People ask me from time to time if there’s one genre of music that I just can’t stomach. My answer is, and I’m being completely honest with you here, nope. I like it all. I can even name a few speed metal songs that have wormed their ways into my brain.
But when I was a teenager, I thought I hated bluegrass. That twangy, banjo pickin’, mandolin strumming nasal countrier-than-country sound just totally turned me off. Or so I thought. In fact, when my rebellious anti-establishment cohorts and I started a punk band in high school, we did some country tunes as a joke.
Funny thing about that now.
The more we made fun of country music by playing it, the more fun we were having, and the more I found I kinda liked it. In fact, when I listen to all of the songs we recorded on a little boombox in the spare bedroom of my boyfriend’s apartment above Chateaulin Restaurant in downtown Ashland (a belated apology to all those Shakespeare Festival attending diners who had to put up with some crazy drumming and bad singing coming from above!!!), it’s the remake of Loretta Lynn’s “Rocky Top” that’s still my favorite 30 years later.
Then in the 80’s I got my first gig at a commercial radio station, at 58 Country in Medford. Yup. Minimum wage spinning Eddie Rabbit, Kathy Mattea and Ferlin Husky 45s on Saturday & Sunday afternoons. It wasn’t a bad gig, although when I was offered a 15 cent an hour raise to do nights at the hard rock station KBOY, I jumped at the chance. I went from Johnny Horton and The Judds to Def Leppard and Guns ‘N Roses, which I thought was a big step up at the time.
Fast forward to a few days ago, as I chatted with my across the street neighbor, Mike, about Lucinda Williams, and how hard it is to classify her music. She is, as my buddy Jon Lewis says, a shot of Louisiana Hot Sauce. Let me go a step further. She’s a chocolate covered cherry dipped in Louisiana Hot Sauce and covered in metal spikes and tiger growls. She’s the ultimate soft & chewy in the center but rough and tuff on the outside. Mike and I were talking about how everyone who used to be punk rock back in the 80’s, like Dave Alvin and John Doe, has now turned to a twangier sound (which they’ve finally come up with a name for…Americana). And then we started talking about our guilty little pleasure….popular rock songs done bluegrass style. He’s a fan of the Austin Lounge Lizards, I’ve got a fondness for Run C&W, which has violated a number of my favorite Motown songs with banjos.
Since I’m no longer afraid to admit that I actually like bluegrass, I’m okay with letting you know that today’s playlist makes me smile, makes me giggle, makes me sing along (in fact my friend/housekeeper Roberta just walked into the room moments ago carrying a toilet brush and asked if we were having Karaoke Thursday at my house because my daughter and I were singing Guns ‘N Roses’ “Paradise City” as done by a bluegrass band at the top of our lungs. It doesn’t get much better than this.