As the days turn into weeks, and the weeks into months, there are times when finding things to be happy about is difficult. And face it, bluegrass isn’t known as the happiest genre on earth. If you feel like wallowing in a bit of self-pity, you can find plenty of sad, lonesome, plumb pitiful songs to share your misery with.
We all could use a little cheering up. Digging into the archives, and listening to some deep cuts, you will find a lot of up-tempo, happy message songs and tunes to brighten your day. I’ve put together a playlist of some of these.
A couple of them are bluegrassed-up covers of pop songs—namely, “I’m Gonna Be 500 Miles,” made popular by the Scottish duo the Proclaimers in 1987, and covered by US Navy Country Current; and the Bee Gees’ 1968 song, “I’ve Gotta Get A Message to You,” covered by Bobby Osborne with a cast of all-stars.
Some others are up-tempo tunes, including a couple of my favorites–“Cacklin’ Hen,” by Michael Cleveland, and “Five Speed,” by the Johnson Mountain Boys.
Mostly, though, this list represents bluegrass songs with happy messages, where no one gets old, and no one ever dies.
One of the deeper cuts is one from Louis Marshall Jones, aka Grandpa Jones (1913-1998), known primarily for his banjo playing and parody songs on the Hee Haw television show, which ran from 1969-71, and can still be seen in syndication. He was a solid musician, and “Sweet Dreams of Kentucky” (1963) is a good illustration of his musicianship, on guitar rather than banjo.
Others are some bluegrass classics, including John Hartford’s feel-good song, “Gentle on My Mind,” and Del McCoury’s “Sweet Appalachia.” Even Jimmy Martin, not known as the King of Happy, has an upbeat song in “Tennessee” (1968).
So, if you’re having a bad day, do as Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers do in their song, “Things That I Like,” and think about all the things that make you happy, and count your blessings today.
And wear a mask.
Here’s the playlist, which can also be found on Spotify
Bald Knob, Arkansas, Vern Williams Band
Bluegrass Saturday Night, Rhonda Vincent
Boiling Springs, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out
Buffalo Gals, Allison de Groot & Tatiana Hargreaves
Cacklin’ Hen, Michael Cleveland
Dooley, The Dillards
Five Speed, The Johnson Mountain Boys
Flippen (The Flip), Punch Brothers
Gentle on My Mind, John Hartford
I Told Them All About You, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver
I’m Gonna Be 500 Miles, US Navy Country Current
I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You, Bobby Osborne
In the Garden, Larry Sparks
Love Call Waltz, Reno & Smiley
Mountain Girl, Sideline
My Kind of Town, Special Consensus
Native and Fine, Bill Evans
On the Water, Steve Martin and Steep Canyon Rangers
Pretty Red Lips, The Nashville Bluegrass Band
Rabbit in the Log, Jim & Jesse with the Virginia Boys
Raised by The Railroad Line, The Seldom Scene
Shady Grove, Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder
Steam Powered Aeroplane/Texas Gales, Greensky Bluegrass
Sugar Tree Ridge, Dry Branch Fire Squad
Sweet Appalachia, The Del McCoury Band
Sweet Dreams of Kentucky, Grandpa Jones
Tennessee, Jimmy Martin
The Crawdad Song, Kathy Kallick
The River, Lynn Morris
The Sunny Side of Life, The Country Gentlemen
Things That I Like, Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers
Uncle Pen, Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys
You Are My Flower, Laurie Lewis