If bluegrass makes you think of banjos and those hills, think again. Bluegrass isn’t your grandaddy today.
In the past four decades, musicians like David Grisman, Tony Rice, Ricky Skaggs, Del McCoury, Alison Krauss have formed “the lonesome, high voice.” Today Bluegrass is a dynamic modern musical power powered by the African and Far East sounds of rock, jazz, funk, chamber music. However, it holds faithful to its Appalachian origins.
Here’s a list of bluegrass songs worth listening to on a Hi-Fi record player. Just set up a Hi-Fi turntable system under $500, sit back, and enjoy.
Roses in the Snow – Emmylou Harris
Though Emmylou is not a bluegrass musician, Roses in the Snow played a major role in the world of bluegrass, opening a large path for many new-to-bluegrass fans to come. I recall years of listening Roses in the Snow mixed in the festival’s list after it was released.
Her fresh presence of “Gold Watch and Chain” and “I’ll go Stepping, Too” and of others have given these bluegrass gems new life. Missy Raines Missy
On Home is Where the Heart Is – David Grisman
“On house is where the Heart is” David Grisman – one of the best bluegrass artists, set aside the classical bluegrass for his jazz, klezmer and other explorative streams. On 24 traditional tones, he will take on an astounding tour of bluegrass history, with instrumental and vocal chops to spare, joining key bluegrass veterans including Doc Watson, Tony Rice, del McCoury, Herb Pedersen, Ricky Skaggs and Sam Bush.
The Seldom Scene had all day work when they began in 1971; that’s why the name was punning. But then they became the first members of the “progressive” bluegrass, combining various musical forms in their unconditional harmony around the high tenor of the mandolinist John Duffey.
The Best of the Seldom Scene provides a wonderful description of its impressive variety and bristling ranges.
Home – Billy Strings
Billy Strings is a controversial drummer, singer and lyrist. He’s young — not much older than me, and I’m 24—and he’s the least provocative songwriter. He writes on climate change, the use of drugs, death and incarceration.
Billy Strings are raw and original. This was not the case in his early years with mandolinist Don Julin, but his second complete solo album is undeniably evident here. His respect for his influences, especially Doc Watson, is still evident, but the sound of Strings is now unmistakably his.
Strings have recorded one of the best bluegrass albums ever with Home with collaborations such as Molly Tuttle (on “Must Be Seven”) and Jerry Douglas (on “Love Like Me”). It’s the most potent, sarcastic, and sweet bluegrass you can get, and that’s the explanation for my favorite five-year bluegrass song.
Hard Hitting Songs for Hard Hit People – Hazel Dickens
Many people would argue that the bluegrass is not interested in politics but not if Hazel Dickens sings.
This year’s inductions to the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Hall of fame with Alice Gerrard are not yet remembered for Hazel’s solo work, which evokes the political, gendered, and “hard-hitting” aspect of rural life in the monumental role of songwriters and advocacy within the bluegrass.
This album helps to supply generations with the anthems they need to collect and rally.
Laws of Gravity, The Infamous Stringdusters
The ‘Dusters’ had many improvements in their day, but I don’t think there’s a better combo than the new group that includes Andy Falco and Andy Hall.
Perhaps more than any other group on this list, this group has forged away into new bluegrass territory. In-Laws of Gravity, their roots are very evidently obviously bluegrass, with songs that borrow on the jazz and jam-band styles of funk.
Although groups like this go a bit too far off to be even identifiable as bluegrass, the notorious Stringdusters do not sacrifice their bluegrasses. They will continue to influence – and be affected by – the genre in the future, I have no doubt.
Home – Dixie Chicks
I was an unhealthy, high-school-aged child when this album came out. Thanks to this song, I will feel cool and happy to tell my friends that I play banjo and spend my weekends at bluegrass festivals. It is full of steam, delicious licks, close harmonies, and strong songs and has reached an audience that other bluegrass records would never have. Gina Clowes-Gina Clowes
Blake & Rice
Norman Blake and Tony Rice, possibly the greatest followers of Doc Watson (and two of the world’s finest guitarists), joined forces for Blake & Rice.
There is a lot of insane flat range of hard to tackle fiddle tunes that reveal their crisp, clean and elegant dexterity — making all the other cupboards shriek and weep. But these guys are not just pace freaks; they are very soulful musicians, they also carry texture, sound, and style.
Fair Weather – Alison Brown
Let’s head down the record cast: Béla Fleck, Stuart Duncan, Tony Rice, Sam Bush, Vince Gill, Tim O’Brien, Claire Lynch, Missy Raines …
While the trademark, the outdoor theme, and the urban aesthetics of Alison are the core of the album from top to bottom, the whole project is solidly bluegrass.
“Poe’s Pickin’ party” is a veiled node to the real party of the same name that blatantly removes women from the game, Alison plays Doc Watson-style guitar on “Deep Distance,” and Alison received her first Grammy award for her double banjo tune, “Leaving Cottondale.”
This World Oft Can Be – Della Mae
How many bands have you heard about it in just four years since its inception?
It’s so much more delightful to know that the name of Della Mae itself makes a lot more fun with the form more bluegrass boy’s club, fed with testosterone and that has purposely omitted women for so long. And each of Dellas’ unbelievable musicians is incredible – no “pretty good for a female” qualification is required.
The music on this record teases the edges of bluegrass open with ancient foundations, straight grass drive, and romantic literary texts. This is undoubtedly a significant time in bluegrass women ‘s culture.
When You’re Ready – Molly Tuttle
Molly Tuttle, a well-known bluegrass musician, and songwriter, is releasing her full-length first album When You is Ready.
It is incredibly vibrant, frank, and enthusiastic and features musicians such as Jason Isbell, Rachel Baiman, and Sierra Hull (a childhood friend with whom she works over the years).
Tuttle may have begun with bluegrass and roots, avenues where she still is fully-equipped, but Tuttle tries both pop and rock sounds when she’s able.
Tuttle toured a studio at Paste earlier this year, where she introduced four tracks from the album to her internet audience: the driving roots number “Take The Journey,” the suspenseful “Messed With My Head,” the melancholic “Sleepwalking” and “Light Came In,” one of the best folks-pop mixes in Tuttle’s catalog.
Folksongs and Instrumentals with Guitar – Elizabeth Cotten
This music from Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten album, including tracks like “Freight Train,” inspired the “reawakening” of the 1960s. A combination of popular and original tracks, this release from 1958 introduced Cotten’s left-hand trademark styles of guitar and banjo.
Cotten’s recordings by Mike Seeger, published on Folkways Records at the age of 62, cemented her as a genuine folk and blues matriarch. The ‘Freight Train’ written at the age of 12, covered Paul McCartney, Peggy Seeger, and Joan Baez’s likes.
Who’s That Knocking? – Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard
I played this song for the first time in 1974, and it wiped me flat. Hazel & Alice really seemed to be capturing the high lonely sound of the Stanley Brothers & Bill Monroe and Chubby Smart backup on the fiddle, David Grisman on the mandolin, Lamar Grier on the banjo, and Fred Weisz on the bass were a pleasure to hear. It is pretty rough and rocky by today’s standards, but I read elsewhere that the recording budget was $75 … so you go there.
I’ve been an immediate fan. For me, it was the first recorded case of women actually catching what I felt was the bluegrass sound.