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Brad's PA Bluegrass

Bill's commin' to get YA!

It's BlueGRasS


Festivals & Museums

If you are ever near Racine, Kentucky, You may want to stop by the newly dedicated Bill Monroe Homestead.

Bills Homestead & Museum

This museum, and historical site, is on my list of things to do someday. It has been recommended by my friend, also a fellow Kentuckian, as worth the trip

Larger festivals

- I haven't linked all of these names, Here are some of the best known festivals. You should have no trouble searching a link. Some of them go beyond a festival. Partly Becuase of the Town and the location, festivals like the one put on by Planet Bluegrass and the Telluride Bluegrass Feastival, in Colorado. Teluride is tucked away in the mountains of Colorado, and has a lot of fun to offer, above and beyond the music. It was truly like being on another planet for a few days. Also the Grey Fox Festival formerly known as Winter Hawk Bluegrass festival, In the bershire mountains near ancramdale New York is a great site for Music. The people are great too. Check it out. Here is the list.

- Rocky Grass Colorado - Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, New York State - Gettysburg, Pennsylvania - Wind Gap Bluegrass, Pennsylvannia - Merle Fest, South Carolina - Bean Blossom Festival, In Indiana

Held in the begining of August each year, in Bethlehem PA, always has Bluegrass.

These are just a few of the larger festivals, but not the only ones by any stretch of the imagination. I plan to feature new venues and local musicians. I'd like to tell you more about some of my favorites, Like Larry Sparks, Tony Rice, Ricky Skaggs, and The Gibson brothers, to name a few. If you've never been to a festival, I'd also like to tell you more about the whole festival experience. Until then look in your own back yard. you might be surprised how much is going on. Check out these links to Bluegrass in PA

PA Festivals
Local Bluegrass Jams,and they are in your area!
International Bluegrass Association
The Center for Appalachian Studies And Services

Next Month: More about Festivals, New CD's, maybe a few Local Artists

Shoot down below for some popular Bluegrass Music choices


***Local Music***


This guy is no stranger in these parts. I'll bet Pat and Suzy have played everywhere. Here in eastern PA, Pat, a great entertainer, is also known For his Sheepskin Shop which is a landmark on I-78 at Route 183. Pat Heads up "The Pat Garret Band" with Suzy Dalton, which is one of the most entertaining country music shows you will find anywhere. Fortunately for you, You don't have to go Anywhere. It's all right here in PA. To check out Pats Schedule. Click the pic to go to Pat's web site. with 2 T's to find out more about these guys, and to veiw the current schedule of performances.

Its hard to put Kris under the local section Since he doesn't sit still very long. Kris is well known everywhere. Fortunately Kris can be seen locally. Lately He has been spending time in central PA. working with a former band "Stone Poets". Kris has had a number of projects, some with different names including Pavlov's Dawgs, Low Dogs,
the Electric farm , and The Recipe, to name a few. Kris also Hosts a radio show, you can find more about that on his site.

Kris can be heard locally in the Reading Area, with the lovely and talented Julie Edlow. (also formerly of the Recipe) Clubs like the Brass Lantern , the Stonersville Hotel and the Northeast Tap room a great place to see the duo.

To stay on top of opportunities to see their show, click the pic of kris to visit his Home page for a complete list of Tour Dates, and a lot more. I would have to place Kris's music in the Newgrass catagory, even tho I heard him play with out drums once.


I like Newgrass, but I don't like Drums in my Bluegrass

By the old Mule Skinner Brad

Plain and simple. There are few things more relaxing than sitting in the sunny patch of a shady grove in your favorite lawn chair, with a cooler, your girl, and your dog, seeing 5 of the best musicians you have ever heard, on a covered wooden stage, all of whom are standing around a single microphone, harmonizing the lyrics to some, high and lonesome heartache of a song. This is only one snapshot in my scrapbook, "Pictures of Bluegrass." A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou, It has been that way since the beginning. It's only one of the ways to experience Bluegrass. Maybe it is the most natural way to experience music period. Thanks to the media and technology, and also people who love Bluegrass, This Music is still around.

Bluegrass is not a new genre. It fact, It is given the credit for being the first truly American music. However, Bluegrass is always changing. Bluegrass changes at least as much as it is staying the same. Some folks are skeptical of new styles of Bluegrass, believe it or not, there are a few. Some folks claim Inovative style changes are not Bluegrass. May you be reminded that Bluegrass has always been a mix of many styles of Folk music.

As a point of contention for some Bluegrass fans, The fact is, Bluegrass music simply does not use drums. The addition of drums creates a new style, commonly known as Newgrass. Consciencely or not Bluegrass maintains certain parameters, which serves to keep it in a catagory all by itself. Actually, there are only a precious few instruments used in Bluegrass. A change as simple as changing the instrumentation would change the color of the music.

That being said, I personally try to keep an open mind about all music. I am not trying to go back in time. Everyone has his or her own ideas about Bluegrass. I am reluctant to heave my understanding on you. After all This is America; I think you are still free to check it out for yourself. Of course listening to it will describe it best. However, I ask myself; "what if you have no Idea about Bluegrass, or how it sounds?" If that person sounds like you, Maybe I can enlighten you with some of my words. Maybe I can give you some direction. I will tell you about Who and Where and What type of Bluegrass is available today. I just remembered one of my favorite quotes "Talking about Music is like Dancing about Architecture" (Elvis Costello-RollingStone Magazine, from sometime in the early eighties.) That says it all really. What I think it means is, go listen to some music. And form your own opinions. Seriously, Music is a language all of its own to be experienced in person. None the less here are some words about Bluegrass. In sharing, I hope to explain Both Bluegrass and Newgrass. You might want to get some coffee.

Bluegrass, Words and Music


In my mind, Music can stand alone without lyrics. You can get it both ways with Bluegrass. Bluegrass music is known for good lyrics, as well as virtuoso musicians such as, Jim Mills or Jason Carter. The fabric of Bluegrass is Beautiful and a useful like handmade American quilt. Thick plots, are woven into the multi-colored musical cloth. Folk tales stitched with the colored threads, of many established styles of Traditional music. Bluegrass Music reminds me an old Freight Train that delivers Tales about events or emotions, and Stories of human tradgedy, as it rolls down the track. Bluegrass as a medium, conveys the rich history of what it is and was, like to be a human being in America.

The archaic and almost epic lyrical stories you hear in songs like John Henry or John Hardy, for example, give a timeless glimpse of parable handed down thru music. Many of these story/songs have historical significance, All of this adds to the rich history of our country. Surely, there are many other songs which offer up a graphic, ghoulish, and entertaining tale, some of which could have easily been written by the famous Edgar Allen Poe. Folk music and Especially Country, as well as many other types of music tell stories. Bluegrass is still a little bit different. Which is why Bluegrass is truly an art all its own.

Listen to the song "Long Black Vail". This is a song, which was recorded by Country Music's, the late Johnny Cash. It is about Adultery, Love and Murder. That is a lot for one song. Death, Robbery, Love, Lust, Addiction, and Gospel themes, are only some of what you will commonly find in Bluegrass. And yet That is still not what makes it "Bluegrass". Now, In Contrast, listen to the same song as recorded By Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard which can be found on "Who's that Knocking" - Verve/Folkways records. You will begin to understand the difference between Bluegrass, and other types of music. Bluegrass, You know it when you hear it.

Personally, I like Newgrass but I don't like drums in my Bluegrass. It is safe to say, all true Bluegrass Instruments are all stringed instruments. They were imported with European music, to the new country. The exception is the 5-string banjo, an American instrument. Your basic 5-piece bluegrass band would have one of each of course. A Fiddle on top, A Mandolin, chopping the up beat, like a snare drum. The guitar, softly filling in the rhythm and occasionally harmonizing the melody, along with the very distinct plunking of a banjo. The big Bass fiddle is for holding it all down, like the beat of a Bass drum. And That's "Bluegrass", You know it when you hear it.

When it comes to Bluegrass, I don't usually hear much variation in the instumentation. Drums automatically say Newgrass to me.

Interestingly enough, even without Drums, Bluegrass has a strong rhythmic feel. The way the Artist, handles the instrument is another story. One might say that Bluegrass seems to have a rigid structure. Maybe so, but within that structure the Artist has room to make his mark with a unique sound or style, never leaving the tracks if you will. It doesn't get any more American than that. I might Add that you may also hear a Dobro, or a Dulcimer, and a few other fringe Instuments.

I am sure no one sat down as our fore fathers did, when writing the constitution. I am certain No One ever said, "these are the rules of Bluegrass." It was not thought out so much ahead of time. However, I think these parameters give Bluegrass a unique identity. Like in any feild, In any society there are people who like to push things to the limit, Testing the rules. Coloring and staying in the lines can sometimes hinder the creative process of making music, possibly diminishing the unique styling of the individual musical Artist. The Fact is, You may Actually hear Any combination of Instruments, and still swear you are listening to Bluegrass. However, adding a Flute, a Piano, or a Saxophone changes things a little. This may still sound good, But be advised it would be better described as "Newgrass".

Since the Beginning of it all, there have been many variations on the theme of Bluegrass. That is par for the course, in popular music. It should be noted that without Bluegrass, there would be no theme upon which to expand. To me, Newgrass is a blanket term used to describe something different. I think it is fair to say, That the style categorized as "Newgrass" is to "Bluegrass", as "Fusion" is to "Jazz". Allow me to elaborate to further make my point. The word Fusion, in a word creates an image of a very physical process, And music is also all about physics. While the term Jazz Fusion is used to describe modern hybrids of different styles, like Rock/Jazz and Jazz/Folk, Jazz/Bluegrass. Blues/grass? Bluegrass at one time was fusion of different styles, Untill it evolved into a catagory of its own.

Some great examples of Newgrass might be found in listening to bands like the "String Cheese incident", "Bela Fleck and the Flecktones", or "the Alison Brown Quartet". It is obvious to me there are probably as many types of Bluegrass, as there are Bluegrass musicians. But very specifically Bluegrass can be defined as having certain qualities. I feel that the music industry, in order to catalog and sell CD's tends to load it all on the shelf marked Bluegrass. I believe this is a disadvantage to both styles of music. A person Looking for some new music, and wanting something like They heard once, who buys a CD on the Bluegrass shelf, May end up being suprised. Hopefully, with your "New" understanding , you will be able to find exactly what your looking for. Either way, I know You are going to have a good time.

A Breif History

Today its only Bluegrass, in the begining, it was part of the future, in more ways than one. Either way Bluegrass is still around after all these years. And it is not going anywhere soon. "Mountain Music" was not always respected, or considered serious. Some still feel that way about Bluegrass. Way back when, It was simply known as "Hillbilly Music". At one point, It was actually thought to promote "Bad living". However, for many people all over America it was a celebration, fun and a way to socialize. There wasn't much else to do on a staurday Night. Those folks who couldn't play, could probably sing. If they had no ear at all, they might be able to clog. I am not suggesting there was a caste system, but at the very least, you could listen and enjoy. All of this Juxtaposed aginst a backdrop of poverty, "Moonshiners", and the people who were trying to change all of that. Civil engineers, teachers, the government, made life very colorful in the "Golden Era" Becuase the were provoking peple resistant to chnage. I think it is easy to see how this type of behavior could be seen as a distraction, to some. It was the beginning of the infrastructure of our great country, There was work to do.

All of this is much better described, in the 1 1/2 inch thick, Neil Rosenberg's, "Bluegrass, A History" (not a lot of pictures, by the way.) You can find this book, with a handfull of others, at Borders, which is one of the few mainstream distributers of Bluegrass music. Maybe It is even in your local library. It's very informative. I am still working on it.

The term Bluegrass, was given to the new style of music, being played on "live radio", in 1939, by the now late Bill Monroe. Bill was born in western Kentucky, just outside Appalachia, the youngest in a large family of musicans. His leagacy is Bluegrass music. The name "Bluegrass" was derived from the name of his band, "Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys." Blue Grass is actually a plant indigenous to Kentucky. It also may be a good way to describe a feeling in the music, as well as the color of some of the lyrics.

Bills effect on popular music is not much different, from what Elvis did to Rock & Roll. Everyone loved what Bill did to the music. To this day, some folks try to play it just like that. When the sound was new, emulation was rampant. Copyright issues inevitably arose. It was an exciting time. While imatation was, as they say, the sincerest form of flatery, They really just couldn't help it. Bill Monroe is given the credit for being the Father of Bluegrass. I think it is possible Bluegrass is what everyone wanted to hear. it might have just been The way it was done. Like the French impressionist's, leap from realism. Shifts in culture may just simply happen. However, Bill had the natural ability to bring people together, especially talented musicians. In fact Bill wasn't even from Appalachia. I believe many folks can claim to have been doing this at the same time. None the less, Bill is the Man credited, and a fine example of A Bluegrass Star. There is a museum run by the Bill Monroe Foundation, in his hometown of Rosine, KY. Dedicated to this fact.

Bill was a shrewd businessman, as well as a musical talent. That is a neccesary marriage and, a dichotomy, endured by all artists who attempt to make a living from their Art. Maybe he was at the right place at the right time. Bill was a good salesman, and a tough customer. Like a construction boss, with a crew of talented men under him. He knew the value of a good reputation. Bill ran a tight ship, He earned respect. This allowed him to be successful, in a business during extremely hard economic times. In that way, I guess he is very much responsible, for exposing the country to Bluegrass. Bill was a shining star.

Technology changed things forever. Radio, at the time, was a lot like Tv and computers are today. The sweet smell traveling on the air waves reached into the lives of many people, All at a regularly scheduled time. Today in the world we have the ability to witness historical events at the exact point in time that they are happening, Anywhere. We take that for granted today. It wasn't always that way.

Musicians, who were, rarely paid for radio appearances, used there radio gig, by taking the opportunity to advertise, their appearance at the up coming Hoedown,local schoolhouse concert, and church picnic. This is where they sold their records. This is where they made their money. At the same time, large corporate sponsers, and the media played on this "Down Home" aspect of their music and culture, using it to entertain the rest of America, for a profit. For the sponsors, Bluegrass was the vehicle used to take their "snake oil" to market. Performers played venues like "Hee Haw" and "The Grand Ole Opry", Traveling Tent shows, Films and TV.

Most of the Influences attributed to spawning Bluegrass came out of Appalachia. Beautiful mountain ranges, rivers, creeks and streams, abundant wildlife, subsistance farming, and the simple people living a hard life, working the land. It was culture, imported in the hearts and souls of the people who settled there.

Appalachia was a melting pot, as was the rest of the America. its no suprise that Bluegrass Music is too. Appalachia is very specifically the region, which surrounds the Appalachian Mountains, in 13 states.

From New York to Alabama, This is where Bluegrass evolved. Travelers, on canal boats, and railroads, moving from Town to town, across the fields, over mountains on muddy wagon roads, met other folks on the way. They shared stories and culture, by word of mouth, just hanging out. You have to try, to imagine. Quite imply there were no recordings of music, to be heard. There were no telephones to communicate, or spread the news. The world was much slower place. It explains how this stew of vastly different styles, and influences reduced into "Bluegrass". Appalachia was a melting pot, as was the rest of the America. I believe it was a slow steady process, Considerably slower than the radio or the Internet today. Some of the styles may surprise you. The list includes Classical, Jazz, Blues, Celtic Music, Hornpipes,
Sea Shanties, Old Tyme, American Indian and Gospel music. It is a long list. All of these particular styles have their roots in other countries,but when combined together, They make Bluegrass, an American original.

Today this musical integration, and evolution is still still happening. Newgrass is the perfect example. Musicians like YoYo Ma a classically trained cellist, and Edgar Meyers an upright, standup, Bluegrass Bass player, who often times can be heard using a Bow, (a technique rarely heard in Bluegrass), can be heard playing with a third band member, Country fiddler Mark O'Conner. This trio created this CD and a video, from a live concert called Appalachian Journey.
It is a fine example of what I am talking about. A new sound, It is the melding of musical culture. This performance is live in front of your eyes on stage. The product Classical/Bluegrass, could possibly be called Classicgrass. No matter what you call it it is quality musicianship, it is in the in the Newgrass category. Anyone listening can recognize the Bluegrass feeling.



If you don't want to delve that deeply into the History of Bluegrass music, a recent Film

O Brother Where Art Thou

"Soggy Bottom boys"

This is as funny as all get out, and also illustrates the point, that some people in this era, were having a hard time changing with technology, and resisted progress". It is also a showcase for many modern Bluegrass Musicians. Dan Tyminski's re-make with the Soggy Bottom Boys of the famous Ralph Stanley Tune "Man Of Constant Sorrow", Which in a song, says everything I am writing here, and much better too.

Other films that highlight the culture and History of Bluegrass are few and Far between.

Here is another choice. Recently I watched "Song Catcher", a 2001 film directed by Maggie Greenwald with Janet McTeer and Micheal Davis. Although this is a love story, much of the backround and music help to illustrate the history of Bluegrass , and Mountain music, as well as the life behind the music. Janet McTeer plays the charecter of Dr. Lily Penliric, who travels around appalachia dragging a grahmaphone, which she trys to use to record some of the amazing songs. Of course she is met by plenty of resistance , and hardship along the way. I haven't researched this very well. However, I can't help wonder if this is a loose reference to the life of Frances Densmore, who was also a musicologist who collected and transcribed songs from native americans.

"High Lonesome - The Story of Bluegrass Music" (1994), starring Bluegrass greats Lester Flatt, Jimmy Martin, and many more. This is Directed by Rachel Liebling. High and Lonsome traces the evolution of bluegrass. This should probably Be earmarked as a must see for any serious bluegrass fan.

A few other titles I will mention without elaborating any further are as follows:

Bluegrass Journey DVD ~ Various Artists Shady Grove DVD ~ Various Artists The Bluegrass Legend: Family and Friends DVD ~ Earl Scruggs Bluegrass Country Soul

Hopefully this will give you a place to start looking for some entertainment.

I love "Live" Music. I have seen and heard many bands, at festivals, That have become world famous including Mountain Heart, Allison Kraus and Union Station, Leftover Salmon, just to name a few. Let me tell you its pretty cool. When you turn on "the Bluegrass Sound" On CMT and see someone like Rhonda Vincent, Who you just saw 2 weeks ago at a festival for $15 bucks. It makes the world seem a little smaller. There is something about that, which I like.

Bluegrass Festivals are a great way to see live Bluegrass. It's family fun. Generally speaking people I have met are very considerate and discrete and friendly, which is not too surprising. Maybe it is a reflection of some of the values expressed, in some of the songs. I have found them very laid back and accomadating. I was told, it is an unspoken rule, In the bandstand area, an empty seat, that someone left behind for a later show, may be used until the owner returns. Just respect it, do not break it, It is not yours. I only know this because I have been known to leave from wherever I happen to be, unprepared, to attend bluegrass festivals. Conversely You might find people, who bring along everything but the Lawn Boy. They camp in Vans, Rv's and Pup tents. They are never too far from the stage or the long weekend's schedule of bands.

Watching, (for the first time maybe,) someone as talented, and famous as, Ricky Skaggs burn a clear, concise solo at 100 mph on the mandolin, (in the way only he can), in some nice farmer ladies field, Is an experience, unique to Professional Bluegrass. It's a heck of a lot of fun. And yet it is a totally different experience, as compared with listening to Allison Brown's "Fair Weather" CD. It's filled with amazing Bluegrass/Jazz banjo licks. Listen on your stereo, while you and your best friend are preparing a nice dinner. I might mention that she is just as impressive Live as she is on CD. Both players are incredible musicians, and both are very different. Today, in Bluegrass, there is something for everyone.

Bluegrass can be found the world over, and in every state in the U.S. There are Bluegrass Festivals, of every kind, all year around. I even heard of an annual festival in Australia. If you don't have a girl or a dog, Thats too bad. But,it is ok. you can go anyway! In fact you might even be able to relate to the lyrics better. But go find some Bluegrass. Most of all see some live music.


I own a few of these CD's. Some I would like to own, but I have heard something from each of them.

I heard some of this at

Border's Books and Music.

This CD has some well known Musicians

The Appalachian Picking Society

from windham hill records (2004)

check it out!

AP Society

Del McCoury?s It's just the Night (2003)-Sugar Hill Records

This is up beat drivin? Bluegrass with a very traditional core. There ain't no moss growin on this guy. He played with the great Bill Monroe and he has also colaborated with folk music's Steve Earle. I have seen Del and the Boys More than Once. I have never been less than amazed. His music sounds traditional, but it has a very modern appeal.

Del McCoury Band Schedule

Rhonda Vincent and the Rage - on Rounder Records

Wow, this woman can sing and she writes and plays pretty darn good too.

she was nominated 5 years in a row as The Ibma female vocalist of the year.

Sam Bush - King Of My World (2004)

Sugar Hill Records Sam's World

The Map making mandolin player, He's one hot dawg.

Alison Brown - Fair Weather

compass records

This is Bluegrass/Jazz fusion or with out a doubt "Newgrass" She plays Banjo, I mean really plays the Banjo. I have her cd "fair weather" and I can't wait to buy her latest "Stolen Moments"

Mountain Heart?s - Forces of Nature -Bluegrass (2004)

Skaggs Family Records

This is one hot new Band! Check out some of the MP3 clips on their site.

the new single

"Head Like A Road Sign Heart like A Wheel"

This is one of my favorite tunes

String Cheese Incident Rock/Folk/Bluegrass

found on sci Fidelity Records

The Sound of Cheese!

I hate to pigeon hole any band but these guys are great. I only say this about them to try and introduce them to you in a frame of reference with which you might be familiar. Here goes. These guys are a *L I V E* band. If you like the Grateful Dead, or Phish, you might like these guys. The are very talented. They also have a new web site called where you can download complete clips from live shows. If that doesn't turn you on, you just might have to go and see them. *L I V E*

Best Of New Grass Revival Capitol Nashville Records

Bluegrass does not have Drums. Unless I am listening to New Grass Revival,
and sometimes I do. This band, to me, feels like Bluegrass/Newgrass Fusion. Its a fine line. I guess, I am just splitting hairs, and rules are rules. If there are drums It is Newgrass. You might recognise one of the tunes on this Cd "Best Of New Grass Revival". The one called "Callin' Baton Rouge" was recently made even more popular, on Country Radio, By Garth Brooks.

Dolly Parton- The Grass is Blue (1999)on sugar hill records

I don't have this one but I've heard it. And if you are a Dolly Parton Fan, and who isn't? You might try this. If you can find it.

Blue Highway with Rob Ickes Big Time (Ibma Dobro player of the year award winner 1996-2000) - Bluegrass (2004)

Check out the Blue Highway Bio- page

I've always been a Blue Highway fan this Cd might be my pick for gospel CD of the year and I haven't even heard it all yet.

Gospel Bluegrass

Although Bluegrass has always been associated with gospel music, Bluegrass is not exclusively religous. If you like Gospel Bluegrass I recommend The new Del McCoury Band CD "The Promised Land". This is Gospel Bluegrass as good as it gets. Del McCoury may be the most prolific musician on the planet. I personally can't listen to enough of this band.

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