Big Mon on BoingBoing

Yesterday BoingBoing.com posted a YouTube clip of three teenagers jamming on the Bill Monroe tune Big Mon.

The author of the BoingBoing post refers to their performance as “speed metal bluegrass.” To my ear it doesn’t resemble anything but bluegrass. Much bluegrass is that fast, or faster, and the comparison to “speed metal” is completely unnecessary. The boys, who were 15 years old at the time, do a respectable job, but while their performance is good, it is not as mind boggeling as the BoingBoing crowd seems to think.

May I submit our very own Sierra Hull jamming on another Bill Monroe tune, Roanoke.

Did I mention that Sierra’s main instrument is mandolin, not guitar?

While I appreciate a popular site like BoingBoing.com calling attention to young people playing bluegrass music, I wish they would do so by directing people toward those young artists, like Sierra, who serve as the stewards of the genre’s future.

  • scssmith

    here is another one…..check out Allen Tolbert and Andy Leftwich tearing it up…..I think Allen is 20….

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPG6yrNvvoU

  • Jon Weisberger

    Why is Sierra “ours” but Etienne Cremieux, a regular at BBU events and a multi-year attendee at the Augusta Heritage Center’s Bluegrass Week not? Why is she a “steward of the genre’s future” and he not? And if the point was that the BoingoBoingo guy who posted the video isn’t intimately familiar with all the young pickers out there, well, I don’t think many people are. And I don’t think there’s much good reason to set the bar for being a “steward of the genre’s future” at having a major bluegrass label release before you’re 18 is very realistic, either. I mean, I’m a big fan of Sierra’s, and I agree that there are plenty of talented youngsters out there, but I’m having a hard time figuring out how musicians – especially young ones – get sorted into insiders and outsiders, and what the point of doing that is anyhow.

  • Sierra rocks like “speed metal”

  • 5stringer

    I detect some serious east vs west snobbery in this post.
    As for labels? I hear genre-bending bands like Cadillac Sky playing what sounds like alt-rock or jazz and it gets played on bluegrass radio. Why can’t these kids play bluegrass and call it whatever they want? Might get played on speed metal radio if there is such a thing. As long as the music’s good, who cares?

  • No East vs West snobbery intended. I had never heard of any of these young men before reading the post on BoingBoing. Maybe that reveals my lack of knowledge of the local Boston scene. I lived there in the mid 1980s but that would have been before these boys’ time.

    Anyway, I read the post on BoingBoing and saw,

    Greg has been gigging around San Francisco with his indie rock band Audiophiles… jamming…like speed metal bluegrass.

    All this led me to the conclusion that this guy was an indie rocker who was jamming on some bluegrass for fun. That’s great, I’m glad people do that, but an indie rocker having fun is hardly the same as someone who is pursuing a career in bluegrass.

    Perhaps I was wrong and Greg intends to pursue a career in bluegrass, not indie rock. If not, then I was correct and I would rather that attention be given to those who will be performing bluegrass someplace other than their living room.

    My point was that it didn’t resemble “metal” at all, but just some regular old bluegrass. It was presented as some metal guys jamming on bluegrass and was supposed to be “absolutely incredible.”

    Like I said in my post,

    while their performance is good, it is not as mind boggeling as the BoingBoing crowd seems to think.

  • mgorbis

    Someone forwarded me this post and I found it quite disconcerting. For disclosure: I am Greg’s mom, the “indie rocker jamming on some bluegrass for fun.” Here is some info on Greg and Etienne. Greg: from California, started playing bluegrass at the age of 9, was in a kids bluegrass band called Li’l Billies, played at various bluegrass festivals in CA. He and Etienne met at Grisman’s mando camp (Etienne is from Brookline) and have remained friends who jam together whenever they see each other, including a few weeks ago here in San Francisco. Both boys play multiple instruments, Etienne is a wicked fiddler. They also regularly get together at Rockygrass academy and festival. Both boys also play jazz, classical, and other genres. And yes, Greg composes music, sings, and plays guitar with an indie rock band he started as freshman in high school. Both kids are serious musicians but as Greg wrote in his conservatory application a few weeks ago “I no longer define myself as a Rock and Roll guitarist or a Bluegrass guitarist but plainly as a musician. My musical endeavors include Rock, Bluegrass, Jazz, Latin, Reggae–anything my ears come into contact with. Through my unlikely experience with Bluegrass, I gained an appreciation for all and any genres of music. I never dismiss a band or an artist based on their genre. I believe that any musician has an opportunity to create something good and unique in any genre or combination of genres. I bring this mindset to all my endeavors–academics, sports, or art. I simply enjoy trying new things.”

    I think many adults can learn from this. Pitting one musician against another, treating one as prodigy and “steward of the genre” while dismissing others, does not help the genre or the kids themselves.

  • Hi Greg’s mom, I think Greg is great, I think this is more of an old grass vs newgrass type thing, there is a band above “Cadillac Skye” which is very alternative in their music like your son. I play music in a vein like your son some times, even use a couple of effects on my guitar. Bluegrass is a great model, whichever way you want to take it.
    Some folk take their traditional stuff very seriously and get offended when someone uses bluegrass to leap off into something creative, Tell Greg to keep on playin’
    JIm