Bluegrass music may not be cool enough for country radio – or big Nashville labels – but it clearly is appealing to country artists, especially those of the edgier variety. The past few years have seen bluegrass projects from a number of prominent singers, including Sturgill Simpson, Alan Jackson, Dwight Yoakam, and even Shania Twain. Others like Zac Brown have made it part of their live shows, and nothing lights up a country arena crowd like some rollicking bluegrass.
Now that grassers Sierra Hull and Billy Strings are finding popularity outside the conventional bluegrass scene, even more young country artists are drawn in by the somewhat punk aspect of modern bluegrass, at least as compared to the strictures of contemporary country.
This week we have an entry from hitmaker Luke Combs, in association with Billy Strings, a song they wrote together with Wyatt Durrette. It’s called The Great Divide, and is in response to the growing political division in the US this past few years, exacerbated by the recent elections. A number of country artists have addressed this issue of late in new songs, and Combs shared a few words on Instagram about this one when it was released unexpectedly on Sunday evening.
“It was originally intended to be on a bluegrass album that I was working on, but that has been put on pause for now and album 3 is up next. However, I thought now was a good time to put this song out with everything that has been and is going on in the world. It isn’t meant to be political or try and tell you what to think or believe; that’s not my job. It’s just me saying how I felt when I wrote it and I wanted y’all to hear it. Since it was meant to be on my bluegrass album, it will sound a little different than what y’all are used to hearing from me, but would love for y’all to check it out.”
It is interesting that he provides that caveat to his country fans, because bluegrass lovers should receive a similar caution, in that it doesn’t sound like contemporary bluegrass either. But I remain firm in my belief that every major artist should be expected to cut some grass before being accepted as a “real star.”
You can hear The Great Divide in this lyric video. Billy is on guitar, his bandmate, Royal Massat, plays bass, Charlie Wortham is on banjo and mandolin, with Eric Darken on percussion. Luke sings the lead.
Let’s hope that the bluegrass album he mentioned above comes to fruition before too long, and that his fans respond positively to this new track.
The Great Divide is available now wherever you stream or download music online.