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.
- The Grass Cats - Let My Love Open The Door Originally done by Pete Townsend
- Run C&W - Walkin' The Dog Originally done by Rufus Thomas and covered by everyone from The Rolling Stones to The Flamin' Groovies and even Green Day. But this has always been my favorite.
- Pickin' On Zeppelin - Dyer Maker My favorite Led Zep song
- John Hartford - Piece Of My Heart Janis Joplin's masterpiece ala banjo
- Doug Dillard Band - Heartbreak Hotel Elvis comes alive in a way you never expected
- IIIrd Tyme Out - Only You One of my favorite 50's doo-wop songs, made popular by The Platters
- Dale Ann Bradley - I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For Recognize this U2 classic?
- Old & In The Way - Wild Horses The Rolling Stones made this famous in 1971
- Austin Lounge Lizards - Brain Damage If Pink Floyd were a person, he'd be rolling over in his grave
- The Charles River Valley Boys - Yellow Submarine Well, to be more accurate, "Yeller Submarine."
- Pickin' On Zeppelin - Going To California
- David Grisman - Hot For Teacher Does anyone here remember when Van Halen played at the Cascade Theatre? I wonder if they did this song. I'm sure it didn't sound like this.
- Iron Horse - Paradise City Yes. I sang this Guns 'N Roses song at the top of my lungs just moments ago, and I'm not ashamed about it.
- Iron Horse - Enter Sandman Metallica's 1991 hit done in a way I'm sure they never thought was possible.
- Iron Horse - One I am actually in a slight state of shock that a bluegrass band found a way to make more than one Metallica song accessible to the world through banjos and mandolins and fiddles, so I've got to give them another slot on today's playlist. Please forgive me.
- New Grass Revival - Great Balls Of Fire This isn't actually all that far off from the kind of music people expected Jerry Lee Lewis to perform instead of his crazy, hair flinging antics. I think he might be a little disappointed to hear his music toned down this way. C'est La Vie.
- The Raconteurs - Old Enough This one is a little different, because it's a Raconteurs song covered bluegrass style by the group that originally did it, but with the addition of Tennessee singer-songwriter Ashley Monroe and bluegrass icon Ricky Skaggs. Gives Jack White a whole new sound. He never ceases to amaze me.
- The Charles River Valley Boys - Norwegian Wood Another great Beatles song
- Moody Bluegrass - Nights In White Satin The entire Moody Blues album has been done in a bluegrass style, and some day you really should make time in your schedule to check the whole thing out start to finish.
- Loretta Lynn - Rocky Top I thought it would be appropriate to end with an authentic bluegrass song by the original gal who inspired me to find an appreciation for this type of music. The very song my punk band covered back in 1983. And if you find yourself appreciating this daughter of a coal miner's music, you've got an opportunity to see her perform live in Redding at the Cascade Theatre later this year. JPR brings Loretta Lynn to the stage October 23rd. Want tickets? Get 'em here.