There’s plenty of Old Time Music to be seen and heard at this year’s IBMA Bluegrass Live! powered by PNC September 29th and 30th in Raleigh, NC. It’s part of the rich string band tradition that’s rooted in the Piedmont of North Carolina.
So, what’s the difference between Old Time and Bluegrass? The long answer is the stuff of many a campfire conversation and/or graduate thesis. The short answer is that old time music is the predecessor to bluegrass.
In old time the fiddle is at the center of the string band and carries the melody. It’s supported by the boom chuck rhythm of the guitar, clawhammer or two-finger banjo and a bass. There are no “breaks” or solos in old time as it’s all about a group of musicians melding together and finding a groove.
There’s also utility to old time music as it’s meant for dances. If you attend a community square or contra dance you will most likely hear old time music. Same goes for clogging, solo buck dancing or flat footing.
By contrast, bluegrass is intended for performance. Sure you can dance and sway to a bluegrass band, but you don’t often see a bluegrass band playing for a dance. In bluegrass there are crowd pleasing flashy solos (breaks) instrumental fireworks and tight vocal harmonies. The banjo is also played in a very different manner. The bluegrass method is most often referred to as Scruggs style or three-finger banjo. In contrast to an old time player, a bluegrass banjo player wears finger picks on their right hand.
Here are some of the best examples of Old Time Music you’ll see and hear at the 2023 Festival.
Tall Poppy String Band (SAT 12noon with Tall Poppy String Band, Come Hear NC; SAT 3:00, leading jam in Busking Tent with Tall Poppy String Band)
Earl White String Band (Street Square Dance, SAT 5:30, PineCone Capital Stage)
Jake Blount (SAT 1:10, Come Hear NC Stage)
Hillary Klug (FRI 2:30, Come Hear NC Stage; SAT 1:00 & 3:00 City of Raleigh Museum Children’s Area)
The Onlies (Street Square Dance, SAT 5:30, PineCone Capital Stage)
UNCG Old Time Ensemble (FRI 9:45, City Plaza Youth Stage)
Hubby Jenkins (FRI 2:45, Davie Street Stage & 4:15, PineCone Capital Stage)
Golden Shoals (WED 7:00, The Pour House)
Jerron Paxton (FRI 12:30, PineCone Capital Stage & 7:00 Martin Street Stage)