bluegrass

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The special exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum celebrating the Station Inn sat mute behind glass on Monday morning as it has since it opened in January. A trickle of masked visitors paused to look and read, most perhaps unaware that the man pictured at the center of the display, the man whose patient tenacity made the Station Inn museum-worthy in the first place, had died over the weekend.

For all the songs about mother, trains and cabins in the mountains, bluegrass has a tradition of instrumental music that goes back to its very origins. Bill Monroe’s first bands recorded mandolin and fiddle-driven tunes like “Tennessee Blues” and “Back Up And Push.” After Earl Scruggs joined in late 1945, his banjo instrumentals became a staple. Several generations of players embellished on those models, and a rush of new albums suggests that instrumental string band music is as dynamic as ever.

Kady Carter

Growing up in tiny Madisonville, TN, halfway between Knoxville and Chattanooga, Justin Moses lived in a home that was something of a bluegrass instrument petting zoo. His father always played the guitar, but as a trader/swapper type, he had various things with strings cycling in and out of the house. Dad probably wasn’t planning on raising a multi-instrumentalist bluegrass dynamo, but that’s kind of what happened.

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Grammy season is upon us, albeit delayed about six weeks as the Recording Academy gets its arms around producing an awards event that honors the music from the shadow of the industry-crushing Covid-19 pandemic. Yet it seems like they could have the Grammy Awards on Zoom or from the Moon and somehow it’s likely Sarah Jarosz would be included.

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Music historians don’t even try to assign a specific inception date for the blues, jazz or rock and roll. But country music loves its birthdays, and there are plausible, evidence-based stories to tell about some of its “Big Bang” moments, especially for one genre. On December 8, 1945, Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys played the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium with a new lineup and thus a new sound, making this week the 75th anniversary of bluegrass music.

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