Listening to Bluegrass

by | 16 Dec, 2010

Last year, I heard a band play in Tyers in Victoria’s Gippsland. They were a country band that had strong bluegrass influences and played mostly self-penned country style music. They enjoyed what they did and played with great passion.

I won’t name the band because they are likely unknown outside the close knit music circles of Victoria. Nevertheless, in introducing one of the songs, the lead singer and band leader spoke of his ongoing embarrassment he felt when explaining to people – who invariably asked what sort of music do you play – that he wrote and played Country music. He went of to explain that he likened the band’s rehearsals to regular meeting of a support group. Each Wednesday they met to rehearse and provide support for their growing addiction – bluegrass flavoured country music.

I did not pay too much attention to this statement initially, but as the night went on, I continued to reflect upon his experience. That of being a bluegrass and country music aficionado in a world that loves to frown on the the genre. In particular, I loved the story he told of winding up the car windows, and turning down the volume on his on CD player when pulled up at traffic lights lest some <em>cool super-hip dude</em> overheard a Hank Williams lament. Then I thought to myself, who hasn’t done that?  I confess that I have been guilty of reducing the volume on some of Bluegrass’s more traditional sounding offerings when someone gets into my car or indeed when pulled up at the lights. These have included but are not limited to Flatt and Scruggs, Bill Monroe’s high lonesome sound, and The Stanley Brothers. As the years go by I am less inclined to do so, but I sympathised with the band leader.

I do recall one recent time when traveling east through Melbourne city where I was spurred on by having a fellow bluegrass fan in the car. We wound down the windows and turned up the volume at each set of lights that we encountered in the hope of winning over some bluegrass converts. We broadcast Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Alan Munde’s Festival Favourites and Chris Duffy’s Bullants in Bushland and even . It was very brave of us, but we drew strength from each other knowing that the doors were locked and escape was only a lane change away.