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Published: 2004/06/30
by Benjy Eisen

Bluegrass Journey

Once considered the rainmakers that would propel bluegrass into tomorrow’s world, subgenres like newgrass, zoograss, and jamgrass have all but killed bluegrass. It’s a debate for another article, but the mediocrity that dominates those mutations has persuaded many music fans, like myself, that good bluegrass no longer exists. And truthfully, after listening to way too many crappy jamgrass promo CDs and DVDs, I finally had no choice but to dismiss the genre entirely. I was done with it. It was no longer exciting. It was filled with fake-book runs and hokey breakdowns.
Bluegrass Journey just made bluegrass exciting again. Filmed beautifully and directed thoughtfully, the documentary features many performances from the current top dogs, such as The Del McCoury Band, Tim O’Brien, Jerry Douglass, Peter Rowan, Tony Rice and includes some worthy crossover collaborations. Of particular note is Nickel Creek’s Chris Thile’s appearance with Jerry Douglass, which kicks off the DVD.
Key to Bluegrass Journey’s success is its treatment. It largely takes place at the famed Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival and the unique IBMA World of Bluegrass festival/awards and includes the standard festival documentary elements. But the film also educates viewers on the history of bluegrass, comments on current bluegrass developments, and pierces through the extraneous to capture the heart of the music. In doing so, Bluegrass Journey has successfully revealed the essence of the entire movement. And it’s a lot more vital and kinetic than any of us thought.
Whereas most festival documentaries have a knack for choosing the least desirable, least representative, least articulate fans for interview subjects, Bluegrass Journey talks to all the right ones. And gets all the right insights from all the right artists, as well.
Bluegrass Journey is also a more professional documentary than what bluegrass might be used to. It’s like, you know, chuck your Grassroots Stages DVD out the window and order up this essential offering instead.

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