Embraced first by workaday bluegrass fans, the O Brother, Where Art Thou? album has now caught on among those whose “old home place” is a beach house in the Hamptons and whose “little darlin’” probably spent her junior year in Patagonia.
Well, novelty may sell one album, but it takes something more to turn a trend-surfer into the kind of enthusiast who will buy again and again. It takes relevance.
That’s where today’s bluegrass music falls short. It’s bad enough that the musicians look like accountants on Nyquil. But it’s really off-putting when they insist on singing about such unrealistic themes as poverty, isolation, fear, self-doubt and — yuckiest of all — death. How can ritzier folk relate to a gloomfest like that?
It wouldn’t require much fine-tuning, though, to make the old songs speak to a more affluent and cosmopolitan demographic. Consider these possibilities:
“Blue Moon of Nantucket”
“I Am a Man of Frequent Stresses”
“Poor Martha Stewart” (“Poor Martha Stewart/How was she found/Scarfing rum cookies as Kmart went down”)
“My Summer Home’s Across the Blue Ridge Mountains”
“Daybreak at Disney”
“Don’t That Road Look Rough and Actionable”
“Willie Brown, the Mayor” (“I’m mayor of San Francisco, boys/My name is Willie Brown/Everybody knows that I’m/The baddest cat in town”)
“I’m Using My Bible for a Global Positioning System”
“Don’t Let Your Deal Go Public”
“I Know You’re Married (But I’m Cool With That)”
You get the idea.