Monday, 25 July 2011

Happy 20th birthday, Druha Trava!

Thanks to Lilly Pavlak for this account of the remarkable career of Druha Trava (CZ), illustrated with photos from Lilly's personal archives (above, an early promo picture of the band). Lilly writes:

The extraordinary Czech band Druha Trava is celebrating its 20th birthday this summer. How did it all come about?

The last picture of Poutnici with Robert Krestan and Lubos Malina as members

Two members of the legendary Czech band Poutnici (who won twice the SPBGMA Best Non-American Recording of the Year, in 1990 and 1991 for 'Wayfaring stranger' and 'Chromi Kone'), decided to leave the band. Both largely contributed to the band's success. The multi-instrumentalist Lubos Malina and award-winning singer and composer Robert Krestan formed in 1991 a new band called Druha Trava, which means 'Second Grass'. They added the Dobro player Lubos Novotny, the only one who has remained in the band till today.

First rehearsal, May 1991

The guitar and bass players changed during the years. The original guitar player was Lubos Malina's brother Pavel Malina, and Jiri Meisner used to play bass guitar. Robert Krestan, who used to play banjo with the former band, concentrated mostly on singing lead in Druha Trava, eventually playing guitar or mandolin.

I am sure some of you who were born earlier still can remember the band, named 'Second Grass', which was a frequent and welcome guest at many European festivals and clubs, especially in the first five years of its existence. On its first brief tour to the US in 1993 the band captured such attention at the IBMA Trade Show, that it was added as an unscheduled act to the event’s Fan Fest. They also played at the Station Inn in Nashville and in Bell Cove Inn, where they met Bill Monroe.

He liked their music so much, that he invited them to visit his farm [above, the band at Bill Monroe's house, 1993]. He told them, next to their name 'Second Grass', they should be called the 'First Class of Czech Republic'…

Anyway, that was the start of their American career. Stephanie Ledgin booked for them the first six-week US tour the next year (1994) [above, a promo picture for their 1994 US tour].

Owensboro, 1995: the 'foreign bluegrass' set includes Druha Trava, Fragment, and a band from Japan

Since them they have been visiting the US regularly almost every year. After the great success in the States they are only seldom seen as guests in Europe. But they have a very busy schedule in the Czech Republic.

Druha Trava in 1991/2 at Mahagony Hall, Berne, Switzerland, formerly the most famous bluegrass club in Switzerland

Druha Trava's distinctive sound is based on exceptional musicianship combined with Krestan’s gritty vocals and original songs. The present guitar player is Emil Formanek, with Tomas Liska on the bass. The band have received countless awards and have thousands of fans around the world. They put out almost thirty CDs; the last two were recently recorded in Nashville. The one with Czech lyrics is named Marcipan z Toleda, the English one will follow soon. Both are dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the band.

Druha Trava have toured and recorded with several Czech music stars and many top American artists, for example Peter Rowan and Tony Trischka. At the moment they are on tour with world star Charlie McCoy. We wish Druha Trava lots of creative ideas and lots of other successes in the coming years.

The very first concert by Druha Trava (July 1991) - at the Festival Folkové Prázdniny, Náměšť nad Oslavou, which will be the venue for the last concert in their present tour with Charlie McCoy

Druha Trava on tour with Charlie McCoy, July 2011

Sat. 23rd Moravská Třebová, Zámek, Festival (20.00)
Sun. 24th Olomouc, Nádvoří radnice (19:30)
Mon. 25th Praha, Kulturní Centrum Vltavská (20:00)
Tues. 26th Brno, nádvoří Staré radnice (19:30)
Thurs. 28th Bratislava, SK, Nadvori Nepomuckeho (Primacialny palac) (19:00)
Fri. 29th Děhylov, Loděnice (19:00)
Sat. 30th Povážská Bystrica, SK, Festival Country pod hviezdami (17:30)
Sat. 30th Zlín, Malenovice, Festival Zlínský Woodstock (22:00)
Sun. 31st Náměšť nad Oslavou, Festival Folkové prázdniny (20:00)

Druha Trava in 2011, from their website