Guest commentary by Tommy Texino, a musician and writer living in Panama. He can be reached at: email@example.com
Hello, it is the traditional Tommy Texino. I don’t like the Grammy awards or any other award show really, but mostly the Grammys where the “Music Industry Salutes Itself”. Why? Well how about the music industry sucks eggs? Or the music industry eats its own? Or how about just the music industry being an industry and Bluegrass being nonindustrial? I like that one.Now I know that receiving a Grammy award is a big deal, but it is also a sure sign that you have played by the rules of the recording industry which is dandy if you are a high gross act like Arrowsmith and want to come up on stage an accept the award with the proper amount a cynicism.I’d like to think that Bluegrass people are not that cynical. The Grammy for the best Bluegrass for the past year went to Jim Lauderdale. The free encyclopedia Wikipedia says: “Jim Lauderdale is a Grammy-winning Americana/country/bluegrass singer and songwriter. He is well-known among music insiders for his many compositions that have been million-sellers as recorded by other performers.” Well, that sort of opens the WIBA (“What Is Bluegrass Anyway?”) door don’t it?
You look back and you will see that the Grammy winners in the BG categories have all been good people and polished performers. Still the kind of stuff that keeps winning sounds, to me at least, a bit too close slick. Now there are times where I have really gone for the kind of production values that result in that in that type of sound. I’m just saying that while I don’t think Bluegrass recording needs to sound like Skillet Licker transcriptions, I don’t think it translates very well in the ultra modern studio and I would much rather go see and hear the current bands while most of my listening pleasure goes to the historic recordings of the 1st generation. Of course I gather the CDs of the new bands as well because I don’t want to lose touch. My choices there, however, tend toward the groups who are self producing, independent, or small label. Sure, some bands will break out and make some money; there’s always room for a few, but what ever Bluegrass is, it is not pop music or alt. country, yet it seems that the bands who engender mainstream acceptance soon start clouding those statements and, to that end, I would be perfectly happy if they pulled BG from the Grammy awards and left it to the IBMA to sort out who was making worthy recordings.
For quite some time, I have been trying to get the idea across that Bluegrass is the music that we play with our neighbors and in the campgrounds around the country during the festival season. The people who play on the festival stages are just an extension of that with a few whiz bang pickers coming up every few years and, of course, the legends in their twilight years who still have so much to teach and have passed down so much already that there are many fine teachers in every field to carry on. So the question begs. How much more does Bluegrass music need? What more should it expect? I say take a good look at what The Grammies and all the other award shows are really saying/selling and then, so far as Bluegrass, run away at a dignified pace.