Bluegrass is a special blend of roots and rhythm, something born and bred in the deepest recesses of the American South. By combining traditional and handmade instruments, bluegrass is able to tell stories better than most genres by creating an easy-going bedrock of sound to build music off of. Even though Southern California is just about as far away from the Mason-Dixon line as geographically possible, some transplants and homegrown artists alike have created some excellent bluegrass music.
While it would be tough to peg Moonsville solely as a bluegrass band, its Americana sound harkens back to plenty of roots-based music not found in the past half-century. Upright bass, fiddle, banjos and more make up this six-piece band from Orange County, giving a level of texture most bands can’t claim. The group plays at a variety of the local music scene staples, such as Memphis in Santa Ana and Detroit Bar, when it isn’t tagging along with other local bands or competing for various Orange County Music Awards. There really are not a whole lot of modern bands attempting to recreate the glory days of bluegrass and folk music, so consider Moonsville Collective a bit of a local treasure.
Jameson & Co.
While definitely a modern take on bluegrass, folk and Americana music, Jameson combines all tropes and genres into an undeniable amalgamation of killer sound. Jameson Burt’s stellar voice is certainly the audible calling card of a young up-and-coming band, but the diverse instrumentation is also quite appealing, with everything from a lap steel to accordion and even a glockenspiel. There isn’t anything quite like Jameson south of Los Angeles and his local circuit sees him stopping at just about any venue worth performing at throughout Orange County. Check out his Bandcamp page for a few albums that won’t break your bank but will definitely make your grass blue.
Bridget Brennan and her two daughters make up Distant Cousins, a band so dedicated to bluegrass and Irish music that it will dress up in historical garb just to be as authentic as possible. These three women know their way around a variety of instruments, from horns and strings to percussion and woodwind, Distant Cousins has all of the musical bases covered. The group plays out of Lake Forest and is great for any small gathering or period piece, especially with its ability to play a harp. The bluegrass aspects help get the show moving, while the Celtic angle brings a storytelling aspect most modern music lacks.
Rocky Neck Bluegrass Band
Beyond winning the California Bluegrass Association’s “Great 48 Showcase Showdown,” Rocky Neck Bluegrass Band is used to being on top. It made an impact on the scene by winning another competition and its newest album has been hot within the bluegrass community. The group recorded it in Big Bear while attempting to get a real intimate sound that didn’t seem produced or altered by machines. It mostly worked, as this near-authentic bluegrass band from Southern California can transport you to a simpler and easier time with its well-crafted music.
The Famous No Name Bluegrass Jam Band
The Famous No Name Bluegrass Jam Band has quite the story here in Orange County. It is a bluegrass and country band that plays every week in Yorba Linda at the Main Street Restaurant at 9 p.m. It does not have any recordings and isn’t interested in fortune or fame. The group just wants to play some bluegrass jams to a welcoming crowd. It appears in various Orange County public gatherings, from fairs to festivals, and is a bit of a local legend amongst jam bands.
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Jesse Seilhan is a writer, editor and photographer from the California Bay Area. After moving to Long Beach, Jesse continues his passion for writing and music by covering concerts, interviewing top artists, and giving a dose of wisdom in a crazy, mixed-up musical world. His work can be found at Examiner.com.