Bluegrass with Michael
Meet the Artist
Michael Daves has been called “a leading light of the New York bluegrass scene” by The New York Times. He has worked with Chris Thile, Steve Martin, Tony Trischka, and Rosanne Cash in addition to performing solo and with a band of roots-music innovators. Michael’s 2011 debut album with Thile, Sleep with One Eye Open, received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Bluegrass Album. His album Orchids and Violence features 12 bluegrass tunes, each recorded in two versions: acoustic and electric.
Artist and Genre Overview
Bluegrass is a style of American roots music that dates back to the 1700s, when English, Scottish, and Welsh immigrants settled in Appalachia, and brought with them ballads (unaccompanied narrative songs) and reels (dance tunes accompanied by a fiddle). These came together with African American traditions—first the banjo, which came from west Africa, then elements of blues, and later jazz and gospel. Bluegrass is an acoustic country style rather than an urban one. Bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe described it as: “Scottish bagpipes and ole-time fiddlin’. It’s Methodist and Holiness and Baptist. It’s blues and jazz, and it has a high lonesome sound.” The classic bluegrass band includes banjo, fiddle (violin), guitar, mandolin, and bass. As in jazz, the instrumentalists take turns playing the melody and improvising around it as the rest of the band accompanies them.
Michael was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and says he grew up “in the grand tradition of staying up late, singing real loud, and playing music with his parents.” Although he’s since moved north, he says that the humid South remains in his heart and sinus cavities.
Additional Resources for Teachers
- Visit michaeldaves.com to hear more of Michael’s music.
- Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys: Live Recordings 1956–1969: Off the Record Volume 1, Smithsonian Folkways
- Bill Monroe and Doc Watson: Live Duet Recordings 1963–1980: Off the Record Volume 2, Smithsonian Folkways
- Bluegrass: A History, Neil V. Rosenberg
- Can’t You Hear Me Callin’: The Life of Bill Monroe, Father of Bluegrass, Richard Smith
- Hidden in the Mix: The African American Presence in Country Music, edited by Diane Pecknold
- African Banjo Echoes in Appalachia: A Study of Folk Traditions, Cecelia Conway
- Homegrown Music: Discovering Bluegrass, Stephanie P. Ledgin
- Béla Fleck: Throw Down Your Heart, Sascha Paladino
- High Lonesome: The Story of Bluegrass Music, Rachel Liebling
- Bill Monroe: Father of Bluegrass Music, Steve Gebhardt
New York City Resources
- Rockwood Music Hall: Michael performs every Tuesday night at 10 PM; admission is free. On the first Monday of every month, Michael also hosts a bluegrass jam open to all musicians from beginners to professionals.
- Jalopy Theatre and School of Music