A Quick and Useless History of Bluegrass

In the world of country/bluegrass, there was a time when Bill Monroe’s music was new and radical:

Then it started to sound typical. Then bands like The Country Gentlemen came along and, while they pay homage to bluegrass roots, were the new radical:

Bands like the Seldom Scene took it further (they had John Duffey in common):

Today, Seldom Scene kinda just sounds like “traditional bluegrass,” especially if you don’t listen to a lot of this stuff. I’d say the next major stretching of genre was bands like Yonder Mountain String Band who do some pretty out-there stuff but in most of their songs generally still sound like a bluegrass band.

Unless you are specifically trying to replicate it, I’m not sure there is “bluegrass” anymore. Bands like IIIrd Tyme Out are super good but are specifically trying to hang on to a sound of bluegrass from a time gone by.

Trampled by Turtles is similar:

Only time will tell, but I think the “right now” times will be looked at in the future as being defined by bands like the Punch Brothers:


  1. Matt says:

    Nice summary there of a history of bluegrass using a few snippets of music. I really cannot claim to know anything about bluegrass at all, but having heard the Punch Bros snippet the main thing that to me defined the era as opposed to what Seldom Scene were doing was the singers voice which is similar to a lot of, “The (insert rest of band name here)” style of singing at moment as well as the use of modern production techniques of course.

  2. Josh Green says:

    Hey Chris I found this really nice Banjo song and I was wondering, firstly if this was kinda like the stuff you play and secondly is this proper Bluegrass? Here is the Youtube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0myIB1Fh6Ts