WSJ: The State of Bluegrass

Barry Mazor at the Wall Street Journal has written a piece about the State of Bluegrass music in 2008.

Published today, the article asserts that

Since the music is the heart of the matter, there’s no better indication of the latest bluegrass trends than a look at the music honored by the IBMAs. Winners and significant new contenders

To that end, Mazor takes a look at some of the top recordings of the year as an example of the current trends in the music. He discusses the stylistic trednds as well as the lyrical content of the songs being written and recorded. He looks at CDs from Dailey and Vincent, Dale Ann Bradley, Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper, Andy Hall, The SteelDrivers, and Everett Lilly, as trend setters for this year.

Each CD receives a short, one or two paragraph, analysis of its content, with attention being given to the trend setting aspects Mazor identifies with each recording.

Agree with him or not, it’s an interesting way to assess the current state of the industry.

Here’s a currently working link. For non-subscribers that link is only temporary.

  • Mazor writes a pretty detailed piece on the Bluegrass awards and the state of Bluegrass. Mazor says that Bluegrass has been getting back to basics more this year, Really? ,I kinda see the music going two paths, the older bands like Del McCoury keeping with their traditional sound and other artists like Carrie Hassler and Hard Rain sounding a bit more contemporary. I agree with Mazor that Bluegrass tends to stay with the times, this year, more spirituality and financial depression.
    Bluegrass is one genre, like folk, where most of the fans also play. Convention hallways had signs for “jamming” and “non-jamming”. What would happen in a non-jamming area?
    Kyle Cantrell ,host of “Bluegrass Junction” on XM radio for folk that can afford Satellite radio had plenty to say. “The Sincerity of the music draws people to it?? ,Well, where is one to hear it? If you don’t have XM radio? Ending the article Mazor gives his accounts of some honored CDs, not familiar to this Bluegrass reviewer.
    “Dailey and Vincent” – Well, I know Rhonda Vincent’s brother, he is on all of her albums. Mazor says this group swept the IBMAs like no previous act, winning seven awards in all, including “Entertainer Of The Year” (That will teach Allison Krauss to record a record with Robert Plant and go off on a worldwide tour with Tbone Barnette.) I will have to check these guys out.
    “Dale Ann Bradley” Sorry, no hear of her, but “Female Vocalist of The Year” I bet Melonie Cannon is better than her. Mazor says that She deserves to be as well known to general audiences as Rhonda Vincent or Allison Krauss, who I agree are the best singers in Bluegrass,female. But that is going to take a lot of time and work for her to catch up to them.
    He mentions Three other acts that I have not heard of. That is the neat thing of small labels and easy access recording, like we have today, anybody can be a star. But, where were all of the familiar bluegrass acts for this awards show? Where were the sounds of The Grascals, Blue Highway, Rhonda Vincent, Dolly Parton, Where were Dan Tyminski, The Infamous Stringdusters?
    Jim Moulton

  • Hi Jim,

    Yeah, if you haven’t heard Dailey & Vincent, then do yourself a favor and do so. Darrin Vincent is indeed Rhonda’s brother. Jamie Dailey is the former lead singer for Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver. They are fantastic together.

    You ask about the Infamous Stringdusters. Mazor did include Andy Hall’s CD in his list. Hall plays dobro and sings with the dusters, and won instrumental album of the year for that recording.

    Dale Ann has been around for years and rightly deserves the award, for the second year in a row btw. She is a fantastic singer, not to mention a great guitar player. She has long been one of my favorite bluegrass singers (male or female).

    Neither are Michael Cleveland or Everett Lilley newcomers. In fact, the only real newcomers in that list are the Steeldrivers, a band from Nashville featuring some musicians who have been around the scene longer than I have.

    Like I said in the post, agree with him or not, Mazor took an interesting approach to summing up the state of the music. Personally I would have included Dan Tyminski’s CD, Wheels, in my list. But that’s just me…

  • Hi Brance,
    Just might check them out, have heard a couple of the Stringdusters tracks, very hi octane picking,thanks
    PS- I see you run a quite nice recording studio, Congrats and keep up the good work

  • Brance,
    I did get a chance to check out award winning Dailey and Vincent, very Honestly, not my cup of tea, probably why I did not get a copy to review. I’m a for the most part , a new grass lover, These guys are just too rigid and familiar sounding for me, not taking anything away from the great recording and performance, nothing original for me.
    God Bless,