Top 10 Bluegrass Albums of 2010

Staff | December 29th, 2010

top-bluegrass-2010

2010 has been an excellent year for bluegrass music. Whether your taste in bluegrass is traditional, progressive, or somewhere in between, you probably ended the year with an extensive playlist of new favorites. Here are our favorite bluegrass albums of the past year. Stylistically, these records are all over the spectrum. There are the usual suspects—The Grascals, Dailey & Vincent, the other Vincent—and a couple newcomers on the countdown, too.

With albums from the Gibson Brothers, Sierra Hull & Highway 111, Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers, and Sarah Jarosz slated for release, the first half of 2011 is looking good for bluegrass fans. But until then, give the following albums another spin or two.

10. Quicksand, Randy Kohrs
9. Things That Fly , The Infamous Stringdusters
8. Sing the Statler Brothers, Dailey & Vincent
7. Antifogmatic, Punch Brothers
6. Cherryholmes IV: Common Threads, Cherryholmes
5. The Famous Lefty Flynn’s, The Grascals
4. Taken, Rhonda Vincent
3. Homecoming, Joe Diffie
2. Reckless, The SteelDrivers
1. Up on the Ridge, Dierks Bentley

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  1. Rick
    December 29, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    The Stringdusters are going to be at LA’s Mint Club on January 19th, so I just might have to mosey on by. Los Angeles is not exactly a hotbed of bluegrass music in any form…

    I think “My Kind of Country”‘s Occasional Hope will disagree about the lack of inclusion of the Ken Mellons album “Rural Route”.

    I can’t wait to read what our resident bluegrass expert Jon thinks about the merit of this list? They all have one thing in common though as I don’t own any of them and probably never will. I hit my “bluegrass saturation” limit quite quickly.

  2. Barry Mazor
    December 29, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I’d say that the odds are good that you’ll take to the Stringdusters live whatever your bluegrass limit, Rick..

  3. Jim Malec
    December 29, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    This is a solid list, but I generally disagree with the classification of Up On The Ridge as Bluegrass, if only for the reason that Bentley himself has stopped short of calling it a bluegrass album.

    I’d be interested in hearing whether or not there was any debate among staffers about its inclusion on this list.

  4. plain_jo
    December 29, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Nice Graphics!

  5. Baron Lane
    December 29, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    I agree that 2010 was a great year for Bluegrass, unfortunately you missed some of the best. Fox Hunt and Trampled By Turtles were a couple of the best Bluegrass/Americana albums of the year.

    And though I do applaud Dierks Bentley for taking a risk, for a Nashville star, his bluegrass album was pretty safe.

  6. Thomas
    December 29, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    …damn jim, with your comment you seem to have caused a major mental tug of war at the resident blue grass expert’s. now, he can’t make up his mind, whether to have a go at you or the list first.

  7. Ronna
    December 29, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    I applaud and whole-heartedly agree with Dierks Bentley’s album placing at #1. Considering it held the #1 spot on the bluegrass charts nearly every week consecutively since it’s June 2010 release and produced 3 CMA and 3 Grammy nominations, I’d say that’s plenty of validation.

    While it’s true Dierks himself stops just short of calling it Bluegrass, it was definitely not a “safe” project. Musical and lyrical diversity shines throughout and pushes boundaries he’s never attempted before. The instrumentation alone screams bluegrass, and in my opinion, his vocals have never been better.

  8. Jim Malec
    December 29, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Does the fact that something has some degree of bluegrassy instrumentation make it bluegrass, if the artist doesn’t want it defined strictly as bluegrass?

  9. Barry Mazor
    December 29, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    If it sells and it could be called bluegrass by somebody, Bluegrass tends to say “Sure it is.” (There was next to zero actual bluegrass in the “O Brother” soundtrack, for example, but people kept saying her was, so bluegrass was exploding!)

    That’s far from dumb commercially, and doesn’t, finally,modify definitions for anybody who cares about them. For whatever reason they happen to.

  10. Jim Malec
    December 29, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    This is really where I’m going: I think it’s unfortunate that so many excellent country albums now get classified as bluegrass or Americana, leaving the phrase “country music” to define only a narrow band of commercially-oriented, mainstream music.

    I never hear people describe Elizabeth Cook’s Welder as a country album, even though it most certainly is. And I think that’s a shame, because it would be healthy for country music as a whole if people thought of some of these left-of-center releases as actually being “country.”

  11. Barry Mazor
    December 29, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    In effect, Jim M, Americana was developed precisely because acts like you’re describing were disowned.I’ve known Ms. Cook a long time, and as she once out it, “I didn’t mean to be alt anything. I meant to be a star.” But so it goes. So far!

  12. Razor X
    December 29, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    I’ve only heard albums 1 through 4 and number 8, but I agree wholeheartedly with the inclusion of all of them on the list.

  13. Ken Morton, Jr.
    December 29, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    Jim, I had a conversation with a mid-major city country station manager when this album came out and he almost dismissed it out-of-hand because it was tied to bluegrass. It was before he even listened to it. Do you think Dierks’ reluctance to classify it as bluegrass is somewhat (artist and label) self-preservation with radio stations that are lukewarm to playing anything but the commercially-oriented mainstream music?

  14. Jim Malec
    December 29, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    Yes, Ken. I think that’s probably very true.
    But I also genuinely believe that the album seems out of place compared with the rest of the albums on this list.

    I don’t mean that as a criticism of the album or the list.

  15. Leeann Ward
    December 29, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    I’d put it on both lists if I were to make both lists. It’s at the top of my personal country list. Oddly, I don’t know if I’d put it at the top of my own bluegrass list though. I was surprised to see it here, but I can certainly see the argument for the placement based on Ronna’s first paragraph.

  16. Rick
    December 29, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    Where is Jon W. to define what is truly “bluegrass”, and whether the Dierks album is bluegrass or not, when we really need him! Help!

    I consider “Up On The Ridge” a real left field ringer on this list and insist it be replaced by the Ken Mellons album immediately! (lol)

  17. Jon
    December 29, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    Rick, I feel pretty much the same way about bluegrass that I do about country – if it’s produced, marketed and consumed as bluegrass, there’s not much reason to call it anything else.

    Regrettably, Jim has an ax to grind, and he’s so intent on getting that done that he’s willing to use that ax to do violence to reality on the way to the grindstone.

    He starts off by saying that he thinks Up On The Ridge shouldn’t be on a list of top bluegrass albums “if only for the reason that Bentley himself has stopped short of calling it a bluegrass album.” Aside from the fact that this is a somewhat dubious claim, it would also serve to eliminate, by my count, AT LEAST 1/3 of the other 9 albums, none of which are called bluegrass albums by the artists who made them. Jamie and Darrin don’t call their Statler Brothers tribute “bluegrass”; the Punch Brothers (to whom I’ll come back) don’t call Antifogmatic “bluegrass”; and the Stringdusters don’t call Things That Fly “bluegrass.” The SteelDrivers also resist the term, and probably Cherryholmes would, too; I’ll leave it to Randy to speak for himself, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he thought that it wasn’t really the right word to use for his record, either. But Jim doesn’t know and/or doesn’t care about that; all he cares is that Dierks “stops short” of calling his album a bluegrass album, and on that basis he thinks that Dierks’ album -and Dierks’ album alone -should be stricken from the list.

    Then he digs himself in even deeper by baldly stating “the album seems out of place compared with the rest of the albums on this list.”

    Really, Jim? REALLY? You think that Up On The Ridge is more different from the other albums on the list than is Antifogmatic? Because I will bet money – Barry can hold the stakes – that for every member of the IBMA who would identify Up On The Ridge as the least bluegrass-y album on the list, 100 would identify Antifogmatic as that, including every one of the musicians on every one of those 10 albums. The most traditional bluegrass number on the latter isn’t nearly as bluegrass-y as the least traditional bluegrass number on the former.

    Jim asks, “Does the fact that something has some degree of bluegrassy instrumentation make it bluegrass, if the artist doesn’t want it defined strictly as bluegrass?” But that question is far more appropriately directed at anyone – Jim included – who would call Antifogmatic a bluegrass album. And don’t get me wrong; I love the guys and love the album. But bluegrass it’s not, and Chris, Noam and the rest have said in terms far more decisive and strenuous than anything Bentley’s said with respect to distinguishing Up On The Ridge from a normative bluegrass album.

    For those who want to dig into the guts of the matter – that is, of how Dierks and his producer see the album – let me point again to Larry Nager’s excellent story in the current issue of Bluegrass Unlimited, available here: http://www.bluegrassmusic.com . For those who don’t, let me point out that the word “strictly” in Jim’s question is a key one. Here’s a quote from Bentley:

    “Having Jon Randall, he’s the reason why it really opened itself up to being like totally bluegrass, but also with country elements and everything else.”

    Dierks, Jon Randall, and legions of bluegrass fans, music journalists and just plain folks manage to get that – “totally bluegrass, but also with country elements and everything else.” But not Jim.

    Now, what point is Jim so intent on making that he’s willing to abuse the facts in such a cavalier manner? Why, it’s simply this: just like the mainstream radio folks he professes to criticize, Jim believes that if an album is called a bluegrass album, it can’t be called a country album. The notion that bluegrass might be a kind of country music – a notion backed by 60+ years of history, by bluegrass and country music scholars alike, by the Grand Ole Opry, by the Country Music Hall of Fame, by the Country Music Association (which somehow, despite the fact that “people” have been calling Up On The Ridge a bluegrass album, nevertheless nominated it for the CMA’s Album of the Year award) and by thousands of musicians and millions of fans – has either escaped Jim or else been rejected by him. His concern is that if you call bluegrass “bluegrass,” then you can’t call it country – and in raising that concern, he slavishly echoes every nincompoop mainstream country PD or MD who’s said exactly that with respect to Up On The Ridge, and “Man Of Constant Sorrow” and a long line of bluegrass songs stretching back over decades. All because he lacks the historical vision to recognize what is plain as day to the rest of us: bluegrass is a form of country music, and by and large, to call an album a bluegrass album is to call it a country album.

    Now, as far as the list goes, I don’t see much reason to quibble over it. Lots of good music thereon, even if it doesn’t all fit my notion of what bluegrass is. Rather than pick at it, let me offer up an off-the-top-of-my-head assortment of 2010 releases not already mentioned that have given a lot of bluegrass fans, myself included, a lot of enjoyment:

    The Boxcars, The Boxcars (Mountain Home)
    Junior Sisk & Rambler’s Choice, Heartaches & Dreams (Rebel)
    James Alan Shelton, Where I’m Bound (Sheltone)
    Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers, Rambler’s Call (Rebel)
    Donna Hughes, Hellos Goodbyes & Butterflies (Rounder)
    J. D. Crowe, Doyle Lawson, Paul Williams, Old Friends Get Together (Crossroads)
    Lonesome River Band, Still Learning
    Larry Stephenson, 20th Anniversary (Whysper Dream)
    Josh Williams, Down Home (Pinecastle)

    There are certainly more that could be named – for one thing, I’ve left off a couple of fine albums because I have songs on them ;-) – but that’ll do for now.

    Lastly, Rick, I’ll second what Barry said – go see the Stringdusters. You won’t be sorry.

  18. Jim Malec
    December 29, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    I thought Bentley stopped short of calling Up On The Ridge a bluegrass album. If I was mistaken, a simple correction would suffice.

    I still think the album is the oddball of the list–and yes, more odd than Antifogmatic. I hear one as an experimental bluegrass album and the other as an album that blends bluegrass and acoustic country music. But, I’m no expert in bluegrass, nor have I ever professed to be. Maybe my ears are wrong. That’s just what I hear.

    The purpose of my comment was not to grind an ax or misrepresent Bentley’s view of his music, and for the record, I definitely do think bluegrass is a form of country music. I don’t believe I ever stated otherwise. And I definitely didn’t state or even imply that I believe the terms are mutually exclusive.

    I do think that if a publication is going to publish a list of “best bluegrass albums” and “best country albums,” there’s bound to be some kind of line between the two categories. Maybe Up On The Ridge straddles that line and deserves to be on both lists–I was just curious about The 9513 staff’s opinion on that subject.

  19. luckyoldsun
    December 29, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    Bentley probably wants Up On The Ridge to be considered a bluegrass album for a couple of reasons. (1) to sell to the bluegrass market; (2) If the sales are only so-so or disappointing, it won’t “count” against him as a country star–people will view the album with an asterisk, as his one-shot foray into non-commercial territory.

  20. Jon
    December 29, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    I still think the album is the oddball of the list–and yes, more odd than Antifogmatic. I hear one as an experimental bluegrass album and the other as an album that blends bluegrass and acoustic country music. But, I’m no expert in bluegrass, nor have I ever professed to be. Maybe my ears are wrong. That’s just what I hear.

    Leaving aside the fact that “experimental bluegrass” is pretty much nonsensical, one doesn’t have to be an expert in anything at all to hear that Up On The Ridge’s tracks have much more in common with other projects in that list in easily discernible terms (song structure, vocal characteristics, arrangements, harmonies, instrumentation, rhythms, influences, subject matter, etc.) than do Antifogmatic’s; one simply needs a rudimentary understanding of how to analyze music. You’d be better off admitting that you haven’t actually listened to the latter – at least, not for a good long while.

  21. Jon
    December 29, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    @Luckyoldsun. And your speculation is based on…?

  22. Leeann Ward
    December 29, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    Luckyoldsun…always the cynic.

  23. Jim Malec
    December 29, 2010 at 10:39 pm

    Why is “experimental bluegrass” nonsensical?

  24. Leeann Ward
    December 29, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    Jon, isn’t it possible that you two just hear the album differently, therefore, draw different conclusions?

  25. Noeller
    December 29, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    ha ha — this has been a pretty good back and forth between Jim and Jon.

    Y’all can have your debate, but all’s I knows is, that Dierks disc is probably my favourite from the past year, front to back.

  26. luckyoldsun
    December 30, 2010 at 12:04 am

    Jon–
    Based on common sense–and the fact that he seems to have fostered some controversy over how to classify the album.

    Chesney did something similar a few years ago when he talked down one of his albums as just being a personal project that was not meant to be commercial. Something about a blue chair. He was so hot at the time that I think the album still wound up being a huge seller.

    Of course, Garth topped everyone by assuming an entirely new identity for his “experimental” album–and claiming that it waa actually the soundtrack for a movie. About a lamb.

  27. Barry Mazor
    December 30, 2010 at 2:32 am

    The difference between the Chesney and Garth projects referred to and Dierks’ record is that Dierks has a credible history with bluegrass, and especially with bluegrass musicians. You could, btw, find Flatt & Scruggs recordings playing in his car–and on his first, little-heard independent CD, the vocals show some noticeable Lester Flatt influence. His photo does not hang at the Station Inn for nothing. Some of this comes up on his current stand as a weekly DJ on WSM radio, too..

    And given that tendency in today’s chart country people have been noting here to stick with youth, and to “forget” artists so easily, there’s reason to see the Dierks record not just as a one-off novelty, but as a step in a direction he may find useful for his own career longevity and actual interests in the longer run.

    (How gingerly that step’s been taken or how daring is, I guess, what this discussion has been about.)

  28. Jon
    December 30, 2010 at 7:33 am

    @luckyoldsun. There’s nothing of common sense in that. There’s just idle, uninformed cynicism, which isn’t the same thing at all.

    @Leeann. I find it hard to believe that Jim is that insensitive to such basic aspects of music. Even in his own terms – a blend of bluegrass and acoustic country – Up On The Ridge is closer to Jamie & Darrin’s, Rhonda’s, Diffie’s and the Grascals albums than Antifogmatic is. That’s why I say he’d be better off admitting that he hasn’t listened to the latter – at least not recently, if ever.

    @Jim. Because the concept of “experimental music” is nonsensical – at least with respect to recordings and at least with respect to musical approaches engaged in over a period of years – and bluegrass is a kind of music.

  29. Jim Malec
    December 30, 2010 at 8:51 am

    Are you saying that the term “experimental [genre]” doesn’t exist, or just that I’ve applied it incorrectly?

  30. Pierce
    December 30, 2010 at 9:19 am

    I’m not sure why there’s such a push to categorize and box music up. I think “country music” can serve as that large umbrella and here at The 9513, we definitely give a voice to all the inhabitants of the country music world.

    I’m not sure if I could dig up a post, but I remember Brady and/or Brody writing a description of the name “The 9513.” 9513 was the address of their grandmother’s house, and that was a place where everybody was welcome.

    I see no reason to slice and dice music. Can it be country and bluegrass AND Americana? Sure. In fact, some of the best artists are those versatile enough to interpret different styles of music.

    Should we not include Randy Houser because “Somewhere South of Memphis” is pure blues, while other songs have strong Southern Rock roots? I don’t think so.

    I’m glad that our overall lists reflect different styles. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see some albums listed as bluegrass on our overall list, as well.

  31. Carrie
    December 30, 2010 at 9:24 am

    Quite honestly, when I heard music from Up on the Ridge for the first time (albeit live in concert with the Travelin’ McCourys), it didn’t SCREAM bluegrass to me. Yes, the instrumentation was there, but I didn’t find it to be overtly bluegrass. Once I had gotten my hands on the CD, I still felt the same way, and came to the conclusion that Up on the Ridge really straddles the line between solid Bluegrass and … straight-up Traditional Country. To my ears, it’s one of the most honest-to-God country albums that country music has seen in a few years, and it was more or less a saving grace for me, as well.

    I know that Dierks is in the studio again and I’m very curious to see what direction he’ll go in for this new project. I’m hoping that he keeps the bluegrass influence alive (he does have a fiddle in his band now), and is able to create music that hearkens back to his independent debut and self-titled major-label debut.

    But, in short, do I believe Up on the Ridge deserves a spot on the Bluegrass Albums list? Absolutely. And I believe it belongs on the Country list, too.

  32. Jon
    December 30, 2010 at 9:39 am

    @Jim Why would you read “nonsensical” as “non-existent?”

  33. Jim Malec
    December 30, 2010 at 9:52 am

    I didn’t read it that way; I asked if that’s what you meant. Based on your response, I guess I’ll assume you think I’ve applied it incorrectly.

    I suppose a third option would be that you challenge the legitimacy of the phrase altogether, which, know that I think about it, doesn’t seem all that unlikely.

    @Pierce: I agree wholeheartedly. After all, I did write this:

    Mainstream, Red Dirt, Texas Country, Americana, Bluegrass–whatever your style is, we’ve got it covered. The 9513 is the place where everything with country roots comes together. We work hard to promote and recognize excellent country music (in all of its forms), to be an outlet for new, undiscovered, and independent artists, and to provide a forum for open dialog between musicians and their audience.

    I know that bluegrass is a different community, but the Americana community seems to actively disassociate itself from the term “country music.” And I think that scene is so healthy that it’s quite easy for any country music that doesn’t sound like what’s on country radio to find a home there.

    Maybe I’m naive, but I haven’t lost hope that the umbrella of “mainstream” country music can grow to be more encompassing of roots and acoustic music.

  34. Brady Vercher
    December 30, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Considering that each of the participating staff members independently identified and unanimously ranked Up on the Ridge in their top 10, I didn’t feel there was much of a need to start a discussion on whether or not it’s bluegrass.

    Also, an album’s inclusion here doesn’t exclude it from being considered country; we simply decided to run an extra list to highlight good music that might not have gotten the same attention as other albums on the overall list due to the nature of the ranking method. And as Pierce said, don’t be surprised if a few of these do pop up on the country list.

    ——

    One of my favorite bluegrass releases that hasn’t gotten any mentions was The Boys in Hats and Ties by Big Country Bluegrass. The Joe Mullins, Junior Sisk,and Josh Williams albums all found a place in my Top 10 as well.

  35. Jim Malec
    December 30, 2010 at 10:08 am

    @Brady: Simple answers to simple questions. Thanks :-)

  36. Jon
    December 30, 2010 at 10:46 am

    I didn’t read it that way; I asked if that’s what you meant.

    If I’d meant “non-existent,” that’s what I would have written. I wrote “nonsensical,” which means making no sense – and yes, I think it’s fair to say that an assertion that a concept makes no sense constitutes a challenge to its legitimacy.

    But let’s not get distracted from the main point. When it comes to Antifogmatic, how do you answer your own question:

    “Does the fact that something has some degree of bluegrassy instrumentation make it bluegrass, if the artist doesn’t want it defined strictly as bluegrass?”

    What, in your opinion, makes Antifogmatic any kind of bluegrass at all?

    Maybe I’m naive, but I haven’t lost hope that the umbrella of “mainstream” country music can grow to be more encompassing of roots and acoustic music.

    OK, but exactly how would that process be advanced by striking Up On The Ridge from a list of the year’s best bluegrass albums?

  37. Jon
    December 30, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Brady, another one that I didn’t mention (because I believe it originally came out in 2009 and was then reissued by, uh, Mountain Road? in 2010) is Johnny Williams’ solo project, Last Day Of Galax. If you like the current edition of Big Country Bluegrass, you’d probably really like that one; IMO, Johnny’s the strongest element in BCB.

  38. Saving Country Music
    December 30, 2010 at 11:31 am

    I know that .357 String Band is too obscure to make a list like this, but Trampled By Turtles’ “Palomino” should have.

  39. Jim Malec
    December 30, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Would you tell someone who has written a book about experimental music that their work is nonsensical?

  40. Jon
    December 30, 2010 at 11:51 am

    I dunno, Jim, here’s a radical thought: I’d want to read a book first before commenting on it. But nice evasion.

  41. Jim Malec
    December 30, 2010 at 11:55 am

    You said that you’re willing to challenge the entire concept of experimental music, which you called nonsensical. And, you dismissed my use of the phrase “experimental” out of hand. It sure seems to me like you think any use of them term is nonsensical, and I was just wondering if you think all of the people who work in, write about and study various forms of experimental music are engaging in nonsensical work.

    I definitely agree that you should always read a book before commenting on it, though.

  42. Leeann Ward
    December 30, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Ah…just like old times.

  43. Jon
    December 30, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    I was just wondering if you think all of the people who work in, write about and study various forms of experimental music are engaging in nonsensical work.

    Point me in the direction of some – specific names and works, please – and I’d be happy to look at what it is you think you’re talking about. And in the meantime, perhaps you could address some questions with respect to Antifogmatic, which you – but not its creators – refer to as “experimental bluegrass”:

    “Does the fact that something has some degree of bluegrassy instrumentation make it bluegrass, if the artist doesn’t want it defined strictly as bluegrass?”

    What, in your opinion, makes Antifogmatic any kind of bluegrass at all?

  44. Jim Malec
    December 30, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Why would spend time explaining my opinion about Antifogmatic to someone who has already stated that my opinion is based on a nonsensical concept?

  45. Jon
    December 30, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Well, you’d be showing not only how and why you think the concept of “experimental bluegrass” is NOT nonsensical, but why you applied it to Antifogmatic, and showing what it has in common with the 8 other albums listed that made it more like them than Up On The Ridge is.

    What, in your opinion, makes Antifogmatic any kind of bluegrass at all?

  46. Jim Malec
    December 30, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    If you cared about my opinion on any of that, you should have asked in a more polite and less combative manner. At this point, I’m just completely uninterested in the conversation because I already know that nothing I can say has any merit. You and I both know I’m not going to change your opinion about whether or not “experimental music” is a nonsensical term, and you just want me to explain my opinion so that you can dissect it and attack.

    Maybe someone else will bite, but I just have no interest in this kind of thing any more.

  47. Jon
    December 30, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    “Does the fact that something has some degree of bluegrassy instrumentation make it bluegrass, if the artist doesn’t want it defined strictly as bluegrass?”

    I thunk it’s pretty funny that you won’t answer your own question, Jim.

  48. Jon
    December 30, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    Not to mention all the others that don’t have anything to do with “experimental bluegrass,” like why you think striking Up On The Ridge from a list of top bluegrass albums would help make the commercial country mainstream more open-minded.

  49. Jim Malec
    December 30, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    If I knew the answer, I wouldn’t have asked the question.

    Your second post is a beautiful example of a strawman argument: You restated my position in its most extreme form, as opposed to debating my actual position (which is much more moderate).

  50. Leeann Ward
    December 30, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Btw, I really like the Randy Kohrs album.

  51. Jon
    December 30, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    If I knew the answer, I wouldn’t have asked the question.

    You knew the answer when you were asking it about Bentley’s album; you’d already said it shouldn’t be called a bluegrass album. So why doesn’t that apply to Antifogmatic?

  52. Jon
    December 30, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Randy’s a dandy!

  53. Jim Malec
    December 30, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    I stated that I generally disagreed with the classification of Up On The Ridge as bluegrass, which is a statement of opinion. That’s quite a bit different than what you said that I stated, which is that it “should not be called a bluegrass album.” Just like in the previous example, you took my very moderate statement and subtly changed it so that it appears to express a more extreme position.

    You’re a very talented debater, but I don’t really understand what you’re trying to prove here. Everyone reading this already knows that your knowledge of bluegrass and its history is superior to mine. I suppose that gives your opinion extra weight when we’re discussing matters related to bluegrass, but I’m still entitled to my opinion.

    And, my opinion is that I find Up On The Ridge a more odd fit for this list than Antifogmatic. Maybe in some alternate reality where I actually thought you cared about hearing the reasons for my opinion, I would have shared them with you.

    But I already know that you don’t think I’m being honest, and that you don’t think I have the historical vision to understand what we’re talking about–you’ve stated both of those positions very clearly in this comment thread. And, honestly, I’m just not interested in having a conversation about music with you, given that that’s what you think of me.

  54. Jon
    December 30, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    I stated that I generally disagreed with the classification of Up On The Ridge as bluegrass, which is a statement of opinion. That’s quite a bit different than what you said that I stated, which is that it “should not be called a bluegrass album.”

    No, it’s barely different at all; in fact, that’s a distinction without a difference, especially given that you went on to reaffirm in several different ways your opinion that Up On The Ridge does not belong on a list of bluegrass albums. And every reason that you’ve given for that is bogus. So while you’re certainly entitled to your opinion, I’m equally entitled to argue that it’s a lame one – and it’s telling that, rather than make any effort to defend it in specific musical terms, you prefer dishing up a Rodney Dangerfield impersonation (only minus the comedic factor). This despite the fact that you’ve routinely dealt with country music artists and songwriters more snidely and in harsher terms than any I’ve used here.

    And none of that has to do with historical vision, nor with any knowledge or expertise, historical or otherwise – at least, not any expertise to which you haven’t laid claim as a music critic. It’s all very well to pontificate about your musical acumen and the exalted role of the critic when you’re dealing with people who can’t challenge you with anything more meaningful than “u r so wrong!!!,” but if you can’t dish up any better reasons for your opinions than that yourself, your prospects aren’t very bright.

  55. Jim Malec
    December 30, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Jon, I respect your skill as a debater. What I do not respect is the way you infer things from statements and then restate those inferences as facts in order to strengthen your own argument. I think it’s very deceptive.

    I refuse to defend positions that I didn’t take, or statements that I didn’t make.

    It’s all very well to pontificate about your musical acumen and the exalted role of the critic when you’re dealing with people who can’t challenge you with anything more meaningful than “u r so wrong!!!,” but if you can’t dish up any better reasons for your opinions than that yourself, your prospects aren’t very bright.

    I really wish you’d just get over that. I don’t go around “pontificating about my musical acumen and the exalted role of the critic.” There are a handful of instances–maybe three of four–on which I’ve written casually in blog comments about what I believe the role of the critic to be, and had I known that those comments were going to get thrown back in my face and used as a base from which to criticize my entire body of work I most certainly would have chosen my words more carefully.

    To the last part of your post: I don’t feel any obligation to explain my opinions to you on demand. I “dish up any better reasons for my opinions” than “u r so wrong” every time I write a review and attach my name to it. I refuse to “dish up better reasons for my opinion” in this case for a number of reasons, but the primary one is that you’re an impossible person to argue with. I feel absolutely certain that you will dissect and attack anything I might say about Antifogmatic and the difference between the two albums, and I know for a fact that you don’t respect my opinion enough to actually care what I have to say about any of that. So, I’m just not interested in going down that road. it doesn’t seem like a very productive or interesting conversation to engage in.

    Now, for the love of God can we please move on?

  56. Paul W Dennis
    December 30, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    Jim – I agree with you completely. Jon is a pendant, and an intellectually dishonest one at that, given his frequent selective and edited quotes. Interestingly enough, he appears to be a coward as well, as when you catch him in an error on a thread, he comments no further on that particular thread

    I don’t know personally know Jon, but I know he has had a modicum of success as a songwriter. I buy a lot of bluegrass albums, but when I run across his name as a songwriter on an album, then I skip purchasing the album. It probably only costs Jon two cents worth of royalties per album, but it’s MY two cents worth

  57. luckyoldsun
    December 30, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    I like the idea that there’s an obsessive character out there who will read your posts and analyze and critique them–for free! It’s like having a TA on call. I never would have figured that a real songwriter would do that, but all the better!

  58. Ollie
    January 2, 2011 at 11:50 pm

    Jim- I’m curious. Why do you feel that the Americana community has actively disassociated itself from the term “country music.” My sense is that while many Americana artists are not huge fans of a lot of the music currently being played on top 40 commercial country radio stations, almost all of the Americana artists I can think of (with the possible exception of Ryan Bingham) think of themselves as country artists as the term has historically been defined– in particular, I’m thinking of Americana stalwarts such as Buddy Miller, Jim Lauderdale, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, and numerous others.

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