Sunday, 30 May 2010

Czech Bluegrass Spring IV: regional contest at Sloupnice, 17 Apr.

A new instalment from Lilly Pavlak's diary of a busy spring on the Czech bluegrass scene:

There are very few white spots on my Czech bluegrass map. The Old Rebel Pub in Sloupnice was one of them. On Saturday 17 April one of five regional qualifying rounds for the Banjo Jamboree band contest took place there.

Bluegrass Cwrkot [above] - a very traditional house band, playing in Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs style (the guitar player Hombre Lzicar is the pub owner) - opened the evening program. They are quite famous in Europe: last weekend at the EWOB Festival in Holland they were placed second by audience popularity award.

There were five bands competing. The best will be chosen to play the main contest at the Banjo Jamboree Festival, the oldest bluegrass festival in Europe, Saturday 18 June. The winning band will have then the opportunity to play next year in the main festival programme. The bands were mostly new to me.

As first, a band Early Times [above] from Brno with a very good female singer, Helena Novackova, came on stage, playing mostly traditional materials. If she will practice more on her guitar, I can see a good future for them. I loved especially their encore, 'Anthony' from Nickel Creek. Well done!

The next band was Twisted Timber [above]. They play mostly progressive bluegrass with a lot of original materials. Their English was just perfect, with no accent. No wonder - their lead singer and fiddle player, Matthew Whitten, came from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. I liked also their female mandolin player, Zuzka Liskova, who also is a great songwriter. Their instrumental work was very good.

The next band I met already last weekend at the Minifestival in Luka. The Giant Mountain’s Band [above] came from south Bohemia. Well dressed, with accent-free English and great instrumental work, they were about the favorites.

Bruno Unit [above] represented the older generation and their leader Vlada 'White' Bily is one of the Czech bluegrass pioneers. The band was founded in 2000 in northern Moravia, close to the Polish border. I know some of the band members, but heard them for the first time. And I liked it!

The last band was a young local group, Trautengrass [above]. Although the guitar player broke a string at the beginning, they showed a lot of temperament and the audience loved them the most.

The three members of the jury (the audience was the fourth one) had a really very hard job, because all the bands were about on the same level and it was pretty high. The final decision fell on the Giant Mountain's Band. But, if it were not in the Czech Republic, I am sure, all the bands could be chosen for any other festival... The night jam sessions lasted almost till the dawn.

Old Rebel Pub: the hall of fame. At top left, a photo of Milan Leppelt (d. August 2009), former banjo player for Bluegrass Cwrkot