Friday, 26 September 2008

Europe at the IBMM's ROMP, June 2008

Red Wine and G2 on the ROMP stage at Owensboro

At the International Bluegrass Music Museum's ROMP (River Of Music Party) festival in Owensboro, KY, this past summer, European bluegrass was well represented by Red Wine (Italy) and the G2 Bluegrass Band (Sweden; #1 European Bluegrass Band 2007).

Thanks to Jens Koch, banjo-player of G2, for photos from ROMP, where Christopher Olsson (lead vocals and guitar) held the guitar workshop, together with Skip Cherryholmes and Jim Hurst, and Tobias Strömberg (dobro) the dobro workshop, together with Andy Hall. Jens adds:

We met our good Italian friends from Red Wine – it's always so nice to meet Martino, Silvio, Luca and Stefano. These fellows asked us to join them onstage for 'I'll stay around' during their set. Fun! When it got close to us, dark clouds conquered the sky, which made us worried - the night before, the show had to be cancelled when the storms came and gave ROMP a real shower. However, as we entered the stage, the sun was shining again. (Is this good luck or what?) Our show went well and the crowd was awesome! ... When the 'Dusters asked us up to join them for their two last songs, we all agreed that there couldn't be a better ending on our amazing US tour.

Jens's full day-by-day account of G2's tour in the USA, in three instalments, can be read on the band's website.

The Infamous Stringdusters and G2 (photo by Darwin Davidson)

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Half a Turn teaches bluegrass

Half a Turn (Bruno van Hoek, Elly Beurskens, Peter Broekhuijsen, Paul van Vlodrop)

Elly Beurskens of the Dutch band Half a Turn reports that last August the band organised a workshop-weekend in the Eifel region of Germany - total immersion in bluegrass for 48 hours, with fourteen 'students' taking part. The schedule included classes in banjo, mandolin, guitar, harmony singing, and the vital matter of band cooperation and dynamics, together with individual tuition, jamming, and an evening concert.

The intense Eifel weekend was so successful that the band plans to repeat it every year, and to give similar tuition in the Netherlands and neighbouring countries. A specimen comment by one of the participants:

The workshop on band cooperation made us listen to our own band in a very different way: we now know how to evolve from a 'fun band' to a 'good band'.

For more detail, see the full text of Elly's report in the next issue of Bluegrass Europe, or contact Half a Turn by e-mail.

Chris Stuart & Backcountry CD: Crooked Man

Chris Stuart & Backcountry (USA), who toured in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Switzerland a year ago, released on Monday 16 September their new album, Crooked Man. The CD will be sold alone for a few weeks, after which the album will be available in the form of digital singles on cdBaby and iTunes. Chris says:

We're proud of this album and it features the band as it exists now with Chris Stuart [lead vocals, rhythm guitar], Janet Beazley [lead/harmony vocals, banjo], Eric Uglum [lead guitar, mandolin], Austin Ward [bass], and Christian Ward [fiddle].

Crooked Man can now be bought as a CD through the band's website.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Europe challenged on banjo speed record

In response to yesterday's mention of Johnny Butten (UK) as world's fastest banjo player, Erio Meili (originally of Switzerland, but now head of the Sao Paulo Bluegrass Music Association in Brazil and leader of the South American Bluegrass Network), reports:

Howdy folks,

Here comes our Southern challenge for a new record for world fastest banjo player, pre-qualified in the
Livro da Guineia (Guineia Book) and hopefully running now for Guinness. Check it out on YouTube. The tune is 'Sunday', home-made and faster than Johnny Butten's 'Duelling banjos'. For our alternative duelling banjos spot, watch our 'Titanic deviation medley' here.

And only last week, all we had to worry about was that the world might be destroyed by the Large Hadron Collider...

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Europe (and the rest of the world) at IBMA's World of Bluegrass

IBMA's World of Bluegrass 2008 begins in Nashville on Monday 29 September. An important event in the schedule will be the International Summit meeting (30 Sept.-1 Oct.), aimed at reaching a new consensus on IBMA's priorities for assisting the growth of bluegrass worldwide. Europe is strongly represented, with over half of the thirty members attending the Summit.

European musicians at World of Bluegrass will include the G2 Bluegrass Band (Sweden; #1 European Bluegrass Band 2007) and Johnny Butten (UK; current holder of the Guinness Records title 'World's Fastest Banjo Player'). The EBMA will again be hosting the International Suite showcases at the Nashville Convention Center (NCC), Room #104. The schedule is:

Tues. 30 Sept.
11:00 Janet McGarry (Canada)
11:30 G2 Bluegrass Band (Sweden)
12:00 Widow Maker (Canada)
12:30 The Toy Hearts (UK)
01:00 Lilly Drumeva (Bulgaria)
01:30 Johnny Butten (UK)

Wed. 1 Oct.
11:00 Red Wine (Italy)
11:30 C-Denny Band (Canada)
12:00 April Verch (Canada)
12:30 J.B. Rochat & Joost van Es (Switzerland/Netherlands)
01:00 Johnny Possum (New Zealand)
01:30 Tabea Anderfuhren, Aaron Till, & Steve Ledford (Switzerland/USA)

For details of other showcase appearances at World of Bluegrass by European performers, see the individual artists' websites.

G2's schedule in the US begins on Sunday 28 September at the world-famous Station Inn, Nashville, and includes an interview (with music) on (1 Oct.) and a slot on the main IBMA Fan Fest programme (4 Oct.). Red Wine, as well as playing in the main evening showcase programme (30 Sept.), will play for the IBMA Awards Reception Party (2 Oct.) and will go on to play at the Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival (3-4 Oct.) and - for the second time - at the massive Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco (5 Oct.).

Nechville on the move

A message from Tom Nechville, banjo-player, -maker, and innovator:

Hello, my dear European friends,

I am going to be at the Cornish Bluegrass Association Bluegrass Festival next week in Newquay, England; then I'll be at the Johnny Keenan Banjo Festival in Longford, Ireland. I hope to see a few of you at those events. I have several new banjo ideas to show you and more things are coming in the near future. Please visit my website for recent news.

I am writing now to plant seeds for next summer. My daughter Leslie is getting married in France to a nice guy named Lionel Schmitt. Jane and I hope to combine some music business and fun with the trip. I want to remind you that I like to play, and I do banjo workshops. I teach banjo playing styles, and also teach banjo setup, design, and construction. Maybe we could put on a demonstration together or team up to do a special event sometime next July or August. Let's stay in touch.

I bet you would know someone who is interested in my new lightweight banjos. The example shown is one of many new configurations that I am experimenting with, and I am looking for your opinions. If you or anyone you know is interested in something unique and special from Nechville, or you are interested in becoming an associated player/rep., I'l like to talk to you. Special direct pricing is available on my newest series of custom banjo ideas. You can contact me directly, or contact one of my associates listed here for more information.

Richard Webster or Leon Hunt in UK
Oliver Waitze at New Acoustic Gallery in Solingen, Germany
Lluis Gomez in Barcelona, Spain
Marco Centemeri

Saturday, 13 September 2008

The Lovell Sisters in Basel, 10 Sept.

Thanks again to Lilly Pavlak for a report and photos of a show in the current tour of Europe by the Lovell Sisters. Other dates in the tour were shown on the European Bluegrass Blog on 8 August. Lilly writes:

On their three-weeks-long European trip, after visiting Norway, Germany, Holland, and Belgium, they played last Wednesday (10 Sept.) the only Swiss concert, in Basel. The concert was the best-visited event there till now, as the first in the row of fall concerts series organised by Angelika Torrie.

The band showed us an innovative mixture of bluegrass, country, contemporary bluegrass and newgrass, and a lot of their own materials. The girls, Jessica (fiddle), Megan (dobro), and Rebecca (mandolin, banjo, and guitar), enchanted everybody with their sweet harmonies. Everybody was very impressed with the band's great vocal and instrumental work. It was one of the best concerts of this season.

The band travel with the girls' parents and their five-year-old little brother and they went from here to go back to Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and finally back to Norway. We wish them a safe trip! And hope to see them in Europe again soon.

Pierre Bensusan concert at New Acoustic Gallery, 26 Sept.

The multi-award-winning acoustic guitar virtuoso Pierre Bensusan will give a concert performance at 20:00 on Friday 26 September 2008 in the New Acoustic Gallery, Solingen, Germany, followed by a two-day workshop at the Gallery (27-8 September). For concert tickets (€25) and further info, contact:

Oliver Waitze
New Acoustic Gallery
Neuenhofer. Str. 122
42657 Solingen
Tel.: +49 (0)212/2474007

This year Pierre Bensusan received the Best World Music Guitar Player award in the Guitar Player Magazine Readers' Choice Awards. He is also opening the Guinness International Clonakilty Guitar Festival (18-21 September) at Clonakilty, Co. Cork, Ireland, with a concert at 21:00 on Thursday 18 September at De Barra's, Clonakilty.

Friday, 12 September 2008

10th Sunny Mountain Bluegrass Festival, 6 Sept. 2008

Posters and photos from ten Sunny Mountain festivals

Thanks again to Lilly Pavlak for a report and photos of the tenth Sunny Mountain Bluegrass Festival, organised by the Swiss band Sunny Mountain Grass at Stettfurt, Switzerland, in a new venue: a big barn near the Lommis castle. Lilly adds:

We were very happy for the nice shelter, because it was raining most of the time... Although the weather was really terrible, the festival was very well attended.

Four bands took part, each playing one set in the afternoon and one in the evening: the Swiss old-time band Big Stone; a new Swiss formation, Bluegraze, who made a big impression with their two female singers; the Sunny Mountain Grass themselves; and finally the Slovak formation Meantime, well known for their appearances at last year's IBMA Fan Fest and the EBMA's EWOB Festival.

Between the two halves of the festival the banjo, its history, and its different styles, were demonstrated, and a jam on stage brought the successful event to a close.

The final jam

Bluegrass in Czech Paradise, 29-30 Aug. 2008

The Log

Thanks to Lilly Pavlak for a report and photos on the 5th Annual Traditional Bluegrass Festival - the biggest traditional bluegrass festival in Europe - held on 29-30 August in the celebrated beauty spot 'Czech Paradise' near Jicin, about 100 km north-east of Prague. The local natural marvels include the Prachov Rocks.

The festival was organised in the 'Sklar' recreation area by the traditional bluegrass lover Jirka Toman, owner of the Modra Struna (Blue String) record label. In a total of nineteen hours over the two days, twenty-five bands (mostly Czech) performed, including Bluegrass Cvrkot, Goodwill, Peter O. Ruby with all Bells & Whistles, Country Cocktail with the legendary Kristufek (Krishot) Brothers and Dennis Schut, Dessert, the Petr Brandejs Band, New River Train, Blackjack, Jirka Kralik & Rowdy Rascals, G-Runs & Roses, Kreni, and Sunny Side. Lilly adds:

A nice surprise was the spontaneous reunion of the band Modrina (the Bruise), after fifteen years. Their new name is Blue Rej and for me they had the best vocals of the night. This festival really deserves more publicity and recognition, not only as a musicians' meeting at the end of the festival season. For me it is a unique event in Europe. So let’s hope more visitors will find their way there next year. Thanks, Jirka Toman!

Poetry in motion

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

3rd Bluegrass Fest, 10-11 October 2008

Thanks to Agentura Camille for the news that the third Bluegrass Fest, the international festival of bluegrass and acoustic music in Bratislava, Slovakia, will be held this year in October - Friday 10th and Saturday 11th - at the same venue: Culture House Zrkadlovy Haj.

Twenty-three excellent bands from six countries will play a wide range of bluegrass and related music, including the Lonesome Mountaineers (Sweden), Czas Na Grass (Poland), and Acoustic Quartet and Banjo Jumping Band (both from Hungary). Many Czech bands will perform: Garcia, Reliéf, Monogram, Slávek Hanzlík & Groovy Lix, Křeni, Blackjack, Petr Brandejs Band, Vabank Unit, BG Cwrkot, Bluegrass Comeback, and Bluegate. The domestic Slovak bluegrass scene will present Meantime, Union Citygrass, Grasscountry and Allan Mikusek with guest Peter Dula, Šidlo, Fairway, and Bluegrass Time. Two international bands will perform: Eliska Ptackova & Waterflow (CZ/SK) and Stressed Hedgehog (US/SK).

The bands taking part can be heard by visiting the festival profile at this link. Ten per cent of the revenue from each ticket will be donated to the Peter Dula foundation Keeping the dream alive. More information (with English translation) is on the Bluegrass Fest website.

MasterGrass Society at Zoeterwoude: today!

Thanks to Dee Hallett of the British Bluegrass Music Association for the news that the MasterGrass Society meets at Café de Meester, Zuidbuurtseweg 57, 2381 AE Zoeterwoude, the Netherlands, on Wednesday 10 September to celebrate fifteen years in operation. There will be a special programme, featuring the quartet Lazy Tater who play bluegrass, swing, folk, Irish, old-time, blues, traditional pieces, and original compositions.

The band consists of Ronnie Snippe (vocals and jet ear), Geert van Schoonderwoerd (banjo), Jan Pals (vocals, mandolin, and other instruments) and Beppie Gasman (vocals and bass). The free show is scheduled to begin at 20.30, with doors open at 20.00. Bring your instruments!

A feature on Lazy Tater (with photo) is in the current issue of Strictly Country magazine.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Country & Western Friends present US bands

Chad Graves and Becky Buller of Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike

Thanks to Friedrich Hog, vice-president of the Country & Western Friends Koetz 1982 e.V., for news of the association's upcoming presentations: Sawmill Road (USA) (Steve Spurgin, Dick Brown, Bruce Johnson, Charlie Edsall, Mark Miracle) at 20.00 on Friday 14 November 2008 in the Pfleghofsaal, 89129 Langenau bei Ulm, Germany; and Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike (USA) at 20.00 on Saturday 13 December in the Schützenhaus, 89340 Leipheim - the Friends' Christmas concert.

Full press releases in German can be read here:

Sawmill Road
Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike

and a picture of Sawmill Road is here.

Eddie Adcock - Bionic Banjo-Player

Preparing for surgery

Eddie Adcock - 'Father of Newgrass', one of the most influential banjo-players in bluegrass history, and member of the 'classic' Country Gentlemen and of many Halls of Fame - has embarked on a course of Deep Brain Stimulation surgery at Vanderbilt Medical Center, Nashville, TN. The aim is to eliminate hand tremor, which has affected his playing and writing in the last few years. The method involves implanting electrodes in the brain while the patient is conscious and playing.

The process is painful, but Eddie is in good spirits and will get a post-op check-up before fine tuning of the system in early October. He is the first person to receive this treatment at Vanderbilt, other than sufferers from Parkinson's disease.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Programme for Buehl 2009 Announced

Walter Fuchs of the International Bluegrass Festival in Buehl, Germany has announced the details of the programme for the seventh edition in 2009. Dates are May 1 and 2, 2009 and the venue remains "Bürgerhaus Neuer Markt" in 77815 Buehl/Baden, Germany.

On Friday, May 1, 2009 the following bands are scheduled to appear (from 19:00): The Looping Brothers (D) feat. Wayne Henderson & Helen White (USA), Crooked Still (USA). On Saturday, May 2, 2009 (from 14:00) the programme includes Nugget (A), Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands (USA), Randy Waller & the Country Gentlemen (USA)  and The Moonlighters (USA).

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Open House Festival, Belfast, 24-8 September

The Tenth Coors Open House Festival in Belfast, Northern Ireland, will be held on 24-28 September 2008, with many bands from the Americana and other traditions performing at several different venues in the city. Some have already been mentioned on the European Bluegrass Blog, and full details are on the Festival website.

The festival season in Ireland is now in its most active phase, involving many bands from the rest of Europe. The Czech band Sunnyside were in the 14th Dunmore East festival in Co. Waterford (21-4 August); the 17th Appalachian and Bluegrass Music Festival at Omagh, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland (5-7 September) features Jiri Kralik & the Rowdy Rascals (CZ), the Blue Grass Boogiemen (NL), and the G2 Bluegrass Band (Sweden). The Johnny Keenan Banjo Festival at Longford (25-8 September) features the Ranch House Favourites (NL) and the Lluis Gomez Quartet (E), while the Open House programme includes the Rockridge Brothers (Sweden).

Monday, 1 September 2008

New: Reso Hangout and Flatpicker Hangout

Eric Schlange reports:

Just wanted to let you know that I just launched the Reso and Flatpicker Hangout sites. If you’re not familiar with the Hangout sites I currently run, I’ve run the Banjo Hangout for about eight years now, and started the Fiddle Hangout about a year ago [see the post on the European Bluegrass Blog].

I started up the Reso Hangout (for dobro players) and Flatpicker Hangout (for guitarists) recently. These sites have the same set of free features that Hangout users have grown to know and love - forums, MP3 uploads, blogs, photo albums, video archives, classified ads, event calendars, and much more.

4th Picnic Festival at Namur, 6-7 September

A reminder from Bluegrass in Belgium: the 4th Picnic Festival begins on Saturday 6 September 2008 in the Terra Nova section of the Citadel at Namur.

Doors open at 15:00 and the official opening of the Festival is at 16:45. The programme for Saturday, the 'Bluegrass Day', is:

17:00 G Runs & Roses (CZ)
19:00 The Sons of Navarone (B)
20:30 Lovell Sisters (USA)
22:00 Sacred Sounds of Grass (D)

Richard Baudry will give a master class in lutherie at 18:00, and there will be sessions at the Irish Pub from 16:00. The Sunday programme is devoted to Celtic music. Full details, with links to band websites, are on the Festival website.