What is it that causes acoustic roots music to so easily stimulate the pleasure zones? You got me! I haven't a clue! I could testify as to its bliss-inducing properties, however. No doubt about that! It does get me off!
And, if the truth be known, I don't really care how far a band stretches from the traditional model laid down by the founding fathers of whatever sub-genre is currently on the table.
The thrill of listening to instrumental breaks from the 1920s and '30s by Gid Tanner, Riley Puckett, or Clayton McMichen of the Skillet Lickers is every bit the equal of the exhilaration induced today when Chris Thile, Noam Pikelny, or Gabe Witcher step up to perform their solos for the Punch Brothers.
What got these acoustic juices flowing this time around was a recent news item calling attention to "Pickin' at Park City: a Bluegrass, Brews, and BBQ festival" taking place up at PCMR this coming Saturday, August 9.
Featuring local favorites "Lash Larue," American Fork's "Cold Creek," and, the "Traveling McCourys," a most interesting offshoot of bluegrass legend Del McCoury's band, it brought back memories of past bluegrass gatherings both around Park City and at what is now PCMR.
It probably wasn't the first live bluegrass music I'd ever heard in Park City, but when an early "Art Festival" morphed into an "Art and Bluegrass Festival", well, it was certainly the first time the old mining camp experienced two full days of the music named after that singular musical form fine-tuned by "Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys.
You see, although the "Art" segment of the Festival took place up on Main Street, where it remains to this day, the "Bluegrass" part took place at the Park City Mountain Resort or, as it would have been called at that time, Park City Resort or, maybe by then, Park City Ski Area.
Whatever the resort was called in those days, the gently sloping hillside a short ways up "Bunny Hollow" was situated pretty much the same as it is today. The stage faced up the hollow with a rather large fenced-in audience area above.
Looking back, I'm not sure who pitched who, the Art Festival wonks or the Shupe brothers, relatively longtime bluegrass impresarios from the Ogden area. Whoever performed the instigation, however, is of little import. It was the collective instrumental and vocal virtuosity of the many national touring acts that rang through the hills that weekend that really mattered.
Back then, the early to mid-'70s, bluegrass music teetered on the cusp of what would become a sort of hybridization of the genre. Not that that wasn't a constant state of affairs with all musical vernaculars, certainly mainstream Jazz was under attack at the time, but the traditional acoustic Appalachian forms were just about ready to explode.
During the previous decade, many younger-generation pickers had first joined-up with and then splintered-off from many of the more famous traditional ensembles to experiment and improvise while nudging the form ever forward. With an almost missionary zeal, they created a more experimental music in their own image while expanding on what had gone before.
What's so cool about the packaging of the three acts assembling for "Picking at Park City" is that many vines of the many roots of this music will be on display. The musical gumbo that is Lash Larue will no doubt offer their usual assortment of highly-inclusive and enjoyable roots-rock flavors, including smatterings of original material with old-timey, bluegrass, folk, and New Orleans influences.
Cold Creek is an unapologetic straight-ahead traditional and progressive bluegrass band. Word around the Utah music community is that this somewhat-under-the-radar outfit, with an instrumental footprint of 5-string banjo, mandolin, guitar, upright bass, and fiddle, has set the acoustic scene abuzz.
And that brings us to the Traveling McCourys, which showcases the talents of two of Del McCoury's sons, mandolin virtuoso extraordinaire Ronnie and 5-string banjo flame-slinger Rob. These musical expeditionaries can give you everything from trad to newgrass to "prog" to jam while shredding the repertoire of them all.
Having had the advantage of performing with their famous father in the Del McCoury Band, one of the more iconic groups the genre has produced, the kids have picked up the ball and are running with it with the likes of the Allman Brothers, Warren Haynes, and Phish.
Kudos to the organizers! "Pickin' at Park City: a Bluegrass, Brews, and BBQ festival" at PCMR this Saturday is just what the summer musical doctor ordered!
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.