Down The Road (Vibe Style) from Josiah Nelson

Josiah Nelson is a young fiddler from Ft. Collins, CO who is a current student in the bluegrass program at ETSU. He and several of his friends have produced a new album called Vibe Style, capturing their experimentation with meter in a bluegrass context.

For those unfamiliar with the ETSU program, it offers a four year bachelor of arts degree in bluegrass, country, Celtic, and old time music. Students will not only study their instrument of choice, they also take courses on bluegrass history, participate in ensembles, and are tutored on harmony singing. They also take classes in harmony and music theory just as they would in a traditional music school or conservatory, and these classes can really alter how one looks at playing music.

For Josiah and his friends, the knowledge acquired through music theory led them to take some liberties with standard bluegrass numbers, which they have dubbed Vibe Style. Now it has resulted in a new project from Nelson with that name.

Here’s an example on the Flatt and Scruggs classic, Down The Road. Josiah sings lead, and plays twin fiddle with Hunter Berry. Tray Wellington is on banjo, Thomas Cassell on mandolin, Will Cassell on guitar, and Holder Olesen on bass. Adam Miller sang harmony.

Nelson tells us that his fascination with changing meter in bluegrass came about by chance.

Vibe Style got its start when we changed time signatures accidentally in the middle of a song during a jam. We thought we liked the vibe of switching back and forth, so we decided to call that ‘playing it Vibe Style.’ We thought about how we could incorporate this into Down the Road, and we thought changing the chords where we changed the time signatures would be fun! That’s why when we go through the last verse we play the standard chords since we don’t change the beat.”

See what you think, but don’t try clapping along!

Vibe Style is available now as a digital album through Josiah’s bandcamp page.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.