Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The New Acoustic Popular Music (Part 11) - Bluegrass Update and the Amazing Sierra Hull

By Don Robertson

Say Goodbye! to hard rock as it writhes in dying pain and bid Hello! to Americana, the new acoustic popular music. Thank God you have arrived. 

      In the previous articles of the New Acoustic Popular Music series, I discussed the emergence of new music that is widely divergent from the typical commercial offerings brought to us by corporate America. It is acoustic music that is mainly based on the roots music of Southeastern America. We find that it is innovative, fresh and young. Most of the musical members of this genre are under 30 years of age, or were when they started their careers. In this and the following articles in this series, I will continue to introduce this new generation of music.
     Bluegrass music has achieved popularity the nation over and in other countries as well. The American country-folk-music idiom was originally spawned from its mountain roots by the great singer and mandolin player Bill Monroe and his band during the 1940s. At the dawning of the 21st century, young musicians began a process of creating an updated version of bluegrass music, beginning with the music produced by the trio called Nickel Creek.

Nickel Creek
      Formed in 1989 in Southern California, this young trio brought some fresh blood to bluegrass music, much to the chagrin of some of the traditionalist musicians, something that is understandable because the tradition of this music is deep. In 2000, Nickel Creek's self-titled album won numerous award nominations. The group then went on to win a number of grammies. Chris Tile, the mandolinist for the group, has developed a very successful solo career. According to Wikipedia, in October, 2016 he will become the host for the longtime popular Prairie Home Companion radio show.
"When You Come Back Down" by Nickel Creek 2000

"Reasons Why" by Nickel Creek 2000

Sierra Hull
     Allow me to introduce this young Tennessee native who released her first record at age 10. Sierra Hull  is one of the most amazing talents not only in Tennessee music, but in the entire country. She is a wonderful singer, and she a major mandolin player... a virtuoso. Check her out in 2004 when at 13 years of age she is performing with famous bluegrass mandolinist Sam bush:
Sierra Hull performs on her mandolin with Sam Bush when she was 13 years old.

    She was 19-years old when the following three videos were made:
"Best Buy" by 19-year old Sierra Hull in 2011

"Chasin' Skies" by Sierra Hull in 2011

"Someone Like You" by Sierra Hull in 2011

    I love the country swing tune that opens the following clip, and Sierra's mandolin playing just blows me away. What talent!
20-year old Sierra Hull at Prescott Park in 2012

     Moving ahead to 2014, listen to a traditional performance of "River of Jordan" sung by Sierra, Sharon White and Ricky Skaggs. You will need to click on a link to watch this video on YouTube as it is not available to be embedded in blogs:

     This amazing young woman is already an expert in the field of mandolin performance, giving well-attended mandolin master classes to adult players. Her maturity and talent is so awesome that I wanted to expend some effort in presenting her here for "y'all," and to inspire today's youngest talent, the kids under 16 who are reading my blog.
      If you are interested in watching her explain some of the mandolin techniques that are used in today's bluegrass music, the following video is for you. Here Sierra explains many of her own ways of playing as well as some of those of used by Chris Thile of Nickel Creek and by my friend mandolinist Adam Steffey.

     Today Sierra has been gaining more and more recognition. In this last video selection she performs with her band on the Grand Ole Opry television program during the time of this writing (2016):

"Weighted Mind" by Sierra Hull on the Grand Ole Opry 2016

Aoife O'Donovan
     Aoife is an American singer-songwriter was is best known as the lead singer for the bluegrass band Crooked Still and a member of the folk trio Sometymes Why. After making recordings with these groups, she released her first solo album in 2010.
"Lay My Burdon Down" by  Aoife O'Donovan 2013

Sara Jarosz
     This young lady is from Texas. She sings, writes songs, and plays mandolin. She released her first album in 2009.
"Build Me Up From the Bones" by Sara Jarosz in 2014

     Now for a final video in this article, here are Sierra Hull and Sara Jarosz demonstrating their mandolin talents:
"Old Dangerfield" with Sierra Hull and Sara Jarosz" in 2009

    The next episode of "The New Acoustic Popular Music" will be the last in this particular series. It will feature music from Ireland. 

So for now, "Good music and Good Vibes." I'm Don Robertson.

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