Bill Monroe Bean Blossom
Bluegrass Festival
The Music Speaks to Us

by Craig Kinney

Once again June is nearly upon us and to me that means the bluegrassmusic festival season is almost here. The 35th annual Bill Monroe Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival is coming from Tuesday, June 12 through Sunday, June 17. It’s the oldest continuously running festival in the world and is right in our backyard.

It’s the “Mecca of Bluegrass” and I get excited just thinking about it.

Like most music, bluegrass music is best heard live when you can hear and see the bluegrass bands doing what they love. Each musician is doing their part, playing their instrument and singing, and each person’s part blends together to create a sound many times greater than the sum of its parts.

It’s that musical sound that captures your attention and your heart and holds you in its spell. It’s that sound and words that speak directly to you—of life, of hopes and passions, happiness and sorrow; daily challenges won and failed; work, travel, and of course, love found and lost. The events of our lives and our feelings of those events are pretty much why we are here, and this wonderful musical sound echoes through all of our lives and touches each of us.

This sound also echoes back through time. It goes back nearly 70 years to a time when Bill Monroe first took the musical sounds in his endlessly fertile musical imagination and offered them to the world through his mandolin and through his various bands during a lifetime of music.

Bill created and shaped the sound of this music and put his heart and soul into it until the day he died. It was truly his life’s work and passion.

Bluegrass music has experienced and survived much in it’s own lifespan, both artistically and commercially, and has room within it’s boundaries for new ideas, new sounds and new direction while still maintaining the integrity of it’s definition. Bill’s own sound evolved with time, growing more complex, more flexible, and more pure as he followed the sounds he heard. Single, double and even triple fiddles; vocal solos, duets, trios and quartets; and a surprising range of instrumentation and musical moods are all a part of his history.

No two people hear the same song in quite the same way, and we all have our own preferences about what we like or don’t like, but the music still speaks to us all. I personally strongly favor the music of the first-generation tradition but still accept and enjoy most of the newer bands and their ideas.

This is an exciting time for bluegrass music. It continues to evolve with time, shaped by Bill’s strong influence, and by his former band members with their bands, not to mention those who have developed their own sound from the roots of Bill Monroe’s music. The faltering of contemporary country music is causing many of its fans to look elsewhere for satisfying music and many of them have turned to bluegrass music. The recent Cohen brothers film O’ Brother Where Art Thou has also made a new crowd of folks aware and curious of bluegrass and roots music, as did Bonnie and Clyde in ’67 and Deliverance in ’72. And of course a great reason for interest remains constant—it’s really great music!

A festival is a great way to see and hear all these varied influences, interests, and sounds all mixed together. A nearly constant line up of bands, lots of folks of all types, and a variety of great food and music vendors all are within easy reach of you in a lovely wooded setting. Bring a chair to sit and listen, walk the lakeside trails, and visit with the performers between their performances. Come for an afternoon, or stay for a week.

Nearly 30 different bands will perform throughout the week. You have a wonderful opportunity to see first generation bands like Ralph Stanley and Melvin Goins; great traditional bands like Karl Shifflet, Larry Sparks, Doyle Lawson, J.D. Crowe, Jim and Jesse, and Jimmy Martin; contemporary bands like Mountain Heart, IIIrd Tyme Out, and Lynn Morris; and family and gospel oriented bands like the Sullivan and Larkin families.

There is truly something for everyone here.

The stage faces the crowd in an open area and the bands play for you there. Each band member plays their part, and each part joins together to form a sound that has echoed in these hills for years and generations.

The Bill Monroe Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival runs from Tuesday June 12 through Sunday June 17. For tickets and information call 800-414-4677 or (812)-988-6422. Other upcoming festivals at the Bean Blossom

Festival grounds are the 3rd Annual Bill Monroe Gospel Jubilee from August 17_19 and the 27th Annual Uncle Pen Days Festival from September 20-23.

Craig Kinney is the voice of community radio’s Rural Routes heard every Saturday from Noon to 2 p.m. on WFHB 91.3 FM.