The blue in bluegrass

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I was jamming down at the 48 hr Jam at the doubletree in Bakersfield when one of the highway 65 guys hollered “Do a bluesy one!”, and I don’t have to be asked twice because I like the blue in bluegrass. So I let one fly, and it felt as good as it always does.

I remember getting a good natured scolding once for singing too blue for bluegrass, and I suppose that could be. I like roots music of all sorts. Love the old Delta blues men and firey gospel and many forms of Americana, but when it comes to bluegrass, I think I’m standing on reasonably solid ground.

There’s this book I’ve been reading called “can’t you hear me callin” about the life and times of Bill Monroe and it talks about the influence of a man named Arnold shultz on Bill Monroes music. Arnold was coal miner and a master bluesman. Not only was he a great slide guitar player, but he was also a masterful fiddler. People who heard him play said there was nobody that could play better. Had he been recorded, it’s said that he would have been considered in the same class as Mississippi John Hurt, or Son House. Bill loved to play with him. Arnold gave him some of his first semi-professional band work. Arnold would take him to barn dances and Bill would accompany him all night long on the guitar. Bill loved Arnolds playing because he could go from a rough blues to a beautiful waltz without missing a lick. Bill was playing with Arnold back when Black folks and White folks simply did not play together in public and Arnolds influence colored Bill’s music and added depth to his high lonesome sound.

Bluegrass to me, is this great amalgamation of ecstasy and despair. The peaks and valleys of human existence. The heights of Hope and the Darkness of death. The glories of the gospel and the consequences of evil. And it’s all simply and unadorned. Told in a straightforward manner by straight talking men and women. Them songs peal open your chest and show everybody what’s there, and sometimes what you see is beautiful beyond discription and sometimes what you see is the darkest blue, but whatever it is…
It’s all real.

Sweetheart of mine can you hear me calling
A million times I love you best
I mistreated you lord, and I’m sorry
Come back to me is my request

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