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Bluegrass | Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Bluegrass music is characterized by its high energy, fast tempo sound and a high-pitched singing style called the "high, lonesome sound." The genre combines American southern string band music, blues, English, Irish, and Scottish traditions, and sacred and country music. Bluegrass music became popular after World War II, but its roots date back to the 1930s. Named after Bill Monroe's legendary band The Blue Grass Boys, its songs often reflect issues important to everyday people. Religion is frequently a prominent theme, and gospel music has influenced the development of the bluegrass sound. The typical bluegrass band includes 5-string banjo, flat-top guitar, fiddle, mandolin, and bass. The instruments are traditionally acoustic with the guitar and bass carrying the downbeat and providing the rhythmic foundation. The Folkways collection contains some of the most influential early American bluegrass recordings and features such giants as Red Allen and Frank Wakefield, Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, the Stanley Brothers, and The Country Gentlemen. Listen here to these influential artists and experience this dynamic American roots tradition.