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Essential Bluegrass Music Artists

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The roots of American bluegrass music include everything from jazz to Celtic folk, but since the 1950s, the genre has become widely popular and even more remarkably diverse. Today's bluegrass players range from old time and country-influenced artists to those that are more mainstream, and even showcase their rock & roll or pop influences. If you're a new fan of bluegrass music, this list of players can give you a really good start on your new hobby. (Listed in alphabetical order by the artist's first name.)

Alison Krauss & Union Station

Alison Krauss
photo: Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images
Alison Krauss started her career at the ripe young age of 16, after having received a slew of acolades and awards from various fiddling championships. Her prodigious fiddling and lovely voice pair with the inimitable skills of her band Union Station for a great bluegrass sound.

Bill Monroe

Bill Monroe
courtesy Humble Press
Bill Monroe is known as the grandfather of bluegrass music, and is credited with developing the sound and instrumental line-up that's still used in conjunction with bluegrass today: acoustic guitar, bass, fiddle, mandolin, and banjo. Read more.

The Country Gentlemen

The Country Gentlemen
courtesy Pricegrabber
Originally from Washington, D.C., the Country Gentlemen counted among its members bluegrass greats like Charlie Waller, Doyle Lawson, Jerry Douglas, Ricky Skaggs, Bill Emerson, John Duffey, and Eddie Adcock, among others. They alternated between traditional bluegrass and more contemporary styles, and many of their songs have become standards.
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Del McCoury Band

Del McCoury
photo: Kim Ruehl/About.com
Del McCoury also started out as a guitar player with Bill Monroe & the Blue Grass Boys. The bluegrass record Del McCoury Band recorded with alt.country artist Steve Earl is largely responsible for helping to resurge Bluegrass in the 1990s.

The Dillards

The Dillards CD
courtesy Pricegrabber
The Dillards were one of the first bluegrass bands to go electric in the '60s. They appearead as The Darlings on The Andy Griffith Show from 1963-66, where they achieved much of their acclaim. With their innovative blend of bluegrass and rock, the Dillards were influential in the advent of folk-rock and alt-country.
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Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton - 'The Grass is Blue' CD
courtesy Pricegrabber
Dolly Parton is often considered a country artist, but her roots are really in Appalachian bluegrass. Since recording bluegrass songs in the early '70s, Dolly has gone on to become one of the most influential singer/songwriters and country artists in the entire industry.
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Earl Scruggs

Earl Scruggs live in concert
photo: Karl Walter / Getty Images
Earl Scruggs began as a banjo player with Bill Monroe & the Blue Grass Boys. He later left the group and started a new one with Lester Flatt (the Foggy Mountain Boys). Scruggs' three-finger picking style innovated the way the banjo was played.
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Hazel Dickens

Hazel Dickens CD
© Rounder Records
Women are not exactly flying across the stages at bluegrass music festivals, but this hard-hitting lady with the great voice and acoustic guitar strumming is as great and notable as any male group on the circuit. Hazel Dickens has been compared to the likes of Woody Guthrie as well as Kitty Wells, and tons of folks in between.
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Infamous Stringdusters

Infamous Stringdusters Live in Concert
photo: Kim Ruehl/About.com
The Infamous Stringdusters started out as a group of well-traveled, well-placed Nashvillian session and touring players. They got together in 2006 and recorded Fork in the Road, which quickly became one of the most remarkable debuts in the bluegrass and folk worlds. Their instrumentalism is incredible, and it's paid off, as they've earned numerous IBMA Awards.
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J.D. Crowe & the New South

J.D. Crowe - 'Lefty's Old Guitar' CD
© Rounder Records
Banjo player J.D. Crowe is one of Bluegrass music's biggest pioneers. He started playing with Jimmy Martin and the Sunny Mountain Boys when he was a teenager. From there, he went on to join up with the band The New South. He's received Grammy Awards, IBMA awards and several other acolades, and is considered one of the greatest players in Bluegrass.
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