Australian Bluegrass or International

by | 4 May, 2023

Australian Bluegrass

Should An Australian Bluegrass Music Website Contain International Content?

A short time ago I had a conversation with a friend who challenged me with some questions on the content of my website She was somewhat apologetic over her comments and assured me they were being raised as a genuine observation. I assured her that I have been given advice in the past and am equally genuine in accepting it. There have been many improvements to this website over the past 15 years as a result of user feedback and unsolicited but genuine advice.

On to her question, which entered around AustralianBluegrass.copm content. Her biggest concern was that while the website is named the majority of content is from the USA. There is by comparison, very little Australian content, was her offering.

Caroline Wright & Mike Kear

Radio Hosts Caroline Wright & Mike Kear

This was not the first time I have heard this and surely will not be the last. Nevertheless, I thought I should share with readers my answer to her question and the rationale behind my continued publishing of international content on an Australian Bluegrass website.

Bluegrass Music History:

Bluegrass music originated from the USA. To be more precise and according to the Bluegrass Heritage Foundation website the origin of bluegrass music can be traced back to the folk who came to America in the 1600s from Ireland, Scotland, and England. They brought with them some of the basic styles of music that are generally considered to be the roots of modern bluegrass music. Perhaps them better considered by the term Old-Time music in those times and the real nature of bluegrass music was not established until the efforts of Bill Monroe saw a new music form emerging in the 1930’s.

High Street Drifters

High Street Drifters

For example, as those early settlers began to relocate across the western USA to states such as North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and the Virginias, their song writing reflected their  daily lives in those new regions.  Their remoteness gave rise to song writing that centred on farming life in the hills.  Then and in some cases now, this music is referred to as country, hillbilly, or mountain music.  Its development included the blending of elements from gospel music and the blues music that was prominent among people of African origin who lived in the Mississippi Delta region.  The invention of the phonograph and the onset of radio in the early-to-mid 1900s brought this music out of the hills and into the homes of people all over the United States.

International vs Australian:

Without elaborating further and giving you additional detail on Bluegrass music history, the point I want to make is that Bluegrass music is a recent and genuine American art form. Developed and refined by successive American musicians to reflect modern day Bluegrass music.

Pete Denahy

Pete Denahy

To write about Bluegrass music and not include developments from its country of origin would be like talking about Gospel music without acknowledging its Christian roots. Or writing on Australian history and ignoring captain James Cook, his discovery and the many landmarks named by him and his crew on his voyage.

The other reason for a concentration of International content is the huge proliferation of news that comes from international music houses, producers, music labels, and artist’s public relations offices. These artists earn their primary income from playing bluegrass and old-time music. We do not have that proliferation here in Australia. Indeed, Most of us would struggle to name one band in Australia that qualifies as a professional Bluegrass band. (using the definition of the word “professional” as one engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as a past time or hobby).

While we have incredibly talented bluegrass and old-time musicians herein Australia, there is a dearth of news from Australian bluegrass and old-time artists. Thus there is very little to report on when compared to the international scene, which as I have tried to argue above, is very relevant here in Australia. 

Pickin' Time Bluegrass

Pickin’ Time Bluegrass

When local news arrives to my inbox, it is almost always published without exception. News of up-coming tours, album releases, lineup changes, artist awards, radio presenters, new festivals and festival programs and the like are welcome additions to website. I wish local news was delivered far more frequently than is is currently. But I understand why it does not. Publishing houses, publicity managers, content generation all cost money. Money that is not readily available to the local bluegrass and old-time music artists, despite their stories being more than news worthy.