Monday, November 3, 2014

"Wild West" slack-lining in southern Poland.....

A group of European slack-liners recently held a gathering in southern Poland -- and the theme was the "wild west" -- bows and arrows, painted body art, feathers, whispery flute melodies.....

The resulting video is a mash-up of a wide range of Imaginary Wild West tropes, some of them just abstract sketches,  set to a rapping hip-hop sound track and breath-taking scenery.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Homeless US singer become country/Americana star in Sweden

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

American media including NPR (National Public Radio) and the Wall Street Journal ran stories recently about a homeless American singer in Nashville, Doug Seegers, who was filmed by a Swedish singer and her team for a documentary segment on down-and-out musicians for her TV show -- and ended up a star in Sweden.

From NPR:
People started sending money to help Seegers. A Swedish label offered him a record deal. A prominent record producer back in Nashville — along with a lot of big-deal session guys — signed on to make the record, and they finished it in three days.
For one track, someone called in a favor with one of Seegers' longtime heroes, Emmylou Harris. Harris recorded her tracks separately — but she was so moved by Seegers' voice that she called him to let him know.
"I pick up the phone and she says, 'Doug, this is Emmylou Harris,' " Seegers says. "And I immediately start crying. I couldn't even talk, I was crying so hard. It was a dream come true for me."
When it was released in Sweden, Seegers' album went to No. 1 and stayed in the top five for 10 weeks. Seegers toured the country, selling out 60 shows. Everywhere he went, he says, people would ask him how he was doing in the United States.

It's a heart-warming story.

NPR got it wrong, however, when it said that Sweden "lacks for country music fans."

Sweden has a country/bluegrass/linedeance scene and a history of home-grown country and Americana music. There is a country music radio/internet station, and also various local country and bluegrass artists, such as the award-winning bluegrass group Dunderhead, and  the Willy Clay Band -- (whose web site seems out of date, but the band has a Facebook page and seems still to be around. 

Here's a 2010 blog post about a Swedish country concert.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

More evidence of growing Italian country scene

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

Here's more evidence that Italy's country western scene is developing.

The Italy blog Italy Chronicles runs a post about an Italian country singer named Fabrizio Pollastrelli who goes by the stage name Paul Aster and plays with a band called "The Fellows." His web site says they play "southern rock 'n' country music."

Aster hails from northern Italy and is currently based on Fano, in Le Marche on the coast.

Here he sings -- like so many other European country artists -- Country Roads....

Italy has a few wellknown, veteran bluegrass groups -- like Red Wine and Bluegrass Stuff -- but until fairly recently it has not had much of a "mainstream" country music scene.

As I've posted in the past , this seems to be changing. There is a slowly growing country-western-music-etc scene that includes country music and other general western festivals as well as a surging line-dance scene.

This is on top of fairly well-established western scene linked to horses and horse-riding, and the Cowboy Action Shooting scene, which has clubs in many parts of the country.

The biggest western event has long been the FieraCavalli -- horse fair -- in Verona.

Here's a video from the FieraCavalli 2009 -- masters of line dancing.

I can't forget that the first European country singer I met when I first started exploring the "imaginary wild west" was an Italian, "George McAnthony," from the South Tyrol/Alto Adige region. I saw him perform a couple of times and did a lengthy interview with him -- he was a nice guy and he and his story helped trigger my interest in the imaginary wild west phenomenon..Sadly, George died three years ago, aged only 45.

Still, just nine or 10 years ago I attended a  well-attended "Western Games" festival near Rome -- and there was no line-dancing, and the country band they had playing drew an audience of zero.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Buffalo Bill in Milano

"Wild West" toys for sale in Italy. I think that's Buffalo Bill on the bottom label. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

Buffalo Bill toured his Wild West show all over Europe. These tours comprised one of three phenomena around 1900 that came together and helped solidify and spread the Imaginary Wild West in Europe -- the other two were Karl May's books and the birth of the movies.

You can now find a lot of material related to Bill's European Wild West tours online.

Check out this link -- to the full program of his show in Milan, Italy in 1906 

It's from the Buffalo Bill Online Archive of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

The tour opened in Genoa on March 14th, and closed in Udine on May 11th. The show  performed in Milan April 30th to May 5th.

The full tour route in Italy was:  Genoa, La Spezia, Livorno, Roma, Terni, Perugia, Arezzo, Firenze, Pisa, Parma, Modena, Bologna, Forli', Ancona, Rimini, Ravenna, Ferrara, Padova, Verona, Mantova, Cremona, Piacenza,Pavia, Alessandria, Torino, Asti, Novara, Como, Milano, Bergamo, Brescia, Vicenza, Treviso, and Udine.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Tony Trischka's new CD -- A Great Big World

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

The American banjo great Tony Trischka has come out with a gorgeous new CD, "A Great Big World." You can hear a preview of one track by clicking the link on the photo above.

The CD showcases Tony't thrilling virtuosity -- and includes guests such as Andy Statman,  Russ Barenberg,  Tristan Clarridge, Mike Barnett and others on a variety of songs -- including one of my favorites, Woody Guthrie's "Do-Re-Mi." All the tracks are winners -- but the one that really hit me was the oddly titled "Purple Trees of Colorado."Amazing.

Writes Bela Fleck in the Liner Notes -- which can be accessed online:

"Everyone loves to play with Tony, because of his strong musical gifts and conception, and because he's one of the coolest dudes to hang around with and be yourself. Not everyone who asks you to play on their record actually wants that, but he does."

Though I've seen him in the U.S., I know Tony from here in Europe -- where he plays often, and where he has had considerable influence. This has been particularly so in the Czech Republic, where his progressive bluegrass style was a powerful inspiration to (among others) the musicians who went on to found the group Druha Trava.

In the 1980s, DT's singer-songwriter Robert Krestan and banjoist Lubos Malina were members of the pioneering Czech progressive bluegrass group Poutnici. (They left Poutnici and formed DT in 1991.) Robert at that time also played banjo. Tony was one of their heroes.

As I noted in an earlier post, Tony first toured the Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia) in 1988, before the fall of communism, and he also returned in 1989, also before the Wall came down. During those stays, he performed as a guest on an LP by Poutnici, called "Wayfaring Stranger." In the liner notes, he describes Poutnici in much the same terms I have used to describe Druha Trava. "They … have a unique sound," he said. "Czechgrass instead of Kentucky bluegrass. In other words, they've made it their own, which is wonderful."

I've now caught Tony on tour with DT on several occasions -- first in 2008, and the latest time this past summer, where Tony tried out his new banjo -- a banjo made by the accomplished Czech banjo-maker Zdenek Roh.  (Zdenek is featured in the new documentary about Czech bluegrass, Banjo Romantika.)

Tony Trischka with his new banjo, made by Zdenek Roh. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

In addition to his Czech tours, Tony also plays elsewhere in Europe -- he teaches at a summer bluegrass workshop near Urbino, Italy, and this fall will be teaching at a "banjo camp" workshop in Germany.

Monday, January 13, 2014

More imaginary wild west in Italy! Video of Colosseum Country festival!

Here's a video report on the Colosseum Country Festival that took place near Rome back in October. Mostly line-dancing, and lots of tropes....

I posted about this festival and other events in the slowly growing Italian wild west & country scene back in August. It's gettin' there, I guess.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Off geographic topic: upcoming Country Music Festival in Borneo (and a mention of Tamworth)

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

I know it's not Europe, but I just have to post about the Miri Country Music Festival coming up next month...on Borneo! This certainly testifies to the worldwide appeal of twang!

The festival -- reportedly the first ever country music festival in the region -- takes place Feb. 15 at the Park City Everly Hotel in Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia. (Sarawak is one of two Malaysian states on Borneo.)

According to the lineup includes the Malaysian band D'Renegades, the Johnny Rodgers Band (Nashville), The Corn Cake Kings (Kuala Lumpur), Eia and the Superband (Brunei), and two bands from Singapore – Wandering Mustangs as well as Mel and Joe. The program will also include games and competitions for adults and children, pony rides, line-dances and drum workshops and food stalls.
D’Renegades has been around since 1980 and it was formed by accomplished United Kingdom pianist Asif Pishori and Malaysian singer cum songwriter Ady Wow.
The duo who now resides in Kota Kinabalu had been performing at various shows and concerts.
For this coming festival, Ady and Asif had teamed up with three other equally talented musicians.
They are Ozone, Kichi and Zul and together they will get the festival goers dancing to their country rock pop tunes.

The Borneo Post online reports that another Malaysian band, Hi Breed, will also perform.

Festival-goers will enjoy bluegrass, folk and contemporary country music with an impressive mix of tempos for both the young and old.
Tickets are available at; Utopia in Kuching; Parkcity Everly Hotel and Planet Borneo Travel and Tour Services in Miri; as well as El Centro in Kota Kinabalu.

The festival is organized by UCSI Communications Sdn Bhd, a professional conference organizer, and is endorsed by the Miri City Council and supported by Parkcity Everly Hotel, Planet Borneo Travel and Tours Services, as well as Curtin University Sarawak.

I also have to note that the vast and venerable Tamworth Country Music Festival in Australia starts in a few days.

The 42nd edition of this huge event (held in Tamworth, New South Wales) runs this year from Jan. 17-26. Considered to be the world's biggest country music fest it is a showcase and celebration of a thoroughly local scene that draws 50,000 fans or more, with more than 600 performers and 2,500 events staged during the course of the festival -- a rodeo, line-dancing, the annual Australian country music awards and more.

The line-up this year includes  some international artists including Quinn Keister of Canada, Monte Goode from the USA, Australian/Austrian group John Deer Band and Alessandro Nicoletta from Italy, but it's mainly many many local acts.

Check out the web site or the Facebook page for information about the line-up, events and more

See my previous posts about Tamworth