There used to be a bit of hostility between the two camps, as in those who love to play bluegrass and those who love to play old-time music. Bluegrass, of course, is the brasher younger cousin of old-time, and the differences between each species are real. Bluegrass features hard-driving rhythms and high-lonesome lead and harmony singing fueled by improvisation and the Earl Scruggs three-finger-style of banjo picking. On the other hand, old-time features inclusive group-oriented jamming marked by the much-older clawhammer-style of banjo playing and is sparked by thousands of fiddle tunes that can be called out at anytime, some of which are two hundred years or older. As you can see from its title, however, both genres are welcomed at the Mount Airy Bluegrass & Old-Time Fiddlers Convention in the North Carolina hometown of Andy Griffith. Still, up until the last decade or so, both camps looked at each other warily at times.
Mark Johnson is known in the bluegrass world as the inventor of the clawgrass-style of playing the banjo, which is a combination of the three-finger and clawhammer techniques. In 2012, Johnson won the Steve Martin Prize For Excellence In Banjo And Bluegrass Music and performed on the Late Show With David Letterman with his long-time collaborator Emory Lester, as well as Martin. About the time of the release of his first album, Johnson found himself at the Mount Airy Bluegrass & Old-time Fiddlers Convention hanging out with musician, TV host, and Doc Watson collaborator David Holt. Read entire article »