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Pickin' and grinnin'Far from its home in the American South, a thriving bluegrass scene
By Darrell Jónsson
For The Prague Post
December 3rd, 2008
“These blues are so blue. They are the coal black blues/ For my place will cave in and my life I will lose” wrote American folk musician Alvin Pleasant Carter in 1938. In the years following World War II, the Carter family and musicians like Bill Monroe found plenty of true believers for their brand of tragic but high-spirited music on both sides of the Atlantic.
Musically, the multithreaded form Monroe would coin as “bluegrass” contained all the dynamism of the first African-American banjos, the postwar energy of jazz and the lyricism of Appalachian Anglo-Celt ballads. Filtering the spirit of the times through the use of acoustic instruments enabled bluegrass to travel from its Southern birthplace to anywhere a guitar, mandolin, banjo and bass (or, in a pinch, a washtub) could be found.
With most of these instruments available in Europe, it wasn’t surprising that this infectious music excited enthusiasts throughout the Continent. And, as writer Ruth Ellen Gruber, who chronicles Central Europe’s “virtual West” on her blog “Sauerkraut Cowboys,” notes, “Of all European countries, east or west, it is the Czech Republic where country and especially bluegrass have been most totally assimilated, or reinvented, as genuine local traditions.”
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