explores the drawn out pain of … Continue reading Bluegrass with a Stance

Is it Bluegrass?

This week, I was confronted with a pretty simple question.   “Is this bluegrass?”   John Lawless, editor of the popular site Bluegrass Today, asked us this question, before admitting to registering it as a domain name for a future humor site poking fun at the question and the people who spend their time online asking it.   … Continue reading Is it Bluegrass?

Peter Rowan and the Dharma Blues

Before becoming a giant on the progressive bluegrass scene, Peter Rowan performed with the first giant of traditional bluegrass: Bill Monroe. Ditching Boston in 1965, Rowan found himself playing rhythm guitar for the Blue Grass Boys for two years, recording 14 sounds with Monroe before his departure. The more traditional bluegrass practiced by the Monroe, … Continue reading Peter Rowan and the Dharma Blues

The Roots of Innovation

“What distinguished the Monroe Brother’s music from the rest was perhaps that it best exploited the medium of radio by discovering ways to excel within its narrow auditory confines.” -Robert Cantwell, Bluegrass Breakdown Historian and Folklorist, Robert Cantwell, argues that Hillbilly artists like The Skillet Lickers found a new freedom in the recording studio, taking … Continue reading The Roots of Innovation

The Evolution of Earnest V. Stoneman

In 1924, the musically inclined carpenter and occasional miner, Earnest Van Stoneman heard a recording by old time musician Hank Whittler, and decided he could do better. At the encouragement of his wife, Hattie, he left his home in Carroll Country, Virginia, and headed for New York, where he would soon record his first single … Continue reading The Evolution of Earnest V. Stoneman

So What is Bluegrass?

Hello, and welcome to my blog! Before I attempt to define bluegrass, let’s turn to the experts to get a rough idea of what bluegrass is. Folklorist and author of Bluegrass: A History, Neil Rosenberg, characterizes bluegrass first through its technical aspects, focusing on the use of acoustic instruments and the “mastery of virtuoso instrumental … Continue reading So What is Bluegrass?