Variety within a Genre

I’ve been to bluegrass jams in various parts of the country over the years. It seems that although they all share the same basic concept, there is a lot of variety. The first one was in a “Ruritan” in rural Virginia several years ago. The musicians all sat in a big circle, and I wasn’t able to perceive that anyone was “in charge.” Very few of the songs involved any singing. The songs were mostly old-timey songs that I had heard in a number of old recordings and books of songs. Another was a gospel sing-along in a church near Shenandoah National Park. The one that had that most skilled musicians was one that I joined in on at the Station Inn in Nashville. The other guitar-players there were so good that I truly felt out of place. As we were preparing to come down here to Sarasota for a few days, I did a google search to see if there were any bluegrass jams going on in this area while we were going to be here. I found that on Thursday evenings there is a regular jam at a nearby park. This appeared to be an outdoor event, as near as I could tell.

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So, Thursday evening we packed everyone up, with lawn chairs, jackets, and blankets, and we set out to see what this was all about. My parents had never been to a bluegrass jam before, so I had to prepare them by explaining what they could expect. Well, what we found was mostly what I had told them to expect, but with a few new twists. When we first arrived, the bass-player came right over and invited me to step up to the mic to sing a song whenever I wanted. Well, that was different. It was also very welcoming. I chose not to do so, but I easily could have. It turned out that every song was led by someone who stepped up and sang. There were mostly guitars, with a couple of mandos and a couple of dobros, one banjo, along with the one bass-player. I was surprised that there were no fiddle players. There was a wide variety of songs, as you would expect, given the way things were organized. One fellow stepped up and led the song, “Has Anybody Seen my Girl?” Now that’s just about as far from bluegrass as you can get, but everyone seemed to enjoy it. Not many people played along, because of the unusual chord progression, 🙂 but they enjoyed it anyway. None of the musicians was at a caliber that made me stand in awe.

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We stayed from about 7:00 to about 8:30 when my family informed me that they were freezing. I guess when you’re used to Florida weather, an evening temperature of 57° (not kidding) is considered “freezing.” Well, not wanting to torture them, I agreed to pack it up and head back.

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