Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Bluegrass summer in France

Christopher Howard-Williams of the France Bluegrass Musique Association (FBMA) sends this news:

We had a pretty good summer in France, with the main events all enjoying success. The annual Bluegrass Meet at the Grange Rouge Trad en Fête saw a good number of bluegrass musicians come for the jamming and for the concerts, that included a special 'Banjo Sessions' organised by virtuoso banjo player Gilles Rezard (above left) on Friday evening. It has been announced that this will be the last Bluegrass Meet at the Grange Rouge, because FBMA representative Jean Lacote, who handled the organisation, is moving away. Jeff Tronelle, FBMA chairman and organiser of the Vichy Winter Weekend, is planning a Spring Weekend in Vichy and hoping to reach out to an international audience. Watch this space for more information.

Country Rendez-Vous at Craponne, while essentially a country rock festival, remained true to its tradition of showcasing bluegrass bands with the Steeldrivers, Ronnie Bowman (in patnership with La Roche), and French high-energy rockabilly-bluegrass band Howlin Fox from Normandy. Georges Carrier, who has been leading this festival with wife Jocelyne for many years, is stepping down this year and retiring completely from the board. This left many people wondering about the future artist-booking policy. I am pleased to write that I have been in touch with new president Blandine Peline and she assures me that they want to continue to work with La Roche on bringing bluegrass artists to Craponne.

As for La Roche Bluegrass Festival, we enjoyed another successful year with record attendance, in spite of the storm on Sunday night, which forced us to play the last two bands indoors in poor conditions. Sons of Navarone (B) were worthy winners of the contest ahead of Lazy Tater (NL) and Candy Floss (SK), thus breaking the Czech dominance of recent years! Ronnie Bowman was spectacularly good, playing many favourites from his back catalogue, and Bearfoot made a lot of friends with their modern take on bluegrass. Now that Nora Jane and PJ are moving on, it will be interesting to see what their next incarnation will produce. Hickory Project came back with a slightly changed lineup and continue to surprise with their modern hard-drive bluegrass with Coleman Smith from Texas excelling on the fiddle. Anthony Hannigan will be back next year with Hickory Project to lead the workshop, which once again proved a successful format.

And so to the future and our next Winter Bluegrass Weekend to be held in Vichy the weekend of 31 October-4 November. It's a great weekend of jamming with a concert on Saturday evening. It is held in a major sporting complex and the infrastructure, accommodation and food on site is excellent. See the FBMA website (go to the forum) for more information.