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Bluegrass Camps – the Next Wave of Bluegrass Festivals

Since the mid ‘60s, the bluegrass festival both saved and indeed enabled the music to prosper. The combination of a several day-long picking session, band watching, trading and socialising was the winning formula that created and extended careers as well as establishing a world-wide movement.

With changing economic times, an ageing population and the need to stay competitive with all the other forms of entertainment now pulling at people, a new type of festival has slowly been becoming more prevalent within the genre. It is the festival devoted to skill advancement. During September this year, I will be attending two of these – one as a participant and one as an instructor. Continue reading “Bluegrass Camps – the Next Wave of Bluegrass Festivals”

Bill Monroe takes aim at fiddling:

There’s no doubt that the person with the biggest influence on bluegrass fiddling was a person who didn’t even play the fiddle – Bill Monroe.

I’ve read so much on his views and I find them endlessly interesting, amusing, insightful and instructive.  A brilliant book of all things Monroe is ‘The Bill Monroe Reader‘ compiled by his singer/guitarist for many years, Tom Ewing.  It’s a highly recommended read and the following are some of my favourite Monroe lines about bluegrass fiddling: Continue reading “Bill Monroe takes aim at fiddling:”

The Dancehall Racketeers – Western Swing in Australia

Dancehall Racketeers Prince of Wales Hotel 1984

So much of the foundation of my playing was with the Melbourne based, Dancehall Racketeers –  a dedicated western swing band (Australia’s first) that was located about as far away as you can get from the originating hotbeds of Fort Worth and Tulsa etc. Actually then Melbourne, with such a vibrant live music culture, was one of the best places to locate bands and musicians who were faithful to many musical styles that had been neglected, discarded or modified beyond recognition from their halcyon days. Continue reading “The Dancehall Racketeers – Western Swing in Australia”

Playing Bluegrass in the USA – is it like bringing sand to the beach?

BGP at Bean Blossom 2014

Once you’ve been playing bluegrass a while it is almost a given to be on every non-American’s bucket list to visit the US and play there. Just as certain, however, is answering questions about whether it’s a case of bringing sand to the beach.

With Bluegrass Parkway, we have made three band tours there. In 2005, 2009 and 2014 and all three trips left us with unforgettable experiences. We go there not in some misguided attempt to conquer, but to be inspired, soak up the culture and buy a cool instrument (or two). Continue reading “Playing Bluegrass in the USA – is it like bringing sand to the beach?”

50th National Folk Festival

The Baylor Brothers at the National Folk Festival 2011This year the National Folk Festival will be celebrating its 50th festival and I thought it might be a good time to reflect on such an important and often overlooked cultural event.

The National, the NFF, or simply ‘the folkie’ as it is often called has played a very significant role in my life – I’m about to perform at my 22nd one in a row and my 23rd overall, but it was the first one I attended as a teenager that really inspired me and helped to define the kind of life I was going to lead. Continue reading “50th National Folk Festival”