Although bluegrass music is typically associated with the bluegrass state of Kentucky and Appalachia, the genre is actually played in many pockets all around...

Although bluegrass music is typically associated with the bluegrass state of Kentucky and Appalachia, the genre is actually played in many pockets all around the world.  In Czech Bluegrass: Notes from the Heart of Europe (University of Illinois Press, 2017), Lee Bidgood explores the popularity of bluegrass in the Czech Republic.  Bidgood is an associate professor of bluegrass, old-time, and country music studies in the Department of Appalachian Studies at East Tennessee State University and an accomplished musician himself.  He begins his study with a description of the development of the cultural landscape within this central European nation and explains how a confluence of factors within that landscape – not least a fascination with American pop culture and the appeal of the rural – led to the popularity of bluegrass music within certain circles, and also discusses how the genre was able to survive under Communism.  In addition, Bidgood’s investigation includes his exploration of some of the identity issues facing these central Europeans who have chosen to play a music more commonly associated with a foreign and distant land.

In a recent review of the book in the Journal of Folklore Research, Philip Nusbaum noted that Bidgood’s music-world credentials include “fiddling with the Steep Canyon Rangers, a leading group from North Carolina; and touring the Czech Republic and other European countries with European bluegrass bands.” Nusbaum goes on to write that in “Czech Bluegrass, Lee combines experience playing bluegrass professionally with his ethnographic abilities and detail-oriented library research. The outcome is a model of reportage on a contemporary musical idiom, bluegrass music in the Czech Republic”.

In Czech Bluegrass, Lee combines experience playing bluegrass professionally with his ethnographic abilities and detail-oriented library research. The outcome is a model of reportage on a contemporary musical idiom, bluegrass music in the Czech Republic.


 Rachel Hopkin is a UK born, US based folklorist and radio producer and is currently a PhD candidate at the Ohio State University.

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