Author: Campbell, Bruce

Veteran's Day Musical Musings

Despite my devotion to the principles of Peace, Love and Happiness, I have never had an issue with appreciation for those who have served in the Armed Forces for their country. To serve, whether voluntarily, or by conscription, is not necessary an alignment with the ideals of the administration in charge – it’s much more serving the country as a whole than a political statement. So, admiration and appreciation for veteran’s is really a no-brainer.

I have a lot of friends who served in the armed forces, and the time they spent in the service is always poignant, and sometimes a lot more than that. In most cases, they spent time in interesting locales and met a lot of interesting people. Some had experienced much more profound or affecting than that, of course.

But in talking with these friends, a common thread emerges. The music they listened to while serving in the military stuck with them, and hearing it again nowadays, evokes vivid memories of those times. Music’s evocative properties are well known, by all of us.

You can’t always choose the music that burns its way into your consciousness, any more than you can choose those moments in your life. You might even dislike it – but years later, when you hear it, you’re flooded with memories and emotions from the time it evokes. There are dozens of songs that I never thought I liked, but when I hear them, I’m reminded of times I remember fondly, and darn if I don’t start wanting to hear those songs again. I won’t even mention the songs – it’s too embarrassing!

Circling back around to a bluegrass context, are there bluegrass songs that evoke sentimental memories for you? Or are there bluegrass songs that you vividly remember the first time you heard it?

I can remember the first time I heard a few bluegrass songs, but not where I was at the time. Instead, I just remember thinking how perfect the renditions were. The two songs were “Can’t You Hear Me Calling” by Bill Monroe, and “Sunny Side of the Mountain” by Jimmy Martin. When I heard those two versions they perfectly encapsulated the feel and the tone that makes bluegrass special, for me at least. In the former, the harmonies in the chorus are absolutely sublime, and it made the hairs on my arms stand up. On the second, the howl of Martin’s falsetto and the crookedness of him stretching out a phrase simply because it needed stretching, just told me this is the kind of music I ought to be playing…

Posted:  11/13/2013

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