Categories
Bluegrass Music

Bluegrass Breakfast … Sort Of.

Well all right! I finally have something to gripe about that is bluegrass related.

A few months back, WSM 650-AM out of Nashville (www.wsmonline.com) started broadcasting a program at 5:00 am Central Time weekdays called “Bluegrass Breakfast.” Now, being in the Detroit area, that is 6:00 am, and I can usually get a good signal of the station on my AM radio driving to work (ever since I was a little kid, I’ve loved tuning in far away stations on the AM radio at night). OK, so it’s really only about 20 minutes of music, due to commercials and the news at the top of the hour. But at least it’s good bluegrass music in the morning, sort of like the old Tom T. Hall song, “Bill Monroe for Breakfast.”

Well, not exactly.

Maybe one song every two or three shows will be a classic bluegrass cut from the likes of Monroe, the Stanley Brothers or Flatt & Scruggs. Most of the songs are of the modern variety, which you would think is at least bluegrass in sound, content, and/or structure. However, you would be wrong. Whoever is programming that half hour has little knowledge or concern about what music is going over the airwaves. There is vary little variety in the playlist, and no one at the station seems to give a squat. For example, at least three times during the week, one will hear “Gone Gone Gone” by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant. Sure, Alison started out as a bluegrass performer, but she has branched out over the past decade, and this song (which won a Grammy for Best Pop Performance) is hardly bluegrass. If you aren’t familiar with the song, here’s the YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YVRxAX6fwg

Another song on “Repeat” throughout the week is “County Line” by Steel Blossoms. I like the song, it’s a good song, with some great visual lyrics. However, with the electric slide guitar dominating the sound, it’s hardly bluegrass. Again, here’s the YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PyIhVyAtCY . This sort of tells me that someone at the station knows someone involved with the band and is getting them airplay when they can’t get it during the country-music hours.

These are just two recent examples that I have come across. Honestly, I have never heard either of these songs on any other radio or streaming bluegrass program, Considering that there are thousands of quality bluegrass songs out there that the bluegrass audience would appreciate more, you would think that someone involved with the programming would get his/her head out of the proverbial butt and make it look like he/she knows what he/she is doing! For Pete’s sake, it’s only about 20 minutes of programming! One would think that SOMEONE could handle six or seven songs that fit the bill each day.

I was moved enough to write the station a few days ago to file a complaint regarding the choice of music and lack of variety. I did receive an email back stating that WSM received my email and is forwarding it to the program director. Knowing haw crazy radio stations work these day, they will probably cancel the program rather than change up one or two songs.

Does this bug anyone else? Has anyone listened to the program? Tune in at 650 AM in the morning or online. Let me know. Chew on it and comment.

By Matt Merta/Mitch Matthews

Musician and writer (both song and print) for over 30 years. Primarily interested in roots music (Americana, bluegrass, blues, folk). Current contributing writer for Fiddler Magazine, previous work with Metro Times (Detroit), Ann Arbor Paper and Real Detroit Weekly, as well as other various music and military publications. As songwriter, won the 2015 Chris Austin Songwriting Contest (Bluegrass Category, "Something About A Train," co-written with Dawn Kenney and David Morris) as well as having work performed on NPR and nominated for numerous Detroit Music Awards.

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