Comments: "I Wonder Where You Are Tonight"

Well, "Uncle Pen," a signature Monroe tune, is only sad if you consider nostalgia sad. Certainly there's an element of sadness to nostalgia, but there's also an element of celebration. And the gospel bluegrass, for which Monroe was also well known, is also flat out celebratory on many occasions.

Not to take issue with the master, using his own tunes as evidence no less, perhaps he's merely referring to the incorporation of the blues scale into bluegrass, in which case he's correct.

Posted by Rojo at December 30, 2008 11:17 PM

Speaking of Monroe, it's about time for a new verse to "White House Blues," wouldn't you say?

Posted by Rojo at December 30, 2008 11:20 PM

Not to belabor, but your post reawakened my love of bluegrass and related for the moment (I've been obsessing on Jamaican music lately and American soul before that).

Sadness personified was the singing of Carter Stanley. I don't think I've ever heard a more consistently mournful voice.

I say "and related" because the Stanley Bros., with much justification, always insisted that their music was not bluegrass.

Posted by Rojo at December 30, 2008 11:28 PM

Very well said, Rojo.

I saw a documentary a long time ago with Bill Monroe and he reminisced about playing the blues all night with a black musician. Sounds corny on the surface but it reminded me of a comment by Nat Hentoff about how music has a way of uniting people with apparently nothing in common. So true.

Posted by Bernard Chazelle at December 31, 2008 12:13 AM

That black musician, as Monroe tells it, was a guitar player named Arthur and it is he to whom Bill Monroe gave credit for the blues notes in bluegrass. Monroe always said that bluegrass (crediting himself for its invention, of course) was an amalgam of the "old-timey" music of his uncle, Pen Vanderveer (see the mention of the song "Uncle Pen" above), and the guitar playing of the otherwise unsung Arthur.

...And to echo your point: I think music was most certainly my first window into other people's souls and, hence, my demand for justice for all of them. For me, it was hip hop and punk rock at first and thereby some of the significant subalterns of North American life, connected, of course, to my own experiences of subaltern-ness.

My music interests have kept expanding and my interests for justice have, thankfully, expanded far beyond that. Although there are obviously some universals at a certain point. I certainly don't need to enjoy Palestinian music to understand dispossession, the horrors of state terror, the joys of solidarity, human love and longing, the wish to control one's own destiny, and other emotional states that I'd long ago learned from my other musical experiences, not to mention just life itself.

Posted by Rojo at December 31, 2008 02:50 AM

The soul singer, James Carr, now that I think of it, easily rivals Carter Stanley for consistent mournfulness.

And with that, I'm hitting the sack, before I start rambling on about other tangential musical topics.

Posted by Rojo at December 31, 2008 03:53 AM

All bluegrass songs aren't sad. What's sad about Wabash Cannonball and Orange Blossom Special?

I could list many more happy songs, but I'll shut up my mug if you fill up my jug with that good ol' mountain dew.

Posted by Paul Avery at December 31, 2008 01:37 PM

My father had all their albums and they were my favorite of his bluegrass groups when I was a little girl, except for the Seldom Scene's Live at the Cellar Door which my sister and I liked for the comedy. Thanks for posting it.

Posted by Anna in PDX at December 31, 2008 06:23 PM


Posted by Bernard Chazelle at December 31, 2008 06:39 PM

You too, BC.

Posted by Save the Oocytes at January 1, 2009 01:25 AM