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Friday, July 19, 2013

Alan Jackson Going Bluegrass

Written by Kyle Slagley

Just a couple days ago, I had a mild “geek-out” moment – or, at least, as much as a man will admit to geeking out over country music. This, however, is no ordinary country music – no sir, this is the very first bluegrass album by country music legend Alan Jackson.

The album is simply and appropriately titled The Bluegrass Album and includes eight original songs written specifically for the project. Also included are covers of three bluegrass staples: “There Is a Time,” “Wild and Blue,” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky.”

As an unabashed fan of good bluegrass music, I’m sure you can imagine how excited I am about hearing this album. Combining one of the greatest country music artists of the generation with arguably the most quintessentially American music genre promises to deliver some exceptional music. The album doesn’t drop until September 24, so until then, here are my favourite bluegrass artists to keep you going.

Nickel Creek – This group is my absolute favourite in the genre, hands down. Made up of guitarist Sean Watkins, his sister Sara Watkins on fiddle, and Chris Thile on mandolin and banjo, this group has all but perfected the art of storytelling through song. To get the full picture of their skill, check out their greatest hits album titled Reasons Why.

Though the band announced an indefinite hiatus in 2006, all three have gone on to either solo careers or other projects. Sara Watkins and Chris Thile both went on to find success in solo careers. Getting away from pure bluegrass, Sean Watkins joined with Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman to form Fiction Family – a band officially billed as alt rock, but with a definite folk influence. Finally, after his successful solo album, Chris Thile stuck to his bluegrass-mandolin roots and formed the Punch Brothers.

Alison Krauss – Whether she’s performing solo, with the band Union Station, or partnering with a whole slew of fellow artists, Krauss has been a power in the music industry since she cut her first album in the 1987 at age 16. When she made it big in the mid ‘90s, she was almost singlehandedly responsible for bringing the bluegrass genre to an entirely new audience. I would begin with her breakout album Now That I’ve Found You, and then move on to the Live album.

The Wailin’ Jennys – These Canadian ladies dance the line between bluegrass and traditional folk with voices that will take you to a cabin in the holler. In a single album you’ll hear original tunes, a sea shanty, a traditional drinking song, and a Celtic ballad. They are regulars on NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion, and their live album showcases just how beautiful and hauntingly their voices blend.

Did I miss an artist or band? Let me know in the comments.

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