BLUEGRASS, NEWGRASS, OLD-TIME, AND AMERICANA MUSIC
BLUEGRASS, NEWGRASS, OLD-TIME, AND AMERICANA MUSIC—BY CRAIG HARRIS—Pelican Publishing 9781455624010. Paperback, 400 pp., 63 b&w photos, $24.95. (Pelican Publishing, 1000 Burmaster St., Gretna, LA 70053, www.pelicanpub.com.)
For many years, we’ve heard the expression “big tent” to connote the wider musical world of traditional music. Some feel that bluegrass encompasses that tent; others think bluegrass is just one of its many stakes. Author and musician Craig Harris has provided a much-needed overview of the big tent, not by answering what is or isn’t bluegrass, newgrass, old-time, or Americana, but by focusing on the musicians and the music. Novel idea, that.
Based on nearly 100 interviews in 2016-2017 of musicians from all genres listed in the title, the book covers the major artists as well as some lesser-known, but important ones. Harris has taken the interviews (and photographs he’s shot of these artists over many years) and melded them into a narrative that, though it can be dense with information at times, makes for a fascinating work. Reading it straight through, the accumulation of stories provides a sort of answer to how all the styles have fed one another through the years. The book can also be read, however, by diving into different chapters at your pleasure. A solid index and introductory chapter are helpful.
It’s clear that a tremendous amount of work and care went into the writing and production, and though we’re still waiting for a book that provides an overall historical narrative of the big tent, this is a valuable and comprehensive work that’s well worth reading both as an introduction for those new to the worlds of traditional music and for those already well acquainted.CVS