Saturday, November 22, 2008

Imaginary Wild West -- Brokeback Dreidel

Since this blog is about the Imaginary Wild West, I can't help but post this seasonal offering:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Country Music Goes to China...

At some point over the past few years -- I cant remember just where I was -- I saw a TV show from China featuring country music and dancing costumed "cowboys"....

From The Nashville Business Journal
Nov. 18, 2008

A Nashville company is promoting the country music brand in China.

James Stroud, president of Ronnie Gilley Entertainment and Stroudavarious Records, has entered into an arrangement with the People’s Republic of China to officiate a cross-cultural movement to exchange music and cultural values.

Read Full Story

Country Music -- Two Views

These two articles -- one from The New Republic and one from the Wall Street Journal -- are about the state of country music in the USA, not in Europe. But the constrasting views are interesting regarding the genre as a whole, so I feel that the links are worth posting together.

The New Republic

Country First?


How country music lost the election--and why that may be the best thing to happen to the genre in years

Admittedly, it's difficult to fire up a crowd before a concession speech. Yet on an Arizona stage on election night, there stood Hank Williams Jr. and Big & Rich's John Rich, alone with their guitars and trying, in vain, to rouse John McCain's admirers shortly before McCain officially threw in the towel. In an election full of culturally symbolic moments, here was another: the sight of two country stars, from two different generations, looking testy yet powerless--visual proof that among the many losers in last week's elections was country music itself.

Read Full Story


Why Country Not Only Survived but Thrived

By Barry Mazor

Wall Street Journal, Nov. 18, 2008

Nashville, Tenn.

If you tuned in to the CMA Awards on ABC last week to catch performances by young country stars Taylor Swift, Brad Paisley and Sugarland, or by veterans Alan Jackson and George Strait, you are not alone. This year's telecast of the country music awards was seen by more than 34 million viewers. You might have seen the September telecast of last summer's CMA Music Festival, too -- the only festival of any musical variety that is broadcast on network prime time. If you're not sure who or what the "CMA" behind those events is, you're not entirely alone in that, either. But the Country Music Association, based in Nashville, is marking its 50th anniversary this month.

Today, country music is an exception in the ailing music business, a genre still thriving in tough times.

Read Full Story

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Italy -- I join OWSS-SASS (and hit a target)

Cowboy Action Shooting match, Italy, Nov. 16, 2008. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

As I wrote earlier, I spent the weekend at the convention of the Old West Shooting Society, the Italian branch of American SASS (the Single Action Shooting Society), a club/organization devoted to "preserving and promoting" the sport of Cowboy Action Shooting. According to the SASS web site, SASS endorses:
regional matches conducted by affiliated clubs, stages END of TRAIL The World Championship of Cowboy Action Shooting, promulgates rules and procedures to ensure safety and consistency in Cowboy Action Shooting matches, and seeks to protect its members' 2nd Amendment rights. SASS members share a common interest in preserving the history of the Old West and competitive shooting.
The OWSS convention took place in a lovely hotel complex near Gualdo Tadino in the hills of Umbria. Saturday night there was a gala dinner (antipasto, tagliatelle with meat sauce, tagliata with rughetta and roast potatoes, semifreddo, lots of wine and spumante...), and Sunday there was a Cowboy Action Shooting match at a nearby shooting range high up on a forested hill.

The dinner was preceded by an awards ceremony, where trophy cups were presented to first, second and third-place winners of the various shooting competition categories.

Most of the 70 or so guests dressed up in some sort of costume inspired by the "old west" of the late 19th century. Me too, as below, posing with another guest:

Some of the costumes were merely suggestive of the period -- some men simply wore vests or long frock coats and/or cowboy boots. Others were very elaborate -- a couple of women had full, floor-length evening-style dresses. But some guests came in "normal" clothing.

Once again it was brought home to me -- as it has been during my visits with hobbyists and to festivals in Germany, France, Czech Republic, etc -- that men especially look terrific in this type of clothing!

OWSS was only founded a couple of years ago but now has, I was told, about 400 members and chapters in a number of towns in Italy. Most of them seem to be in the north, and I met people from Brescia, Treviso, Vittorio Veneto and elsewhere (including Florence and Naples). The group included people of all ages and from a wide range of professions. Most looked to be in their 30s or 40s. There were a couple of families with children, but also "seniors" and some who looked to be in their 20s. I met a guy who works for the state railway, a woman who runs a shop, a man who installs home appliances, a guy who works for the Telecom, businessmen of various sorts, etc etc.

I was surprised to recognize someone whom I had known in Rome years ago -- Federico Polidori, a fine leather worker who produces beautiful bags, saddles, holsters and other accessories.

Most members are men, and they seem to have been attracted to the club because of the sport -- most of those whom I talked with had already had been involved with target shooting or other shooting sports. The dress-up and general relaxed atmosphere also is an attraction. Everyone who joins OWSS (or SASS) has to choose a wild west alias, or nickname: "Bandito", "Old Bill," "Oversize," etc.

Cowboy Action Shooting (as I found out at the match on Sunday) has specific rules and disciplines, called "scenarios". Basically, it's general marksmanship combined with speed, based on "scenarios" that include a variety of targets -- and shooters both dress in period attire and use pistols or rifles that date from (or, actually, are replicas of) weapons from the late 19th century. Several Italian companies (Chiappa, Pietta, Pedersoli, etc) produce such weapons and sponsor the events. Competitions take place in several European countries, and people I met this weekend regaled me with stories of a recent trip to Slovakia and, most importantly, to the SASS "End of Trail" meet in the USA. The Italian group, in fact, had hosted the European "End of Trail" international meet this summer.

I signed up to join the OWSS (which automatically makes me a member of SASS.) And, as I anticipated in an earlier post, I based my preferred alias on my Texan grandmother's name: "Miz Flora."

On Sunday morning, I made my way to the shooting range, property of a local gun club. I watched the action for awhile and then said my good-byes. Before I left, one of the club officials showed me how to do something I had never done before in my life -- shoot a gun! He showed me how to load pistols, aim, fire and observe safety procedures. I fired full five shots from two pistrols -- and with the second, I hit the target four out of five shots.

Friday, November 14, 2008

European Bluegrass Summit in February

The EBMA reports that there will be a "European Bluegrass Summit" in Buehl, Germany in Feburary. Doubtlessly, my friend Walter Fuchs, a country music fan/DJ, expert and author, is involved -- he founded an annual bluegrass festival in Buehl, and has been tireless in promoting the music.

Get the details by clicking HERE.

The stated aims are:

* To provide an opportunity for a wide audience of up to forty participants to meet face to face, bond, and get to know each other,

* To highlight some of the issues affecting the promotion of bluegrass music in Europe,

* To explore the issues facing different countries and different cultures in Europe,

* To motivate people to work together more closely and to communicate more effectively.

There's a steering committee -- but it seems a little odd that there are no Czechs on it, given that there is more bluegrass per capita in the Czech Republic than just about anywhere else....

More SASSY-ness....

Here's another article about the Single Action Shooting Society in the USA, and what it calls the "growing sport of Cowboy Action Shooting."

The article says SASS has 80,000 members worldwide....I am about to become one of them. I go this weekend to a convention of the SASS Italian branch, the Old West Shooting Society -- I already went to one of their shooting matches last month.

Right now, I'm trying to decide what costume to wear and what "Old West" name to take. I've got a vaguely 19th-century looking skirt that I got a couple years ago in Poland to wear over my Austin-bought Luchese cowboy boots.... as for the name, I know it will be some derivative of my grandmother's name. The daughter of immigrants, she was born Flora Susnitsky in the 1890s in a small town in Texas -- Brenham. In 1919 she married Joe Moskowitz, a burly man in high boots and a Stetson, who surveyed the oil fields in west Texas. I suspect that "Flora Susnitsky Moskowitz" may not sound "Wild West" enough for the club members....but, perhaps, "Miz Flora"?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Germany -- Country Music Messe Nuremberg

This weekend I'm missing (or as it's already Sunday night, I guess I already missed) the annual Country Music Messe, or Fair, in Nuremberg, Germany.

It's a smaller, shorter, sister Messe to the big Country Music Messe in Berlin, in early February, that I have attended for several years. I've written about the Berlin Messe in previous posts and articles (and also radio reports).

Nuremberg started up two or three years ago, and I wanted to go to there this year, to see how this fair differs from that in Berlin. It is smaller, with two rather than three days and three, rather than four, simultaneous stages; but the line-up of acts seems to have been very similar to that in Berlin. Mostly local German groups.

Still, it would have been fun to see friends such as Lonstar from Poland

and David Lee Howard who divides his time between Washington state and Europe.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Oxford Questions Country Music outside USA

An online article in Oxford Analytica questions why country music has not has a huge impact outside the US.

The 42nd annual Country Music Association (CMA) Awards will be held on Wednesday in Nashville. While millions of Americans tune in to see if Kenny Chesney, nominee for seven awards and performer of such hits as She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy, takes home some gold, the rest of the world will be totally unaware -- despite the somewhat ironic award of an ‘International Artist Achievement Award’ during the course of the evening. Considering the US has given the world rock and roll, hip hop and jazz, why has its second-best selling musical genre failed to succeed overseas?

OK, yes, country music makes up only a tiny fraction of CD sales in most countries in Europe (generally about 1-3 percent). But the story (read full story here) does not mention the scores of country music festivals that draw tens of thousands of people, not to mention the numerous online European web sites. Nor the way that CW music has had an impact on local stars, from Johnny Halliday and Eddie Mitchell in France to Francesco De Gregori in Italy.

And the lively country music scene in Australia? Keith Urban, after all, is from down under.