Musical Melting Pot

February 22nd, 2012

banjoAre music genres soon to become extinct? Years ago, you could put music styles in a box and stick a label on it. People were quick to say things like “I’m a country fan” or “I don’t listen to that rap stuff.”  But these days, artists blend multiple genres and nothing is as simple as it once seemed.  Rockers like Aaron Lewis from Stained and Kid Rock have had hits in the country music scene.  Jack White from the rock duo known as The White Stripes has begun collaborating with country legend Loretta Lynn.  Country star Allison Krauss worked with Led Zeppelin’s iconic front man Robert Plant on the album Raising Sand. Last year, the song “Airplanes Part II,” collaboration with rocker Hayley Williams and rap artists B.o.B. and Eminem, topped the pop charts and was nominated for a Grammy.

This newly renovated music landscape has created an environment of experimentation that allows lesser known or forgotten genres to bleed into popular music.  Artists are trading styles and incorporating instruments that were previously alien to their genre. For this reason, discovering new music has never been more exciting.

Probably one of the more surprising genres to be brought back into the light of popular music is bluegrass. Traditionally, bluegrass is strictly acoustic, including instruments like the banjo, the stand-up bass, mandolin, and the fiddle. These days, bluegrass style music and bluegrass instruments are showing up in every corner of popular media.  “O’ Brother Where Art Thou?” brought bluegrass to the big screen and the soundtrack promptly hit the country charts as well as the Billboard top 200 charts.  Despite being over a decade old, the album is known as the number one selling soundtrack of the 21st century.

Two of the most popular bluegrass/folk style bands to surface on the charts are the Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons. Did you catch the Grammy’s last year when they played with Bob Dylan?  Their refreshing performance was full of the foot-stompin’ fun that people love about bluegrass.  Scott Avett from the Avett Brothers was quoted in Billboard magazine “We play pop music, maybe just simply pop-rock music. It just happens to have elements of bluegrass in it. And punk? This is a good time for music like ours. Country isn’t a dirty word. Neither is pop.”

I don’t know about you, but I find this type of stripped-down, organic, but not-at-all-boring-style to be just what music has been missing. Thankfully, there is reason to believe that this is more than just a trend.  Adele, the recent six time Grammy winning artist, is planning to have her third album be heavily influenced by bluegrass and other American styles she learned about while on tour.

Here are some more artists that have had fun with bluegrass that can be found at your local CCPL branch:
-Yo-Yo Ma’s new album “The Goat Rodeo Sessions”
-Actor Steve Martin’s album “The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo”

What forgotten genres do you want to see more of in popular music?  Do you hope bluegrass is here to stay? Or do you wish it would disappear?

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