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KAFM TUNED IN: The many subgenres of bluegrass music

KAFM TUNED IN ...
with Vetabluegrass
Accomplished banjo player Bela Fleck is known for his "Jazz-Grass" style.
belafleck.com |

You may be listening to bluegrass and not even know that the music is considered bluegrass. You are probably wondering, “What did I just read?”

Since bluegrass is alive and organic, their “cells” (instruments, style, sound) have touched other types of music. Labels really are not a good way to describe music, but that is what we use.

Many musicians, even contemporary and progressive musicians, will attribute the style of Bill Monroe and The Bluegrass Boys to their own style today. That may be reflected in the high-lonesome vocals of Bill Monroe or the way in which he played the mandolin. It could be the style of the fiddle (violin) or the banjo. Musicians take what they need and create their own unique style.

Traditional bluegrass is alive and well in old and new recordings. To many musicians, they are preserving an old musical form. To some who live in the more rural areas of the Appalachian Mountains and related mountain ranges, this is the music that they are most comfortable listening to.

I have identified 11 subgenres of bluegrass-related music.

New-Grass is the style that most people think of. New-Grass became popular in the early 1970s with Sam Bush and even with The Earl Scruggs Revue. It’s bluegrass with a rock sound. There might be drums incorporated into it. This sound is still popular today. Non-traditional bluegrass has a contemporary sound (Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen).

Old-time music (early country) and Mountain Music are intertwined with bluegrass. Closely related is Folk Music, which is divided into two sections: traditional and folk-revival. Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger are well known. Folk-revival is what most of us think of. In the late ’50s and early ’60s, new performers were recording old folk songs or writing songs that sounded old. You may be familiar with Peter, Paul & Mary, Joan Baez, and Doc Watson.

Classical music combined with bluegrass is associated with The Kruger Brothers and Chris Thile of Punch Brothers.

Jazz-Grass is associated with Bela Fleck. Americana is the soft-rock of bluegrass, whereas Jam-Grass is rockin’-bluegrass. Some country musicians have stepped over to bluegrass: Ricky Skaggs and Alan Jackson are two. Gospel-Grass is sung by Doyle Lawson.

When you are looking for bluegrass in the stores, look in other sections also. You might find what you want there.

Veta Gumber aka Vetabluegrass hosts a weekly show on KAFM 88.1, Bluegrass and Beyond, every Monday, from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Tune in to hear old and new bluegrass, from traditional to progressive; from Doc Watson to The Boxcars to Hot Buttered Rum, and beyond! She can be reached at vetabluegrass@gmail.com.

KAFM Tuned In is funded in part by the Gill Foundations Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado, a proud supporter of local programs like the Colorado Champions for Science, Technology, Engineering and Education.


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