July 2010

George Pegram: A Rounder's First

Deciphering Americana occasionally gets bogged down by the fact that people seek out whatever gets deemed authentic. Of course, the difference in one’s ability to play banjo has nothing to do with whether or not one was properly trained, or if the instrument was picked up over time and learned by watching and listening intently. There is a visceral manner of performance that some simply can’t capture, but that again might be as prevalent in music classes as it is in informal jams.

George Pegram, though, is generally viewed as an authentic banjo player – whatever that means. More importantly, he most likely perceived himself to be an American and attempted to relate that through his performances and the works he choose from this country’s song book.

Cooking Country: Bluegrass, Out of Academia

It’s interesting to land upon a group that birthed the careers of two pretty well known players, but remains relatively unknown. Not that Country Cooking is either the greatest thing you’ve ever heard or the worst. It’s a really solid band able to mix rough hewn tempos and a sense of Appalachian otherworldliness while referencing the most progressive of progressive of bluegrass music.

Comprising Tony Trishka and Russ Barenberg, two eventual stalwarts of the Americana genre, Country Cooking arose from the meeting of college students during the late sixties. Of course, the music the band choose to investigate had very little to do with academia, it’d be difficult to differentiate between this ensemble and one from Kentucky.

Stars of the Grand Ol' Opry: Jim & Jesse and Flatt & Scruggs

It’s odd to think that more than any other genre, country and bluegrass have offered up stars in pairs or in the configuration of a family. The Carter Family ostensibly laid the foundation, and the songbook, for subsequent generations. And while Bill Monroe made his name fronting a band, it was his earlier work with his brothers that allowed for his following success. In that band, the Foggy Mountain Boys, he fronted though, was a guitarist and fiddler that would leave his employ and gain a wider renown than even Monroe.

Darol Anger and Mike Marshall: The Bluegrass Duo

Everything about the David Grisman Quartet is related back to jazz music – even the bluegrass the group plays is indebted to that other American art form. Counting innumerable sidemen over time, each making a unique contribution to the ensemble and subsequently having solo recording careers of their own cements the tie between the DGQ functioning like group’s sporting horn players out front.

But what of those folks who’ve moved through the ranks of David Grisman’s ensemble?

Two – well these two, at least – continued on in solo capacity, but also shared the recording studio a few times.