Progressive bluegrass is a genre that combines traditional bluegrass music with elements of other genres such as jazz, rock, and classical. It emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a response to the changing musical landscape and the desire to push the boundaries of traditional bluegrass.
The origins of progressive bluegrass can be traced back to bands like The Dillards and The Country Gentlemen, who started experimenting with different sounds and arrangements while still maintaining the core elements of bluegrass. These bands incorporated electric instruments, drums, and complex harmonies into their music, creating a more modern and progressive sound.
One of the key characteristics of progressive bluegrass is its willingness to incorporate non-traditional instruments into the mix. While traditional bluegrass typically relies on acoustic instruments like banjo, fiddle, mandolin, guitar, and upright bass, progressive bluegrass often includes electric guitars, keyboards, drums, saxophones, and even orchestral arrangements. This fusion of different instruments gives progressive bluegrass a unique sound that sets it apart from its traditional counterpart.
Over time, progressive bluegrass has continued to evolve and expand its boundaries. Artists like Bela Fleck & The Flecktones have pushed the genre even further by incorporating elements of jazz fusion into their music. Their album "Drive" (1988) is considered a landmark in progressive bluegrass for its innovative use of electric instruments and complex compositions.
Another significant artist associated with progressive bluegrass is Alison Krauss. Her album "Now That I've Found You: A Collection" (1995) brought mainstream attention to the genre with its blend of traditional bluegrass instrumentation and pop sensibilities. Krauss's success paved the way for other artists like Nickel Creek and Chris Thile to explore new directions within progressive bluegrass.
The impact of progressive bluegrass on the global music scene cannot be overstated.