From The Side of the Road: translations from purple publicist prose

If you’ve attended the IBMA World of Bluegrass and registered for the conference, the organization hereby thanks you for not being a freeloader. No, what I really started to say was that if you’ve registered for the conference and thereby made your email address available to other attendees, you probably receive lots of bluegrass artist, label, management, and publicist press releases.

Even in these boarded-up times, there’s still plenty of activity in the business. A lot of videos and singles are still “dropping” right and left (they’re all made of non-breakable material now, so you can drop them all you want; just don’t jump up and down on them once they’ve dropped). 

If you’re not skilled at translating some of the promotional jargon and hyperbole used in bluegrass music press releases, perhaps the following will help. Exaggeration is an essential part of this style of writing, as is putting the best face on a band or artist’s characteristics. We expect this, of course, but it’s also nice to have some idea of what these flowery descriptive terms actually mean in real life. I thought it might be a good idea to provide you with this handy glossary of terms for the genre. Note: I’ve opted not to include “hard-driving” because according to press releases and bios, every bluegrass artist in the world is “hard-driving,” even the brother-sister duo The Somber Siblings who hum versions of Louvin Brothers and Blue Sky Boys songs, accompanying themselves with mandolin and harp. 

Acclaimed – The lead singer’s girlfriend has raved about it

Award-winning – Second place in the annual Bluegrass Under a Canopy festival’s band contest

Authentic – Out of tune

Chart-topping – #1 on Jim Whittaker’s Bluegrass in the Very Early Morning show

Crisp – thin, plays close to the bridge

Criticially acclaimed – The lead singers girfriend and one blogger liked it

Cutting edge – T-shirts worn on stage

Diverse – One band member has different colored hair

Driving – Just short of “hard-driving”

Dynamic – All-purpose word, generally meaning nothing

Eclectic – Doesn’t excel in any particular style

Expressive – Dramatic, overly ornamented

Exciting – Bass player bobs head on stage

Exuberant – Bass player bobs head, plus frequent whooping

Heartfelt – Lead singer closes eyes

High Octane – Faster than it should be

Innovative – Can play Crazy Creek

Legendary – Old

Old school – Wears hats

Raw – Unskilled

Roots – See “dynamic”

Solid – Primitive

Smooth – Non-traditional, slick

Soulful – Someone is singing

Tight – Has heavily processed recordings

Traditional – Covers bluegrass standards

Unbridled – Band rushes

Youthful – Under 70