Bluegrass in the time of novel coronavirus

Even if we’re showing no symptoms, the Coronavirus is affecting us all in one way or another. I knew things were getting serious when I heard that several Middle Tennessee meth labs were converting their operations to produce black market hand sanitizer.

As for me, my band has cancelled no tours, and I’m simply following the CDC recommendations: don’t travel or contact people if you’re sick, wash hands frequently, especially after singing Knoxville Girl, and don’t lick the neck of another person’s banjo.

In the bluegrass music community, we have some additional steps that should be recommended, having mainly to do with song choices. A few friends of mine contributed some titles of songs that should be avoided, unless it’s your intention to do an all-Coronavirus set. I’ve added some of my own, too:

Somebody Touched Me is one of a few Gospel songs that is sure to make people uneasy right now, as is the Jimmy Martin classic, Give Me Your Hand. 

Also, Shake My Mother’s Hand For Me is a little self-centered. Sure you’re avoiding contact with your potentially vulnerable mother, but you’re urging someone else to put her at risk. Do you know if this person has clean hands?

Songs that prey unnecessarily on people’s fears aren’t recommended, either:

Oh Death

Are You Afraid to Die

When My Time Comes To Go

Here Today and Gone Tomorrow

Bury Me Beneath the Willow

Some songs encourage people to engage in unsanitary behavior or to come in close contact with others:

Tom T. Hall’s I Washed My Face in the Morning Dew doesn’t meet CDC guidelines, unless you do so for at least 20 seconds and the dew is hot.

Where No One Stands Alone is the kind of place we should be avoiding. I Pressed Through the Crowd is probably not the best example to set, even for presidential candidates.

Just NO: Eatin’ Out of Your Hand by Bill Harrell

Instead, think about songs that encourage safe distances, or maybe songs for the self-quarantined:

I’d Rather Be Alone

Sitting Alone in the Moonlight

You Go to Your Church and I’ll Go to Mine

Laurie Lewis’ 1990 recording, Don’t Get Too Close

Tomorrow I’ll Be Gone

I’ll Sail My Ship Alone

Stay Away From Me

I Just Think I’ll Go Away (but not to China, Iran, or Italy)

As always, continue to wash those hands frequently, and keep your song repertoire appropriate to these troubled times. Also if you, like many, are out of hand sanitizer, I’m told that a mix of 80% moonshine to 20% Sundrop (or Squirt in northern states) makes an adequate substitute. Or is that meant to be taken internally? I forget. Anyway, if you really need hand sanitizer and are willing to pay top dollar, I know a guy.