Categories
Americana Music Bluegrass Music

MerleFest/AmericanaFest/World of Bluegrass

September will prove to be a busy time for roots music, and the losers will be everyone involved.

For years, the AmericanaFest has happened in Nashville during the second full week of September, while the IBMA World of Bluegrass conference/festival takes place during the final week of September/first week of October. For some, it was a bit conflicting, but if one worked his/her vacation schedule right, both could be enjoyed. My previous job screwed me over the last three years I was there, so WOB was a no-go. Add to the fact that WOB was moved from Nashville to Raleigh, NC, which was a strain on driving 14 hours from Detroit, then 14 hours back.

This year, AmericanaFest has been moved to September 21-26, while WOB will be September 28-October 2. The move may be due to the fact that MerleFest, which is usually held in April, has been scheduled this year for September 16-19. So three different major roots-music festivals will be happening three weeks in a row in September. I have also been informed by a good friend in the music business that a popular European music conference is also scheduled during this time.

Now, we all know that last year as well as this Spring have been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of festivals and thousands of concerts were cancelled. That hurt a lot of artists in the pocketbook. Both the AmericanaFest and WOB went virtual last year just to stay in touch with their fan base and business membership. Many artists did the same, hosting mini-concerts on Zoom or Facebook.

MerleFest lost out last year, being cancelled right at the start of the pandemic. This year, while the pandemic has been subsiding, the festival was not feasible for the usual April scheduling. Thus, the promoters and planners decided to schedule it for September. Well, now everyone is screwed.

Many fans enjoyed Merlefest in April, as it divided up the time long enough so that they could attend AmericanaFest and/or WOB in September. With all three festivals following each other in consecutive weeks, most of these fans are going to have to decide which ones to attend. Only the few privileged that are financially secure and can afford the time off, or the retired that have money available, will be able to attend more than one of these events.

I thoroughly enjoy MerleFest, but it is this event that is throwing a monkey wrench into the gears. It could have done what the others did and gone virtual for the year, or could have re-scheduled for dates not so close to AmericanaFest and WOB, perhaps in June or July. MerleFest is in North Carolina, as is WOB. Perhaps it could have been scheduled for early- or mid-October, being able to secure some of the WOB crowd for staying that extra weekend in the area.

As for me, I will only be attending AmericanaFest this year. My new job has limited vacation time available to me for September, and I have attended the conference for over 20 years. I have made numerous friends there, and have served as a volunteer in various capacities for the past 10 years. AmericanaFest already had some competition with a small roots-music festival in Bristol, TN every year, so this just hurts it even more.

The pandemic has screwed over a lot of people, businesses, and organizations financially the past year. This type of self-righteous scheduling only makes it worse.

Chew on it and comment.

Categories
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 http://www.americanamusic.org for more details.

Chew on it and comment.