Bluegrass music is a quintessential piece of the American music canon. For many listeners, when the banjo, fiddle, and mandolin strike up a tune their psyche is drawn into a bygone American era; a simpler time when the music reflected the artist’s existence as a muleskinner, coal miner, moon shiner, or farmer, to name a few of the classic tropes. Bluegrass is a form of storytelling that reminds the listener of a strong and deeply authentic American culture. So at first glance it might seem odd to find Bluegrass in Beijing, China. Yet, The Redbucks, China’s first bluegrass band, have taken Beijing by storm.
The Redbuck’s story reflects the remarkable times we live in. A group of ex-pats in China, banded together by a shared love of American music, created a wildly authentic and polished Bluegrass album in Beijing! The Redbucks grew a substantial following from their live shows, livened up by baiju (rice whiskey) and beer, regularly drawing audiences of ex-pats and Beijingers into their celebration of Americana. The Redbucks have recently gone on hiatus, as half the band has returned to the U.S. (surely to the lament of their fans in Beijing) but luckily not before releasing their masterful 2010 album, All That Glitters.
Despite the uniqueness of The Redbucks, their story is as much connected to tradition as the songs that they sing. You hear a celebration of place and experience that reflect the bands understanding of the Bluegrass tradition while simultaneously adding their own distinctive take on that tradition. Their original tunes add to the living culture that is old time string music.
A Google search of “The Redbucks” will return reviews and endless
praise from both ex-pat and Chinese media, yet they return to silence here in their homeland. For The Redbucks this silence probably does not matter. They are true musicians who make good music for the sake of making music. They are players through and through. But on behalf of their stateside audience, I’d like to suggest that it might be time to get the band back together for a tour of the country whose culture they so wonderfully shared with China. Regardless of what happens, I highly recommend giving All That Glitters a play.
Check out All That Glitters by The Redbucks on iTunes
For more on the Redbucks visit http://www.theredbucks.com/
Special thanks to Andrew Kirkland, indieAndie's chief Ol' Timey correspondent!