I’ve always liked American Country music and in particular, Bluegrass. Last year I discovered a free-to air Bluegrass radio channel that plays a good mix of old and new and now I frequently have it on in the background if I am reading [but not writing; I need silence for that] or relaxing.
Yes, it’s simple with simple chords and makes few demands upon you but the best Bluegrass can compare with the best of anything; Jazz, Folk, Blues, Soul. The best Bluegrass has lyric composition, subtle melody and arrangement but most of all, some of the loveliest singing voices you will ever hear. Just to take one popular example: Jolene. Wonderful tune but they could have done it in twenty different ways: slower [there are many slower cover versions]; on piano, bluesier; in harmony; more country, even faster with banjos . But someone knew enough to keep it straight and simple and let Dolly’s fantastic rendition of her own song shine through.
Listen to Patty Loveless here. She is sixty years old; been singing Country all her life. Every phrase, every inflection brings out the warmth of her tone. She needs no vocal trickery to get her message across. Or try Gillian Welch here or Tim O’Brien here. Beautiful cadences showcased by the very best American instrumentalists. It’s in their DNA and when it’s great, it’s great.
We were lucky enough to get tickets for Tim O’Brien’s second-last date of his UK Tour last Sunday. Sold out in 24 hours. It’s like being in the presence of a God; he is so magnificent, such a master of his craft. It is rare you get that now.