Friday, October 05, 2012

The Bluegrass Is Greener for Astrograss

Dearest Edith,

I just got back from the organic farm and boy, are my butter-churning arms tired!

Luckily, the commune leaders are not Luddites and believe in keeping their members happy through music. They play a lot of Astrograss. No I didn't mean to write "smoke," I meant "play." Astrograss is a children's group that plays authentic bluegrass music.

Ha ha, I know. You think you need to smoke some astrograss before you'd listen to authentic bluegrass music. Astrograss may be earnest, but their music is simple, clever, and down-to-earth. And seriously, if not for them and Steve Martin and his Steep Canyon Rangers, who else would be performing bluegrass music right now? Bluegrass is an American musical tradition. Astrograss has found a way to introduce bluegrass music to children and keep it relevant.

Astrograss is releasing their third CD, THE COLORED PENCIL FACTORY. Edith, it's a mix of traditional bluegrass songs ("Sail Away Ladies" and "Shortenin' Bread") and new compositions like "Make It Up," which urges children to use their imaginations:

Make it up
Make a legend or a tale
If you haven't got a story
Make it up

All five members of Astrograss are music educators (a fancypants word for teachers) and the band was founded out of their classroom experiences in Brooklyn schools. Edith, School outreach is vital to Astrograss, and their school programs not only integrate bluegrass history and instrument identification, but also feature an "Astrograss Songwriting Challenges," in which kids are invited to write poems, which Astrograss then sets to music. "Music Makes Me Feel," the song that closes the CD, is a musical adaptation of a poem by nine-year-old Marcella Fellus Borgenict.

Soon I will be heading home to see you via mule train, darling Edith. And if the mule train isn't prompt, perhaps a limo. In the meantime, I've selected some tracks from THE COLORED PENCIL FACTORY and shared them in my DropBox. You will enjoy the dedicated vocals of band members Jordan Shapiro, Sarah Alden, and Tim Kiah. Marvel at Sarah's fiddle playing. Enjoy the banjos, mandolin, clarinet, and twin fiddle!

As I send this e-mail, fictitious Edith, think of not only me kindly, but also Astrograss. For their love of bluegrass is to be admired, listened to, and also seen, if possible. See you at the 4 PM staff meeting.

THE COLORED PENCIL FACTORY is available on October 16 through the band's website, CDBABY, iTunes, and Amazon.
Post a Comment