Here’s another new bluegrass music podcast that should appeal to many of our readers. It’s called The Breakdown, and takes as its theme to focus each episode on a single iconic album in the genre, going over the history, the musical contributions contained therein, and even some side stories that may inform the project.
The Breakdown should be of particular appeal to those just learning about bluegrass, or perhaps more specifically, those on a mission to understand it more deeply. Because that is exactly how it came to be. Emma John, who co-hosts with Patrick M’Gonigle of Lonely Heartstring Band, is a recent convert to the ways of the grass. A trained classical violinist, she traveled from her native England to North Carolina in order to pursue her newfound fascination with fiddle music. She resigned her position on the staff of The Guardian newspaper in London in order to write a book about her embrace of Appalachian fiddle music.
Her book, Wayfaring Stranger: A Musical Journey in the American South, is scheduled to be released in May of 2019 by Weidenfeld & Nicholson publishers, and Emma is now back home in the UK.
We’ll let her explain how chance meetings with M’Gonigle turned into their new podcast
“I met Patrick M’Gonigle at IBMA 2017, and again at the Leadership Bluegrass class this February. We became good friends, mostly because we both loved analysing (and arguing about) music; after our leadership course was over, we were both knocking around Nashville for a few days before we went back to our respective homes, and the chats we had were some of my fun times. One morning I woke up and thought – why don’t we just replicate these chats on a podcast? I don’t know much about classic bluegrass records, I really haven’t listened to as many as I should have done, and it seemed a great place to start. I knew that Patrick would have really interesting thoughts on them, while I would be coming to them as a total outsider, hearing them for the first time, which would bring its own unique perspective.
Making the podcast has been hard hard work. Patrick’s not only in a different country (and time zone) to me, but he’s also constantly on tour with his band; plus neither of us had ever attempted to edit or produce audio before, and it turns out that can eat up the hours! We’ve had many an editing session over Skype that has lasted all day and into the early morning (especially for me, because I’m always six hours ahead!) But we really love it, and the best thing about doing it has been the feedback we’ve got from people who really enjoy the podcast and tell us they haven’t come across anything like it in bluegrass before. That’s exactly why we wanted to do it, and why we spend so much time on it. We think of it as like a book club – a record club, I suppose, for passionate fans of bluegrass and even those who really aren’t well schooled in the music (like me).”
There are currently six episodes available from The Breakdown, all available at no charge online. They can be accessed individually from the podcast’s web site, or through iTunes and other podcast aggregators. If you subscribe to the podcast, all six episodes will download to your device of choice, as will all future episodes that may be released.
The technology that drives the podcasting market has been around for quite some time, at least as figured in our fast-moving digital world. At least since 2004, the idea of combining the power of RSS feeds and audio files has been used in this way, but only since the near-universal embrace of smart phones by the general public has this form of communication become a commonplace. Not only are there hundreds of thousands of standalone broadcasts available, many popular and syndicated radio shows are also offered in this format. Every imaginable topic is covered, from music, to sports, to politics, to religion, to comedy.
Anyone who has an abiding interest in bluegrass is likely to enjoy The Breakdown. Emma and Patrick converse easily, and the switch between the British and American accent throughout offers a nice contrast for the ear.