One of the best parts about spotify is that it affords its users access to a database of quirky musical interests — such as bluegrass covers of popular tunes.
For the next few weeks I will be featuring bluegrass covers of popular music as a way to highlight the fascinating genre of music that, along with Jazz, Blues, and Rap, is the only other truly American art form.
Like Jazz, bluegrass songs travel within the structure of a collective melody while also promoting room for individual expression through instrumental solos. In other words, jazz and bluegrass represent the American Way–the tough balance between community and individuality. Where Jazz tends to resonate with/reflect a more urban environment, bluegrass tends to resonate with/ reflect a more rural environment.
In order to maintain a high standard of musical interaction, I have set forth the following criteria for these posts:
- The selected “covered” song must have been a Billboard Hot 100 song. No one cares if a band covers Justin Timberlake’s Still On My Brain, which never cracked the Billboard Hot 100. HOWEVER, we would love to hear Allison Krauss and Union Station cover Cry Me A River, which peaked at #3 in 2002-2003. For the record, I will check this data using wikipedia.
- The bluegrass band needs to be good. No second rate bluegrass bands need apply. If your 14-year old cousin bought a banjo and filmed himself singing Bon Jovi’s Living On A Prayer, that is nice for his development as a musician. But no one wants to put that cover in their playlist.
- The cover has to be a significant contrast in styles. A bluegrass cover of a country song doesn’t make enough of a distinction to warrant a blog post. The genres of country and bluegrass are basically in the same family. I am more interested in a bluegrass cover of metal music or rap.
- The cover must pass the “I like it better this way” test. A good cover occurs when someone hears a new version of a song and says, “I like it better this way.” While some songs may not cross the threshold, we want songs to be steadily approaching the crossover threshold. This aspect is more difficult to describe. But think about the way that Vanilla Ice took over for David Bowie’s Under Pressure or the way that Garth Brooks stole Mark Chestnut’s Friends in Low Places. You want the song to come close to this crossover appeal.
Stay tuned for the covers as they will be coming in weekly.