Americana Music Bluegrass Music

Book Review: Bluegrass Word Book / AmericanaFest

The next few weeks of blogs will be erratic in posting and size. I started a new job this week, and it has been controlling my time for the most part. Hopefully things will regulate soon.

So I picked up a copy of Slim Richey’s Bluegrass Word Book, edited by A. Stricklin (Ridge Runner Publications). I wanted to go over some of the pros and cons of this book to see if it is of some interest to beginning bluegrass players.

For $6.95 cover price, there is a lot of information within the pages. There are 294 songs listed. However, they are squeezed into 50 pages, so with five or six songs per page, the type is very small and hard to read. It looks as if it was cut and pasted the old-fashioned way, because the font changes a number of times. It is copyrighted 1977, so it most likely was physically cut and pasted onto sheets, then photocopied in place and printed by the printer.

The page numeration is completely off. The standardized way to number pages is odd numbers on the right-hand side, the even-numbered pages to the left. This book is reversed, and the table of contents is on the back cover, which is also printed small and hard to read. Extremely confusing to follow.

As far as song selection, this is a plus. Most bluegrass standards are here, along with some country standards and many gospel songs that fit into the bluegrass vein. Lots of selections from the catalogues of Bill Monroe, Reno & Smiley, Jimmy Martin, and Flatt & Scruggs. In addition, there is a load of public domain traditional songs that constantly come up in bluegrass and old-time jam sessions.

The book only contains lyrics and some chord charts. This can be helpful to basic players, especially bassists, but many of the songs are listed in keys that are not normally used. Thank goodness for capos! There are also a few songs with questionable chord changes.

In short, this is a decent quick-reference book for lyrics of the most popular bluegrass jam songs. Other than that, because of the small print, screw-up of the page numbers, and occasional strange chord changes, it should probably be passed on by more veteran bluegrass jammers. There are two more volume additions to this book, but I will probably not consider them. Sorry.

Good News! The AmericanaFest in Nashville is on for September 22-25! Last year’s cancellation of the live event due to the pandemic forced the Americana Music Association to go virtual on the web (like so many other conferences). I wasn’t too thrilled about the virtual seminars, attended a few, but did not walk away feeling better about the experience. I am sure that there will be many restrictions in place, but as I have been attending as a volunteer or participant for the past 20 years, getting back to seeing live shows and networking face-to-face (even if they are masked) will be truly welcomed. Go to for more details.

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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