Tuesday, May 22, 2007

You Can't Take Bluegrass Lightly

I mean, I guess that's the point of the last post. I look at what David Lee Roth has done there, in an apparent comeback attempt and just have to shake my head. He took it lightly.

He figured, hey, I can dabble in this and suck or not, at least I gave it my best effort. I disagree. Bluegrass isn't something you can half-ass. It's an all or nothing proposition. A zero-sum game. So with your comeback on the line, the faintest flicker of doubt should be enough to deter any ill-advised attempts at bluegrass.

My roommate of a few years back in D.C. used to swear by bluegrass. At the end of each weekend , when he hadn't shaved in a few days and the funk of the weekend was reaching its ripest, it was his idea of getting folksy to turn on WAMU's 'Stained Glass Bluegrass' and do something with his hands, like roll cigarettes, polish his shoes or bake an apple pie. If the weather was good we'd sit outside in our courtyard beneath the Spanish embassy and smoke and drink and just listen to bluegrass.

The thing is it didn't matter what you did as long as it was relaxing to the max and didn't interfere with one's appreciation of the bluegrass music.

Now, I will be the first to admit that bluegrass is a little beyond me. I appreciate it in small or inspired doses. And it was rare I could sit through an entire 4-hour session without the banjo beginning to drive me crazy. There's an element of sameness across bluegrass, a heavily (and respectfully) derivative American tradition, that means it takes a careful, trained ear to differentiate the virtuoso from the dabbler.

Which is to say that bluegrass is the domain of non-casual music fans. The kind who dig real jazz and rhapsodize about Phish jams. The kind who get lost in the details and the kind who don't dig carpet-bagging crossovers into their 'pure' genres.

I guess that's what makes this so shameful. The only consideration was the degree of spectacle that could be obtained by forcing a man who is very willing to embarrass himself to abase an unwitting art form.

1 comment:

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