As a child was told again and again that I would "learn to like" certain things. For the most part, this turned out to be true. Broccoli. Salads in general. Spinach. Beer. I was also told that I would learn to like Bluegrass music.
In a few days I'll fly to Virginia to see my family there and catch up with old friends. The first stop is Callao and the coast of the Chesapeake Bay where the Yeocomico meets the same. I have vivid memories of sitting on the porch listening to recordings of bluegrass music my Godfather would play for me (He was a guitarist and loved the stuff). I would laugh and talk about how terrible it was. I was in High School and would rather listen to U2, The Police, and anything but bluegrass. He and my father would respond, "You'll learn to like it."
It's been twenty-five years and the passing of time has proved them both right. I have learned to like it. A lot. I have a banjo, a mandolin, a guitar or two...Think of it as a Big Twang Theory. Sometimes we have to learn to listen in new ways. We might then be surprised by the beauty of what we hear. We may have to learn that it's beautiful at all. Warren Hellman, it would seem, had a similar experience. His growing love turned into one of the best Bluegrass festivals in the country: Hardly Strickly Bluegrass. Warren died this year.
So many have passed. Earl. Doc. Warren. Hazel. The generation is passing on. The men and women who invented the form, who gave their lives to it's promotion are dying. Thankfully there are many of us who have learned to listen to bluegrass, who have learned to love it, and even pass it on. New players are emerging. Players like Bela Fleck, David Grisman, and Sam Bush are the new "old timers." Amateur pickers like myself are everwhere. It's good news.
I like to think that I have fairly wide ranging musical tastes. Rock to Bluegrass, classical choral to Punk, I like many forms of music. Western. Not-so-Western. Such listening takes practice. It takes education. I have to trust my friends. As a musician, I may have to sit in an ensemble and play or sing the unfamiliar. It's all about "familiarity." I love that word. It suggests both experience of the unknown and a growing relationship with the music and those who make it. I'm familiar with much music now. It's Hardly Strickly Bluegrass, but Bluegrass is one of the foundations.
I'm still learning to listen to the music. I'm still finding the tones and colors, the complicated rhythms, and learning the old tunes growing familiar with it all the time.