Conflict resolution in bluegrass wordplay

Chris JonesI was in the recording studio for Mountain Home records all this past week, and sometime right before doing another take on our soon-to-be-released medley of I Did it My Way and Wagon Wheel (in German), Ty Gilpin remarked that all the adjectives we use for bluegrass music are either violent or outright homicidal metaphors. Mind you, our medley is likely to make many people feel violent or homicidal.

He had a point, though. Think of how often you hear a performance or a band referred to as “killer.” If someone has just played an impressive instrumental solo, we say that he/she “crushed it,” “killed it,” “nailed it,” “mashed it,” etc.

The idea is that we’re either supposed to overpower, disable, and ultimately “kill” the music (burying or cremating optional), or we’re at least supposed to wound it badly.

When someone is set to go out on stage, we say “knock ‘em dead!” or failing that, “break a leg.” So not only is it our goal to kill the music, we’re supposed to murder or injure the audience, too.

In this very violent world of ours, with mass shootings, terrorism, graphically violent video games, and Roadrunner cartoons, can’t music be a little oasis from that? I know we have great reverence for the murder ballad (as discussed in previous columns), but perhaps we could find more loving and peaceful ways to describe our music.

Here are a few alternatives we might consider the next time we hear a band “killing,” “slamming” or “destroying” a song. I know I personally would much rather be a resolver of conflicts rather than a killer, so how about this:

“Wow! He really mediated it!”

Other possible verbs that can be used there:

  • “pacified”
  • “eased growing tensions”
  • “reconciled”
  • “created a dialog with” (as in “Wow! She really created a dialog with it!”)

I know if I heard anyone doing any of those things to a song, I’d not only be impressed, but that musician would also have my respect for being a positive force in the world with that well-executed break to Goodbye Old Pal (now, even if the horse is dead, at least the song itself will live on, unharmed).

Instead of referring to a band or a performance as “killer,” can’t we find other nouns to use as adjectives that would accomplish the same thing without taking a life and  violating one of the 10 commandments in the process?

Could we call a band we really like “lover” instead? These might work, too:

“Did you hear the new CD by Lonesome Gazebo? It’s totally peacemaker!”

Music we really like makes us feel good, not assaulted. These would also be good alternatives to “killer” that would make us want to get closer to the music and the performer, not run for our lives:

  • “kisser”
  • “hugger”
  • “massager”
  • “affirmer”
  • “good listener”

And, for people with spinal issues: “that band is totally chiropractor!”

As for our future release of I Did It My Way/Wagon Wheel (Das Wagenrad), I’d stick with the old language for that. If I say so myself, it was definitely “killer,” “crusher,” “maimer,” and “serial offender.”