[Harp-L] Bluegrass: thoughts and observations
- To: harp-l@xxxxxxxxxx, bluegrassharp@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Subject: [Harp-L] Bluegrass: thoughts and observations
- From: Trip Henderson <trip.tunes@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sun, 23 Jan 2011 17:05:23 -0500
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Interesting thread with lots of good points made. If we define a bluegrass
band as one having Bill Monroe's original line up we quickly run into
problems. As Dennis noted Bill's early bands had (god forbid) accordions -
now that's a freereed beast! What about the dobro? You won't find that on
the early Monroe sides but its a mainstay these days. Jimmie Martin favored
drums and it don't get more bluegrass than Jimmy Martin!
There are plenty of great examples of how harp fits like a glove in
the soulful techniques the short harp has to offer. One of my personal
favorite recordings featuring harp in a bluegrass setting is the Nitty
Gritty Dirt Band's 70's era record "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" where
Jimmie Fadden, the bands drummer blows the tastiest harp, often alternating
with or in harmony with the awesome Vassar Clements on fiddle. Harp-l's PT
Gazell put out a record that changed my whole approach to playing - that
record "Pace Yourself" is friggin' unbelievable. I once asked my friend
Gary Primich how he liked to warm up before a gig and he told me he liked to
play "Off To California" off of PT's record. On PT's version he's playing
it as a duet with Ricky Skaggs, the top grossing bluegrass player out there.
You all should check that album out - fast clean, precise, beautifully
played music. Have y'all ever checked out George Pegram and Walter "Red"
Parham - woah! And to Michele's point, Mike Steven's work may not be to
everyone's liking but there's no denying that Jim and Jesse are among the
most important bluegrass bands ever to record and they loved having him
featured in the band, on the Opry no less!
Remember, there was no harp on the first blues recordings, it was horn based
music. What about jazz? Toots has opened that door.
Bluegrass is just like any other style of music, that is, if you want to
play it and get some respect you have to do the work and understand the role
of the instrumentalist in a band that prominently features vocal harmony.
On a side note, I can recommend a great read "Bossmen: Bill Monroe and Muddy
Waters" by James Rooney.
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