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The Fad That Wasn't There: "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"
Catherine Galioto
Columnist

It's easy to be trapped into saying that the nation is caught up in a craze of bluegrass and other roots-Americana music.

Yet, although the soundtrack to "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" swept the Grammys and remains planted atop many music charts for nearly a year, this important music transcends fads that some other genres recently fell victim to.

Many show genuine surprise the roots genres and this soundtrack are doing so well, without radio airplay or articles in print media. I am not surprised; this is simply good music.

For that reason and others, this interest in the music is the fad that never was. A fad is usually thrown away for the latest thing, yet this music is old and remains unchanged throughout the years. We're not dealing with neo-bluegrass, in comparison to the neo-swing music that came and went.

And as most of that music -- just as much ska music was - was bastardized to appear in commercials, I've yet to see a sly interpretation of a Soggy Bottom Boys song help sell anything from a grocery store, not even pomade.

Plus, looking across the musical landscape, I only see established artists in the roots genres emerging or staying where they are. This is also unlike a fad, which will see countless copies pushed forward by music companies hoping to catch the fad before interest subsides (the "grunge" of Silverchair et al comes to mind.)

This interest on the music that appears in such places as the "O Brother" soundtrack is less of a fad and more of an appreciation. It rightfully should be, for the voices (such as Emmylou Harris) and the historic melodies captured in these genres deserve applause.

Their purpose transcends fad. The music is called "roots" for a reason.

With it comes a passion. For example, in Waretown, N.J., for decades the "Home Place" musicians gathered to showcase bluegrass and related music on the back porch of the Albert's home, deep in the woods. Their concerts grew to include so many musicians and performers, they overwhelmed the Albert home and had to meet elsewhere, and the group erected Albert Music Hall, where the musicians continue to play each Saturday night.

The example serves as a metaphor to the current interest in the music. Albert Music Hall performers say they have no plans of stopping.

Are we right? What do you think? USE YOUR VOICE!




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