Bluegrass has been making a major comeback in the last few years, and for evidence supporting as much, I’d recommend taking a peek at the underground and some of its brightest stars such as Edgar Loudermilk. Loudermilk’s new single “My Picasso” is a celebration of bluegrass that doesn’t tether itself to any specific movement in the indie circuit, yet its identity is as indebted to the legends of the genre as any of its contemporaries would be. “My Picasso” takes the model for unadulterated swing and propels it into a modern balladic setting, making it hard for anyone who hears this track to walk away unaffected by what they’ve just listened to in full-color stereo sound.
I love how robust an instrumental wallop this collection of strings is throwing in our direction in this song, and even though it’s a little more indulgent than what some of his peers have been toying with lately, that could be part of the reason why Loudermilk’s arrangement stands out as much as it does this summer. You don’t have to be a professional music critic like myself to be able to decipher the organic components in this single from the tinny nonsense that often finds itself in the mix of more mainstream bluegrass crossovers, but for those of us who are true blue audiophiles, the quality of the tonality here is hard to beat. Edgar Loudermilk values authenticity, and that’s easy to see even in the most cursory of listening sessions with “My Picasso.”
Though I can’t be certain, given that I wasn’t in the room with him for the composing process, something tells me the songwriters Rick Lang and Jerry Eicher were thinking a lot about the stage when they wrote “My Picasso.” For this being a studio recording, there’s so much vitality to the sway of the band that it feels like the floor beneath the speakers is quaking — even in the subtler moments of the song. I can picture this being all the more powerful in a live performance, where the in-person audience and Edgar Loudermilk could both feed into the aforementioned vitality with an unpredictable energy that only comes from crowds of people piling into a concert hall and sharing an aural experience.
While mainstream country music has debatably fallen well short of what a lot of longtime fans have come to demand out of its best artists, more independent players like Loudermilk are keeping the spirit of true Americana and bluegrass alive this summer. “My Picasso” is more than a throwback to the days of a more refined Nashville; unlike other artists both in and outside of his scene, this is one singer and songwriter who has loftier ambitions that exceed simply wanting to attain the same kind of an impact that his heroes once did. This is a new era for bluegrass, and with folks like this superbly gifted musician handling business in the underground, I hope that the larger tree of country and roots music will soon get even stronger as well.