Sunday, 2 November 2008

9th Old Time Country Festival at Winkel, Switzerland, 25 Oct.

Big Stone Old Time Country Band (CH)

The 9th Annual Old Time Country Festival was held on 25 October 2008 in the beautiful decorated Breiti Hall in Winkel, Switzerland, organised by the American Folk Club 'Rocking Chair', together with the local Big Stone Old Time Country Band. That night three bands were playing for us.

The house band, Big Stone, were as usual nicely dressed in outfits from American pioneer days. They tied up to the string-band tradition, with clawhammer banjo and autoharp. The band is welcomed on many Swiss bluegrass and country events, and consists of Pete 'Two Feathers' Erb (bass), Godi Gammeter (guitar), Rene Zentner (clawhammer and bluegrass banjo, autoharp) and Beat Heri (mandolin). All of them sing.

Drive (CZ/SK)

The second band, Drive, came all the way from the Czech and Slovak Republics and won the hearts of the audience with a mixture of contemporary bluegrass, country, sometimes even a touch of pop. Their singer Veronika Nemeckova was voted Female Singer of the Year three times by the Czech Bluegrass Association; Martin Stehlik, a well known banjo-player, went on a solo career for a couple of years. On the guitar was David Nemecek, and on bass Antonin Vondruska, who also led charmingly through their program in his special German. You know probably the Slovak dobro player Milan Benkovic, as he plays also with the band Meantime. Drive got standing ovations, and several encores followed.

BlueGraze (CH)

Also the final band, BlueGraze, was very successful, centred on two great female singers - Swiss country star Doris Ackerman (who goes bluegrass now) and Arlette Keiser, who also plays with Rosewood Delight. So does their banjo player, Res Nobs. Their fiddle and mandolin player, Mathias Lincke, is well known not only in bluegrass circles. The band's lineup concludes with Arlette's bass-playing husband, Petr Keiser.

The hall, with about 400 seats, was well filled and the audience was attentively listening. For the Grande Finale all musicians present came on stage and played 'Will the circle be unbroken'. It was long past midnight, but they had to give some more encores. The sound (by Robi Brunner from the Sunny Mountain Grass) was excellent. Both the audience and the musicians were happy. Everybody is looking forward to the next (10th) Festival. Thanks to all promoters and volunteers!

Thanks again to Lilly Pavlak for the above report. Lilly is now a regular contributor to the California Bluegrass Association newspaper, the Bluegrass Breakdown.