Author: Campbell, Bruce

High Lonesome Hearts

Tomorrow is Valentineís Day, and Iím just fine with that. (Did you appreciate the 24 hour notice, gentlemen?). I like this pseudo-holiday, because Iím a romantic at heart, and it just so happens that I am a huge fan of the female of the species. Not just in a romantic sense, but in every sense. I would gladly turn over the running of the world to women for the next millennium or so, just to give them a fair chance to fix all the stuff we men have screwed up.

I know the struggle for equality for women continues, but in my lifetime, huge advances have been made. I think very few people in our society are surprised or put off to encounter a woman who is a CEO, a judge, a President, a police officer, a soldier or any other role that just a couple of generations ago, was consider off-limits for females.

What about bluegrass? Looking back to the musicís early days, it certainly was a manís world. Unlike the blues, jazz or pop, where there was always a female presence, bluegrass seemed to be a guyís club. I didnít live back then, so I donít know exactly what made this so. I have heard whispers that some men, even today, are scornful of a woman performing or singing bluegrass. Really? How does that viewpoint hold up to intellectual, or emotional scrutiny? Not very wellÖ

By the time she passed away, and for some time before, Hazel Dickens was a legend in bluegrass. So was (is) Alice Gerrard, and Rose Maddox. What tribulations did they endure to bring a female sensibility to bluegrass? How poignant, and how female, is the point of view in ďLoverís ReturnĒ? Who in their right mind would want to squelch contributions like that?

I would like to acknowledge the enormous contributions and talents that women have brought to bluegrass. We in the CBA know some of them very well: Laurie Lewis, and Kathy Barwick were active in the CBAís earliest days and their music made for indelible memories of festivals 20+ years ago, on through today. I have been fortunate to play with two other strong woman of bluegrass, Lynn Quinones and Jill Cruey, who picked right up on the path blazed by those other brave women.

Now, a woman can front a band and itís not just a band with a woman in it. Certainly, the CBAís good friend Rhonda Vincent hasnít shied away from utilizing her striking looks as part of her appeal, but you canít see her when you listen to her and her bandís recordings Ė you can just hear her, and itís real. We have seen the likes of Uncle Earl trod the main stage at Fatherís Day, and this year, weíll see Della Mae.

Last Friday, I played a San Francisco Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival, on a double bill with the Whiskey Brothers and The Drifter Sisters. Thereís something special, and yes, high and lonesome about female harmonies Ė they were instantly appealing, and acts like this ensure that women will continue to increase their presence and influence in this genre. However it was before, this is how it is now, and I am thrilled!
Posted:  2/13/2013

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