Here is my personal compellation of the best bluegrass bands in the history of bluegrass music. They are not in a specific order of greatness since all of them have something amazing to offer.
- Blue Grass Boys: It would be horrible to have a list of the best bluegrass music and not have the original bluegrass band on it. The founder, Bill Monroe, was able to combine the sounds of country and blues with acoustic string music while adding in some common British traditional songs. The result was a new genre of music.
- The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band: The band itself has rotated throughout the years, never sticking to one specific set of members. The band was formed in the folk rock era of the 1960s and is now a band with all-star bluegrass and country singers who come and go to the band as they please.
- Flatt & Scruggs: Earl Scruggs was the protégé of Bill Monroe, so naturally, he became a bluegrass genius in his own right. Scruggs is the reason that the banjo is associated with bluegrass music at all. Flatt & Scruggs made their music known to every household in American through the programs The Beverly Hillbillies and Bonnie & Clyde.
- Osborne Brothers: The Osborne Brothers really made the sad, lonesome sound of bluegrass well-known. The brothers nailed the harmonies of bluegrass perfectly and created the vocal stack of bluegrass as well as the high lead style that is still used in music today.
- David Grisman Quintet: The David Grisman Quintet looked at bluegrass from the jazz angle of things. The result was a huge wave of new musicians in the newgrass movement who wanted to experiment with the style that Grisman had presented to them as something completely new. Grismand was a pioneer of sorts because of his revolutionary approach to instrumental improvisations.
- John Hartford: John Hartford is one of the creators of newgrass music, which was the mass revival of bluegrass music. Hartford was a musical genius and was able to play the banjo as well as he could play the fiddle. He was a one-man band who could play all of the instruments of the band. More like a hippie from the early 1970s, his interpretation of bluegrass was unique.
- Punch Brothers: The Punch Brothers are a contemporary bluegrass band. They keep with the traditional bluegrass instruments, but add in the styles of contemporary popular music, blurring the line between American roots music and pop music.
8. New Grass Revival: Also part of the newgrass movement, New Grass Revival aimed to revitalize bluegrass and make it more popular. The band was made up of unkempt mountain man looking characters. They made it into the scene with the hippies by taking rock and roll songs and reimagining them as bluegrass songs. It made the audiences love them by drawing them in with a familiar song but with a completely different sound. They were also big into the long instrumental jams that later influenced the jam grass bands from Colorado.
9. Trampled by Turtles: Trampled by Turtles did the opposite of New Grass Revival. Instead of making rock songs bluegrass, they took bluegrass songs and played them in a rock style with bluegrass instruments. The sound is unique and unlike anything I have heard in the genre.
10. Alison Kraus and Union Station: This is my personal favorite. Alison Krauss’s voice is distinctive in the timelessness that comes with folk music. Krauss herself has been a recording artist since she was 14 and joined the Grand Ole Opry at the age of 21, so she really knows her stuff. When she and her band Union Station agreed to play on the soundtrack for O’Brother, Where Art Thou?, they launched bluegrass music back into the mainstream.