While we often think of bluegrass music as a niche music associated with the Appalachian chain and Scotts/Irish traditions in America, it quietly, yet persistently, pervades much of our culture. Listen to the background music in many advertisements; watch classic films like Bonnie & Clyde; see if there's a place near you where there's a bluegrass jam; visit your local music store to see whether they sell acoustic instruments and help promote bluegrass events near you. This blog, largely devoted to bluegrass, is read in every state of the union and in over 140 countries, with regular and careful readers in all of Europe, Australia, and Japan. Bluegrass is everywhere...if you look for it.
While much of this blog focuses on top rank performers at relatively large events (and reader response suggests that's what they really want to see and hear about), the heart and soul of bluegrass lies in local jams, local and regional bands, and a grass roots support unlike any other in music. Many, although certainly not all, bluegrass fans are also people who make bluegrass music. They form bands, and many begin performing, donating their efforts at senior residences, weddings, church services, street fairs, elementary school music programs, and on and on. Some of these groups never work for pay or work for tips alone. Others begin to perform for pay at small venues, little festivals, bars and clubs, everywhere. They record a CD and do their best to get their music heard. And bluegrass music spreads to new audiences wherever people hear it, because it appeals to something elemental and clean and good in us.
The members of Hot Mustard come out of this tradition. Bruce Stockwell has been a music professional for his entire life. While his first and enduring love has always been bluegrass music, he has often supported himself, performing along with his brothers and others, by playing rock guitar or whatever people wanted to hear. He recorded a still well-regarded, among knowledgeable musicians and fans, bluegrass album back in the seventies. He won the prestigious Merlefest banjo contest in 2005, raising his visibility in the banjo world. For the past several years he has been serving on the faculty of Banjo Camp North, as well as other banjo events. Bruce is recognized as a banjo player's banjo player by some of the leading pickers in the genre. Bruce is an English graduate of Yale University. He lives and teaches in E. Putney, VT.
Bill Jubett, a banjo player and multi-instrumentalist from Ringe, NH came to Bruce for banjo lessons several years ago. According to Kelly Stockwell, they met Bill and his partner April Hobart back in 2006. "Bill came over for lessons, and then he and Bruce applied for the NH Arts grant which they won which lasted [during] 2008-2009." Bill teaches banjo and fiddle in Peterborough, VT while, as Kelly says, "filling in the holes" doing odd jobs. His singing has a rough-edged high lonesome sound completely consistent with traditional bluegrass.