1. What are some of the traditional values celebrated in bluegrass music? What musical traditions shaped its origins? How did the music change as the rural South became more industrialized? What other cultures and musical traditions influenced bluegrass as it developed?
2. Why do you think “lonesome” is such an important concept in bluegrass music—its sound, its lyrics and its packaging?
3. Why would you want a new musical form to come across as old?
4. As rural folk made their way to cities for work, pushed out by harsh conditions and attracted by the promise of a better life, they idealized the life they left behind.
How is work represented in bluegrass songs? What sorts of jobs tend to be portrayed? How do the narrators feel about their work? In addition to work, what other themes are often heard in bluegrass songs? What historical events might these be connected to?
5. Bluegrass musicians sought musical innovation and seldom hesitated to re-tool older music into new form. What are the most important instruments in bluegrass? Where did they come from? What does their union represent?
6. How did the development of communications technology (first the phonograph, then the radio and later television) affect the growth of bluegrass music? How did it impact the career of Bill Monroe?
7. What was the earliest audience for bluegrass performances? How about later bluegrass performances? Were these audiences the same people? What diverse groups does bluegrass appeal to now?