Posts Tagged ‘ bluegrass ’

Sarah Jarosz clawhammers her way to the top

Sarah has been named Female Vocalist of the Year, Country/Bluegrass Band of the Year, and Folk Band of the Year by the Austin Music Awards! I can see why. At only 18, this little lady from Austin sure can sing and play just about anything: mandolin, clawhammer banjo, guitar, and piano. We’re looking forward to seeing and hearing more of you in the near future.


“What’s more quaint, and out-of-time, and culturally beside-the-point than bluegrass?”

A recent article featured on Slate described bluegrass as “quaint, out-of-time, and culturally beside-the-point”. Really? The author, Nathan Heller, or his editor obviously didn’t do much fact checking on such a broad and ignorant statement.

Well Mr. Heller, Bluegrass music laid the foundation for much of the rock and country music we enjoy today. I have included a little video to help you be better informed.

Now that you have a better idea of where bluegrass has been, I would challenge you to check out where bluegrass is today. While the form continues to evolve, bluegrass continues to be relevant to the times. Check our archives for many articles and artist features for further proof that this genre is in fact still very much alive and on the rise.

In the future we would love to see Slate cover more of what’s going on in the Newgrass scene. Perhaps then you would be better informed.

Larry Clark / Bluegrass Activist and Founder of Newgrass Magazine

Original Slate Article

Murder in the Mountains – Ballads of Love, Betrayal and Murder

Murder Ballads typically recount the details of a mythic or true crime — who the victim is, why the murderer decides to kill him or her, how the victim is lured to the murder site and the act itself — followed by the escape and/or capture of the murderer. Often the ballad ends with the murderer in jail or on their way to the gallows, occasionally with a plea for the listener not to copy the evils committed by the singer.

Pretty Polly is a song that tells of a young woman lured into the forest where she is killed and buried in a shallow grave. Many variants of the story have the villain as a ship’s carpenter who promises to marry Polly but murders her when she becomes pregnant. When he goes back to sea, he is haunted by her ghost, confesses to the murder, goes mad and dies.

Silver Dagger is an American folk ballad, likely dating to the late 19th century though possibly much older; the first published version appeared in 1907. In the song, the narrator turns away a potential suitor, as her mother has warned her to avoid the advances of men, in an attempt to spare her daughter the heartbreak that she herself has endured.

Banks of the Ohio Is a 19th century murder ballad, written by unknown authors, in which “Willie” invites his young lover for a walk during which she rejects his marriage proposal. Once they are alone on the river bank, he murders the young woman.

Long Black Veil is a 1959 country ballad, written by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin and originally recorded by Lefty Frizzell. It is about a man accused of murder who refuses to provide an alibi because he was having an affair with his best friend’s wife at the time, and would rather die than reveal this. Subsequently, he is executed by hanging, taking their secret to the grave. The chorus describes the woman’s mourning visits to his gravesite in her long black veil. The song is sung from the point of view of the executed man. The writers later stated that they drew on three sources for their inspiration: Red Foley’s recording of “God Walks These Hills With Me”, a contemporary newspaper report about the unsolved murder of a priest, and the legend of a mysterious veiled woman who regularly visited Rudolph Valentino’s grave.

Little Sadie is a 20th Century American folk ballad that is known by many names like “Cocaine Blues” (see below) it tells the story of a man who is apprehended after shooting his wife/girlfriend. He is then sentenced by a judge.

Cocaine Blues

Hillbillies hit the Hills.

The 1st Annual Skitown Breakdown
March 27th at 3:00 p.m.
Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Colorado

The Yonder Mountain String Band (Colorado’s Bluegrass Jam Band) somehow convinced the high society types up at the Crested Butte to throw a hoedown.

Crested Butte Mountain Resort

Bad Liver’s “Death Trip” to air on HBO’s True Blood!! August 2nd

If you haven’t seen True Blood yet, yer missin out. Finally we got ourselves a show that features flannel shirt wearing vampires, rather than those puffy shirt wearing, turn of the century vamps we usually see. The series is based on the The Southern Vampire Mysteries series of novels by Charlaine Harris, and details the co-existence of vampires and humans in Bon Temps, a fictional small Louisiana town.

And the most important thing to note, 4 million more people will get to listen to Bad Liver’s “Death Trip” and be exposed to some Newgrass music.


Here’s a note from the old Sugar Hill label folks:

“Hey guys, Good news. This spot was confirmed today! Up to one minute of the song will be used.

Of the six placements Welk/Sugar Hill/Vanguard has enjoyed in this show’s 2 seasons so far, I anticipate this one to be the best. Song should be highlighted quite nicely.

Airs this Sunday, Aug. 2nd @ 9pm – episode #207

According to, “The second season premiere of the series on June 14, 2009 was watched by 3.7 million viewers, making it the most watched program on HBO since the series finale of The Sopranos.” And according to Entertainment Weekly, for the 7/14 episode, “Viewers’ thirst for True Blood is intensifying: After taking a week off, the bloody good vampire saga’s latest episode on Sunday attracted a series-high 3.9 million viewers.” Last week pulled in 3.85 viewers, says The show is a bona fide hit for HBO.

So, yeah, close to 4 million people will get to listen to “Death Trip” simultaneously (without getting technical and counting the different time zones as…different time zones).

Dark as a Dungeon – Songs of the Mines

Rebel Records has announced that the latest in their Vault Series, Dark As A Dungeon – Songs Of The Mines, will be released at the end of March. The CD will include mining songs from 14 Rebel artists including Blue Highway, Seldom Scene, Larry Sparks, The Country Gentlemen in the mix.

The Vault Series is Rebel’s budget-minded reissue inventory, offering material from their deep bluegrass catalog. Some of these tracks date back 25 years or more, some are fairly new, and one track has never been previously released.

Frank Godbey gives a taste of the theme this project presents in the conclusion to his liner notes.

“Through these songs we can picture the world’s largest shovel overseeing an open-pit landscape, imagine trying to peer through the darkness at the bottom of a deep shaft where daylight never reaches, visualize wives and sweethearts waiting at a mine’s entrance for news of loved ones trapped below, and listen to labored breathing caused by black lung disease—is it any wonder that people sing about the hardships and hazards associated with mining?

Despite the tragic nature of many of these songs, the impact is enhanced immeasurably by their quiet yet undeniable eloquence. These performances give us powerful glimpses into the lives and innermost feelings of miners and their families.”

Perhaps some of these are familiar?

* Green Rolling Hills – Bill Harrell & The Virginians
* A Miner’s Life – The Country Gentlemen
* Paradise – Seldom Scene
* Call The Captain – Steep Canyon Rangers
* Dream Of A Miner’s Child – Whitley & Skaggs
* Black Dust Fever – Wildwood Valley Boys
* In Those Mines – Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike
* Daddy’s Dinner Bucket – Ralph Stanley II
* Digging In The Ground – Larry Sparks
* Coaltown Saturday Night – Randall Hylton
* The River Ran Black – David Davis & The Warrior River Boys
* West Virginia’s Last Hand Loader – Blue Highway
* The Hermit Miner – Perfect Strangers
* Dark As A Dungeon – James Alan Shelton

Dark As A Dungeon – Songs Of The Mines is set for a March 30 release.

Bluegrass, Newgrass & Hip Hop

Recently I had a conversation with a friend of mine who prefers Hip Hop to Bluegrass and I felt the dialog was worth sharing, since most of us have friends who might not know what all Newgrass has to offer.

I think the first thing to note is that Newgrass is not necessarily traditional Bluegrass. While Newgrass is definately kin to Bluegrass, the lines between genres are blurring. Our generation is taking our grandparents’ traditional bluegrass music and evolving it into something new and exciting. Much like traditional bluegrass chronicled the lives of mountain folk before us, Newgrass communicates the struggles and accomplishments of today’s culture, while taking into account the cultural influences we experience day to day-which includes Hip Hop among many other genres of music.

One doesn’t have to look far for these influences. Check out the chart topping Newgrass band, The Carolina Chocolate Drops’ take on the song “Hit ’em up style”.