As I mentioned in a prior posting there appears to be a consensus or standard in the dieselpunk community as to what should be defined as "dieselpunk music."
Since that posting I have fine tuned the definition to consisting of two critical components with one optional element. The first critical component is that there needs to be some form of connection to the diesel era. It may be preference for songs that were popular in that time. Or the musicians may have a musical style reminiscent of that era. The other critical component is that it needs to be contemporary in that the musical piece in question was created after the diesel era. This means that no matter how much we may love Louis Armstrong, Glenn Miller, the Andrew Sisters and the other masters of the diesel era their works are not dieselpunk. The last, but not absolutely necessary, component is that the trappings and fashion of the musicians may have a feel for that era though not necessarily the same as was worn then.
One can recognize these elements being applied in the comments made by dieselpunks on the various forums and blogs. Bands that play modern variants of swing music (retro-swing, Punk Swing, etc), such as Indigo Swing or Wolfgang Parker, are very popular in the dieselpunk community. Also, popular are contemporary big bands such as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy or the Brian Setzer Orchestra.
But if we’re true to our definition then we may be overlooking a whole genre of music that should be considered dieselpunk. In this case, I’m referring to Bluegrass music.
Origins of Bluegrass Music
As mentioned earlier one critical component of dieselpunk music is a connection to the diesel era. A quick review of the history of bluegrass shows that it does satisfy this component. According to Wikipedia:
Bluegrass as a style developed during the mid-1940s. Because of war rationing, recording was limited during that time, and it would be most accurate to say that bluegrass was played some time after World War II, but no earlier. As with any musical genre, no one person can claim to have "invented" it. Rather, bluegrass is an amalgam of old-time music, country, ragtime and jazz. Nevertheless, bluegrass's beginnings can be traced to one band. Today Bill Monroe is referred to as the "founding father" of bluegrass music; the bluegrass style was named for his band, the Blue Grass Boys, formed in 1939. The 1945 addition of banjo player Earl Scruggs, who played with a three-finger roll originally developed by Snuffy Jenkins and others but now almost universally known as "Scruggs style", is considered the key moment in the development of this genre.
Today bluegrass is alive and well with original productions and new songs. While one can still find musicians playing the traditional style, such as Ricky Skaggs and Hazel Dickens, bluegrass has continued to evolve and create sub-genres just as swing music has. One sub-genre is progressive bluegrass (also known as newgrass) with bands such Alison Krauss and Union Station, Railroad Earth, and Nickel Creek.
Trappings and Fashion
Unlike modern big bands and swing, contemporary bluegrass bands tend to place less emphasis on diesel era fashion. This is likely the result of the early influence of the founders of bluegrass, such as the before mentioned Bill Monroe, who intentionally strived to dress in contemporary fashion though often with the addition of a Western style hat. In the diesel era Southern culture was often portrayed by popular media in a derogatory fashion (I might add that this negative portrayal by the media can often be found today) and that the early bluegrass founders felt that dressing in a contemporary fashion would help give bluegrass, as well as Southern culture in general, respectability. Most modern bluegrass musicians continue this practice by also wearing modern contemporary fashion.
If the Shoe Fits
So as we can see that, while bluegrass musicians might not dress in traditional diesel era fashion, bluegrass as a musical genre meets the two critical components of dieselpunk music in that not only did it originate in the diesel era but that bluegrass continues to evolve with new and original productions and sub-genres. In my opinion, it’s safe to say that modern bluegrass should be defined as dieselpunk.