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The real “country” music


  Bluegrass music can be a little raw sometimes.

For fans accustomed to overproduced commercial country, or popular music, bluegrass music can at times, sound unsophisticated and perhaps even, a little shabby, very much the hillbilly cousin you have to acknowledge, but are secretly ashamed of.

For dazzling urban sophisticates, the music is tainted, at times with an unpleasant aroma of religiosity and with a sense of poor rural folk living a life devoid of the things they value.

   They fail to appreciate the beauty of hard work, innocent romance, and devotion to God and family, that is often thematic in Bluegrass music.

  I had little interest in the genre until like many people, I was captivated by the soundtrack of the Coen Brothers film, Oh Brother, Where Art Thou. This wonderful film is a beautifully written allegory to Homer’s Odyssey   set in the deep south of the 1930’s. The  film is populated by wonderful actors such as George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, John Goodman, Holly Hunter, and Charles Durning. It  features music by some of the most talented practitioners of the craft, including Allison Kraus, Gillian Welch, Pat Enright, and  Dan Tyminski (who is the true lead vocalist of the movies most memorable hit: “A Man of Constant Sorrows”.

    As a long time fan of Celtic music, I have found much joy in these extraordinary performers, as well as the largely Celtic-based melodies, which after all, have their roots in my beloved Appalachian Mountains.

   Submitted for your approval: a wonderful version of an old gospel tune: “Soldiers of the Cross”, performed by a bluegrass legend, Ricky Skaggs, and his band, “Kentucky Thunder”.

 For the bluegrass newbie, I think it helps a lot that the back up “band” is the Boston Pops Orchestra, with an incredibly congruent and complimentary symphonic treatment. It should be clear from the performance, that these are some incredibly talented and creative musicians, as skilled and polished as any.


This genre is a window into the past, to the rugged individualists who settled the frontier of the eastern mountains from North Carolina, to Pennsylvania.  To me it makes for a wonderful accompaniment to a good book, a porch rocker, and a warm June evening.

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