No Fiddle Bluegrass

I love the fiddle. I bought one this year to see if I could battle my way up to having it be a fun side instrument (I have failed so far). In the old-time music I normally play, fiddles are darn near required. It’s essentially fiddle music with accompaniment. You could argue the clawhammer banjo is a secondary requirement, but old-time can happen without a banjo easier than it can happen without a fiddle.

But with bluegrass, it feels less required to me, despite perhaps most bluegrass bands having one. And upon a little reflection of my own favorite bluegrass bands, they actually tend not to have one.

The Country Gentlemen only sometimes used a fiddle, and when they did, it was called out as something additional, not core, like the record “The Country Gentlemen Featuring Ricky Skaggs on Fiddle“. Seldom Scene very rarely ever had a fiddle. Only now in their late years do they have Rickie Simpkins who plays fiddle, but he’s also the banjo player so I can’t imagine it shows up all that often. Hot Rize had Tim O’Brien who can certainly fiddle but was mostly a mandolin guy with them. Iron Horse has an uncanny ability to do cover songs that are great instead of cheezy (seriously, check out Pickin’ on Modest Mouse, it’s a masterpiece) and do so with a fiddle-less bluegrass ensemble. Those four bands are in my top 10 for sure.

So certainly no hate for the fiddle, quite the opposite, really, but it’s not my favorite in classic bluegrass.


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