Music Genres We Play

Our originals are not constrained by aiming for any genre, so they might sound to someone like anything from Americana to Indie-folk, roots-soul, Appalachian, country-folk, folk-rock, punk-folk, or whatever. It’s not easy for us to say exactly which of the multitude of creative genre names we’d call any of our originals; we’d be interested to know what you’d call it! However, our albums can delve into more genres than live performances because as a duo we’ll just have two acoustic instruments when playing live. On albums, we have a houseful of instruments including pots and pans or electric guitars that we might whip out.

We love to perform a setlist of only our originals. But we can also play for hours in exclusively one genre. So, for example, if you are looking for: Irish tunes only on Saint Patrick’s Day; Appalachian old-time only for an event at a historical site; country-gospel only for a Sunday morning at a coffee shop; folk and old-country for a house concert by a campfire, or something else you dream up, then feel free to get in touch if you like our music.

We are self-taught and our style is gleaned from any genre we’ve ever liked…and we like a LOT of genres. It might not make a perfect fit into a pure genre box, but we are not playing music in a way to purposely preserve a traditional style (some people are doing that and we respect what they’re doing and how they play). Instead, we like to experiment and see how our style evolves with our tastes.

We want to mention the pleasurable genre of bluegrass here because many people who don’t know the difference between bluegrass and old-time might think that we play bluegrass if they’ve heard us at a farmers market. We’ve encountered many people who will call music bluegrass if it has a fiddle or banjo and sounds like mountain music. We enjoy listening to some bluegrass music, but we would not call what we play bluegrass. We play various genres, but the music we play that sounds like bluegrass to some people is when we’re playing old-time or Celtic. There is a lot of overlap in some of the tunes and songs played by old-time musicians and bluegrass musicians since bluegrass grew out of old-time. But if you hear us play anything that is commonly known as a bluegrass song, it’s still going to be in our old-time style rather than bluegrass style.

Here’s some of the differences in my mind between old-time and bluegrass. I am not an expert and these are just observations from my own experience; you could compare what I say with an Internet search on the subject. Let me know if I’m way off on something if you are an expert on either genre. You can find descriptions of the very lively and interesting histories of each genre on the Internet.

Similarities of Old-Time and Bluegrass

  • Instruments used are guitar, fiddle, stand-up bass, 5-string banjo, mandolin.
  • Many traditional tunes and songs are played and there is some overlap in some of these
  • Sounds like good mountain music (because that’s where it started)

Differences of Old-Time and Bluegrass

  • Old-time fiddle playing uses more droning and simpler melodies mixed with more rhythm while bluegrass fiddle playing is more flamboyant and improvises fast notes strung together. Bowing styles also differ. Old-time fiddle might be cross-tuned and might have a flattened bridge for easier droning. Bluegrass fiddle would stay in standard tuning and have more of a classical set-up.
  • Old-time 5-string banjo is played in claw-hammer style while bluegrass 5-string banjo is played in a finger-picked style.
  • Old-time song format is often a repetitive A and B part tune with singing interspersed whereas bluegrass song format is usually verses, a chorus, and fast improvised solos of the different instruments.
  • Old-time dancers will flat-foot on a board to provide a percussive instrument to the music whereas bluegrass dancers will clog.