David Crowder: the eschatology of bluegrass

Bluegrass gets theologicalBack in the winter I told you about a book written by Christian rocker David Crowder along with his fiddle player Mike Hogan. I just finished reading it recently and thought I’d share about it for those that might be interested. The title of the book is Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven But Nobody Wants To Die, or (the eschatology of bluegrass). It’s that last part that might interest you. Eschatology is the part of theology that concerns itself with death and the final destiny of the soul. While that may seem like a weighty issue to tie to bluegrass music, it’s actually a natural fit.

UPDATE: Reader Mitch Finley (with an M.A. in Theology from Marquette University) wrote in to tell me that “Eschatology may also include the final destiny of all of creation, in addition to the study of death and final destiny of the soul…” Thanks Mitch!

The writing of the book seems to have stemmed from the pain and loss felt by Crowder and Hogan at the death of a close friend. The started exploring their own feelings about the subject and, being musicians, they started paying attention to how music dealt with it. Not surprisingly, they ended up with bluegrass music. Bluegrass is a music of the soul and deals with the tough issues of death, heartache, and loss, but does so in such a way as to put a smile on the face of musician and listener alike. Crowder and Hogan present a history of bluegrass music, beginning with the Scotch/Irish roots, and then delve into what they call the “paradoxes held within” the musical style.

how one of the most inherently emotive instruments on the planet can also be one of the most annoying, and how one of the most inherently annoying can at the same time be so freaking cool.

I’ll let you figure out which two instruments they are referring to.

The chapters switch back and forth between discussions on the scientific and religious understandings of the soul, and bluegrass music, it’s roots, it’s instruments, and it’s people. One of my favorite lines comes when they are describing the sound of the 5-string banjo. They comment that it produces loads of notes “coming your way at the speed of light in a single file line.”

Also interspersed throughout the book are IM sessions between the authors, and of course the columns. What, I haven’t told you about the columns yet? Well the columns…um…you’ll have to read it for yourself to figure those out.

The book is interesting in that it presents a layman’s history of bluegrass music and the human understanding of the soul, in a unique presentation that is spiced with just enough seriousness to be taken seriously and just enough humor to make such a difficult subject like death enjoyable to read about.

  • Good book. Thinking about re-reading it. Last time I read it was around the time this article was written. Then I loaned it to a friend and you know how that goes…