Thursday, January 27, 2011

France -- video from Country Music and Line Dance Festival

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

I love the country and western festivals I go to in France. The music is generally good, the people are nice, and the fans generally look amazingly stylish in their duds. Line-dancing is very popular (sometimes to the chagrin of the musicians) -- and there are often huge line dance areas set up for big masses of dancers whose uniform movements are fascinating to watch.

There was a country music and line dance festival May 2009 at Disneyland near Paris -- this was the promo video....

Vidéo du Festival Country & Line Dance à Disney Village
Uploaded by am2v77. - Exotic and entertaining travel videos.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Music -- Different approaches to Don't Fenc(ing) Me In

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

"Don't Fence Me In" is one of the iconic songs of the Wild West; the quintessentially Singing Cowboy's ode to the open range and all the aspirations and cliches that that embodies.... it was popularized by Roy Rogers (my biggest childhood TV cowboy crush) years before I was born. Here's Roy (and Trigger) introducing it in the 1944 movie "Hollywood Canteen."

Far from originating on the prairies, the song was an early offering by the ultra-urban, ultra-urbane Cole Porter, who wrote it in 1934 for a movie that was never produced.

Over the years, there have been a zillion covers of the tune -- including this, on German TV, by Ken Curtis -- in his costume from his days as "Festus" on Gunsmoke.

Gunsmoke, and the Festus character, were popular in Germany -- one of the folks I would see at country and western festivals in Berlin affected the Festus look and went by the moniker Festus Junior.

Festus Junior at Berlin Country Music Messe 2008. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

Below -- a different take on the song by another ultra-urbanite, David Byrne:

Friday, January 14, 2011

Western Movie Favorites

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

American National Public Radio (NPR) runs a "western starter kit for the movie-going tenderfoot" -- a list of key western movies selected by correspondent Bob Mondello.
I settled on five films representing different styles — Shane (1953), a classic traditional Western; The Searchers (1956), John Ford's complex epic about the treatment of Native Americans; The Wild Bunch (1969), Sam Peckinpah's revisionist Vietnam-era look at violence; Blazing Saddles (1974), Mel Brooks' romp through Western clichés; and Unforgiven (1992), a Clint Eastwood riff on disillusioned old-timers that's often referred to as a eulogy for the movie Western.
Listeners were asked to add their favorites..... Me? I would add The Frisco Kid, Limonade Joe -- and maybe a Winnetou movie....and a Gene Autry or two....

Australia - Tamworth Going Ahead Despite the Floods

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

Tamworth, Australia's biggest country music festival, is going ahead this weekend despite the floods devastating Queensland, but crowds are expected to be lower than in the past.
Around 4,000 people are expected to attend the opening night concert in Bicentennial Park, festival director Steve Bartlett says, but that is down on last year's event.
"At this stage we're anticipating probably about a 30 per cent reduction in numbers," he said.
Many of the regular visitors to the Country Music Festival come from Queensland, particularly regional towns like Gympie, which has been inundated by floodwaters.
Many of the main roads leading from Queensland to northern New South Wales have also been cut.
There will be festival events for flood relief. Here's what the Tamworth Web Site says:

The 2011 JAYCO TAMWORTH COUNTRY MUSIC FESTIVAL will commence this Friday for ten’s days of celebrations and over 2,500 scheduled events contrary to bogus reports suggesting otherwise.
The major events, big name acts, buskers, camping and non-stop entertainment will engulf Australia’s country music capital as it delivers its 39th event.
Whilst devastating floods and raging waters have torn through the ‘sunshine state’, the NSW inland city of
Tamworth is ignoring rumour’s that its iconic annual event will not only proceed in 2011 or that some elements standard within the festival makeup and fibre will be shelved due to minimal rains recently received across the region.
Instead, organisers are hoping the event will provide opportunity for the country music fraternity, locals and visitors to show support for the northern neighbours.
Giving the opportunity to dig deep and give generously, several major concert events have been organized as fundraising drives. Some of the confirmed events raising funds include THE QUEENSLAND FLOOD RELIEF Concert, held on Monday 17th January 3.30pm to 6.00pm at BLAZES, Country Update Magazine’s STARRY STARRY ONE NIGHT STAND Flood Relief Concert held on Wednesday 19th January at 8pm to 11pm at The Pub and LEE KERNAGHAN’S Outdoor Concert, held on Friday 21st January in Bicentennial Park.
In addition to the above musical fundraisers, Tamworth Regional Council has placed a donation bin at Festival HQ (Tamworth Regional Council Building) for the duration of the internationally recognised event as a central location to deposit and donate for the flood victims. All monies raised will be delivered to the QUEENSLAND PREMIER’S FLOOD RELIEF FUND.
“The city of Tamworth is looking greener than ever and more pristine than what most of our previous visitors would have ever seen it before. Whilst we remain dry and move ahead into our 2011 event, we urge the local community and visitors to get behind and support activities planned that will provide assistance to the Queensland communities affected”, said Councillor Col Murray, Mayor of Tamworth.
The 2011 Jayco Tamworth Country Music Festival commences this Friday 14th January 2011 and concludes on Sunday 23rd January 2011. The 39th Jayco Country Music Awards of Australia will be presented on Saturday 22nd January 2011.
Other major highlights and artists confirmed for the 2011 Jayco Tamworth Country Music Festival include Kenny Roger’s first Australian tour date, Kasey Chambers, John Williamson, Lee Kernaghan, Troy Cassar-Daley, John Butler Trio, Wendy Matthews, Beccy Cole, Adam Harvey, Toni Childs, Melinda Schneider and Adam Brand just to name a few.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Banjo Project

Tony Trischka plays in the Czech Republic. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

The Banjo Project written up in the Boston Globe -- This is going to be a great film -- I hope it takes into consideration the worldwide appeal of the banjo, and in particular the many banjo players in the Czech Republic and Japan!

[Marc] Fields, who lives in Concord and teaches documentary and studio television production at Emerson College, is going on his ninth year of making “The Banjo Project: The Story of America’s Instrument.’’
When it’s finished — and Fields swears he’s getting close — it promises to be the most in-depth visual portrait of the subject, encapsulating more than 250 years of history and restoring dignity to the instrument’s often misunderstood reputation. From the banjo’s origins in Africa to its role in modern music, the film burrows deep into issues of race (including its rise in popularity through minstrel shows), as well as class, regionalism, and gender.
“It’s America’s quintessential instrument,’’ Fields says over coffee last week near his office at Emerson. “On one hand, it’s part of the music that we invented, and at the same time it has all these negative and positive associations. You can appreciate that it speaks to concrete American experiences, but it also speaks to things we’d rather not be reminded of.’’
To say the project has been a labor of love is beside the point.
“Let’s put it this way: If I had known how big it was when I started, I wouldn’t have done it,’’ he says, before cracking a joke about how he had a full head of hair when he started it in 2002. “Other people have tried something like this, but I outlasted them. I feel like I’m going to be the one to tell this story.’’
It’s a strange mission for someone who doesn’t even play the banjo. But having worked on other music documentaries, Fields recognized the subject was fraught with a rich narrative that should be told.
“It’s a hard job,’’ says banjo master Tony Trischka, who’s been involved since the film’s beginning as its music director. “This is the first major undertaking to tell the banjo’s story. It’s not sexy like the Civil War, but it’s part of America and its social history. Even after all the work that’s been done, people still think of ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ and ‘Deliverance’ when you talk about the banjo.’’

Monday, January 10, 2011

Tombstone had Gun Laws

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

In the wake of the horrendous shooting in Tucson, AZ, Wild West imagery and cliches have been used to describe both Arizona and an "Arizona state of mind"... This is much the way in Italy, newspaper invariably headline a shooting or especially violent street crime as "Far West in Milano" (or wherever).

Friends at the Autry National Center/Institute for the Study of the American West have passed on the link to an article in Politico by Arizona-born historian Katherine Benton-Cohen noting that even in Tombstone, scene of the iconic (not to mention romanticized and fictionalized) Gunfight at the OK Corral, there were gun laws.
As bloggers and journalists invoke the hoary image of “frontier violence” and “Arizona’s poisonous political rhetoric,” it is not that surprising it took less than a day to mention Arizona’s most infamous bloodshed—and from a local sheriff no less.

The irony of Dupnik’s remark is that Tombstone lawmakers in the 1880s did more to combat gun violence than the Arizona government does today.

For all the talk of the “Wild West,” the policymakers of 1880 Tombstone—and many other Western towns—were ardent supporters of gun control. When people now compare things to the “shootout at the OK Corral,” they mean vigilante violence by gunfire. But this is exactly what the Tombstone town council had been trying to avoid.

In late 1880, as regional violence ratcheted up, Tombstone strengthened its existing ban on concealed weapons to outlaw the carrying of any deadly weapons within the town limits.

Read more:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Cowboy Action Shooting vs Zoot Shooters

by Ruth Ellen Gruber

As a member of two Cowboy Action Shooting associations --  Italy's  Old West Shooting Society and    SASS -- the Single Action Shooting Society -- in the U.S.,  I was amused and interested by an article today in the Wall Street Journal about both cowboy action shooting facing a challenge from a new form of dress up sport gunplay -- Zoot Shooting.
It's the latest twist on a sport called practical shooting, in which competitors move through a course, earning points for shooting with speed and accuracy.

About three decades ago, practical shooters from a generation reared on Roy Rogers and Gene Autry began dressing up in cowboy suits and firing six-shooters, giving birth to the sport of "cowboy action shooting."

Today, there are thousands of cowboy shooters world-wide.

Now, a new generation of sport shooters raised on punk rock, skateboards and mobster movies is moving in.

So far, there are only about 60 Zoot Shooters, in four states and Italy. As the sport gets under way, the cowboys are turning out to be some of the most eager gangsters. "Actually, our biggest draw right now is cowboys," says Mr. Huss. Still, the new guys haven't earned their spurs in the eyes of some cowboy shooters.

A new generation of sport shooters inspired on mobster movies and dressed up in zoot suits is moving in.

"There are two schools of thought," says Steve Fowler, a longtime cowboy shooter going by the name Bat Masterson, a famous Old West gunfighter.

He recently took up Zoot Shooting, under the alias G-Man. "One is that [Zoot Shooting] is another costuming game and it's a lot of fun…The other is, if it ain't cowboy, it ain't nothing."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

France -- More French Western Food...


By Ruth Ellen Gruber

I don't usually post info on individual saloons, etc, in Europe (though maybe I should....) but I can't resist putting something up about the Buffalo Grill chain of Western-style restaurants in France -- in part because it is so widespread. They are all over France, with some franchises in Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg.
Rentrer dans un Buffalo Grill, c’est comme faire une halte dans le grand ouest. En version Classic ou Hits, ici le bœuf tient la vedette. Vous pourrez aussi découvrir des produits et recettes originales qui flirtent avec le Far West : steak de bison, chili con carne, burger… Quant aux petits « cow boys », ils choisiront dans le menu Kids.

                   A vos bottes, prêt...dansez !