Boundless Bluegrass Love

Written by: Shivawn Brady

I’m a Strawberry kid. For those of you who know, you know. For those that don’t, it meant I grew up going to the Strawberry Music Festival at Camp Mather, every year twice a year from when (as my mom likes to point out) before I was even a thought, too when I could drive myself. My Strawberry family taught me how to love and care for one another. They taught me the importance of self-expression. At Strawberry, I was free to run barefoot, sing loud, catch and release tadpoles and trust those around me. Over the years I had my owies bandaged by “strangers”, danced beneath the birch trees by the lake and observed the overflowing joy exuded on those jubilant Sunday morning revival sessions. Strawberry planted the seed which grew into my adoration of bluegrass and folk music. Bonded by the love of music, my Strawberry family showed me a different way of communing, uncommon to my world back home of suburban living and parochial schooling. 

As a teenager in the Bay Area, my Del McCoury albums and June Carter renditions were lost among my peers but nevertheless, I kept coming back. Coming back to a world that was familial and nostalgic. As I grew up and began to closely examine the culture I revered, I began to see a xenophobia and homophobia that I knew was not the Strawberry way among my elder bluegrassers. Statements and sayings that were lost on me as a child, but as an adult, I knew what they meant; the hate and fear almost tangible. These expressions conflicted with everything I had come to adore in bluegrass music. As a first-generation Irish-American, bluegrass represented to me the beautiful folk fusion that resulted from the uniqueness of our melting pot of cultures. That glorious mountain music that rang above class, religion, and race. 

It wasn’t until the Bluegrass Pride movement that was initiated by the youth that the culture began to deeply resonate with me again. It was this movement that made me proud to share this music with everyone. 

Today, I’m proud to be a card-carrying CBA member. This movement, this identification with all, is what brought me back to wanting to physically and monetarily support our local bluegrass community. One that I had previously felt shunned from. I’m so grateful to those heartfelt bluegrassers, leading us back to the roots of this music and reminding us that love is the way. Pure, uninhibited, boundless love for all. As Del sings, he reminds us, “You can’t fill your heat with silver and gold. You’ve got to have some love, to satisfy your soul. We’ve got to pool together, to make it on your own. Man can’t live on bread alone.” 

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