Over the course of my work at the Birthplace of Country Music, and in particular with Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, I have heard variations of the same sentiment over and over from people who haven’t been to the festival (yet!): “But I don’t like country (and/or bluegrass) music.”
Well, me neither.
At least, I didn’t think I did.
Now before y’all come at me with virtual pitchforks, I have a confession to make: Country and bluegrass music was an acquired taste for me. Basically, it’s not my go-to music choice – other than some old outlaw stuff, Dolly, and a few others, it’s not something I listen to all the time. However, I have gained a huge appreciation for it that I probably didn’t have when I was younger—thanks to Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion.
So when you say you don’t like country music, I feel you. I really, really feel you.
I’m glad I’m getting this off my chest. I think, because of my job here at the Birthplace of Country Music (BCM), there may be an impression that I’m only into certain types of music, and that I focus on moody, cerebral singer/songwriters, obscure festival bands, or socially relevant and “important” musicians. Sure, I like some of that, but I’m not some Barry Judd character sitting around the indie record store salivating over a rare Ginbae vinyl import, regurgitating liner notes and judging some poor schlep for requesting a copy of The Best of Nickelback Volume I. I’m really not that cool – or mean.
I proudly pledge my allegiance to old-school R&B, funk, and disco because, in my heart, I want to be Donna Summer when I grow up. And Chrissie Hynde. And Ann Wilson. I will straight up rock out to Black Flag or Journey with equal, fist-pumping enthusiasm. I sometimes cook while listening to Benny Goodman because my grandmother loved big band, and it reminds me of her. Plus – and don’t Barry Judd-ge me – I have a deep respect for Hanson because they have written their own songs and played their own instruments since they were babies.
And you know what? I’m unashamed. I love music that gets me out of my seat and makes me want to sing at the top of my lungs, and I don’t need categories or cool factor to dictate to me whether or not I should like something.
So there, I admit it. I work at BCM, and I am a music dork. BOOM.
With that said, I love Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion. It is an epic, foot-stompin’, whoopin’ and hollerin’, fist-pumpin’ music festival that rockers, punks, hipsters, bluegrass lovers, and country fans can rock out to together. I personally guarantee you will find something there that will move you and several new artists that you will love. In fact, the festival introduced me to some amazing traditional acts that I likely wouldn’t have discovered otherwise: The Del McCoury Band, Billy Strings, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, and Dale Watson are just a few examples. And you know why I fell in love with them? The musicianship, plain and simple. When you see a master picker working those strings live and in person, it changes you.
Music doesn’t have to be pigeonholed and wrapped up in a tidy, genre-specific bow for it to make you happy. And I love to see people happy. That’s another reason I love Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion so much. Everyone there is so happy.
So, for all of you who have told me you don’t like country music and that’s why you don’t come to Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, I have a little gift. I have compiled for you a Spotify playlist of my favorite, rockin’ bands that have played the festival in the past to show you what you’ve missed. Click here and enjoy!
And book that ticket to Bristol Rhythm ’17 – trust me, you don’t want to miss out for one more year.
Charlene Tipton Baker is a Marketing Specialist at the Birthplace of Country Music.