Friday, May 24, 2013

Bluegrass in Bulgarian

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

My friend, the Bulgarian singer and fiddler Lilly Drumeva (who fronts the Bulgarian group Lily of the West),  has recorded -- with the Slovak bluegrass band Candy Floss -- what she describes as the first bluegrass song in Bulgaria.

It's called "Country in My Soul." The European Bluegrass blog reports:

The song was recorded in two countries: Bulgaria and Slovakia. Instrumental tracks and arrangement are by talented Slovakian band Candy Flossfeaturing Michal Barok(mandolin), Dusan Hronec(guitar), Simona Schmidtova(banjo), Michal Kovac(fiddle), Anton Naroda(double bass). Lead and harmony vocals were added in Sofia by Lilly Drumeva, mixed and mastered by sound engineer Stamen Ianev.

“Кънтри в душата” ('Country in my soul') is inspired also by John Denver’s 'Take me home, country roads', which is one of the most popular country music songs in the world. Lilly deliberately quotes fragments of its chorus, in order to raise more attention. In Bulgaria the term 'bluegrass' is relatively unknown and people only hear about it through country music.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Cowboy chambre in France

Lobby of the hotel at Pullman City Hartz. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

I love finding "wild west" places to stay (and eat) here in Europe. Restaurants, cafes and saloons are not hard to come across -- and a lot of them feature music. But hotels are something else.

Most wild west theme parks have old fashioned style hotels in their wild west towns -- but alas, I've never managed (or afforded) to stay in one of them.

I did have a memorable stay a few years back in the "Little Texas" hotel in Iasi, Romania .... it seemed a lot simpler place in 2006 than it looks now, at least on the web site. (And I don't remember it being four star).

Here's what the web site says now:

Just breeze through our authentic old west swinging saloon doors and you are immersed in the Old Southwest. Original & unique American cowboy decor combines with a warm and inviting ambiance. Rich massive wood and great country music conspire to create the sensation that indeed you have stepped into an American Restaurant of yesteryear. Our friendly and attentive staff is on hand to ease you out of the hectic day and into the "Little Texas Experience". Relax and unwind amidst the splendor of our magnificent restaurant garden terrace. Slake that burning thirst from the long dusty trail with a refreshing smoothie drink, a house specialty. 
Little Texas features 32 four star hotel rooms & suites, each with custom crafted American furnishings including large beds especially designed with your best night's sleep in mind. Each room features a fully stocked mini-bar, free wi-fi access, air-conditioning, direct-dial phones and flatscreen TV. 
Most hotel rooms enjoy a stunning panoramic view over the garden and the city below.
All rooms include our full American ala carte breakfast, featuring fluffy pancakes, tasty waffles--piping hot, homeade maple syrup, the perfect omelette--made your way or eggs-crisp bacon with hash browns. 
Our all original Tex-Mex menu offers a Texas size solution for that ranch hand hunger. Sink your teeth into our signature steak, the famous "Little Texas platter"-marinated filet mignon, available with all the trimmings; twice baked potatoes, hand made nachos, sauteed vegetables and spindle top salad. For dessert polish off a slab of our fresh baked double crust apple pie ala mode or the irresistible Texas mud cake - for an explosion of rich chocolate! 
Our Alamo conference room is the ideal choice for your next meeting or event. Fully equipped for your every need, the Alamo room provides a private and discreet setting with a secluded adjoining terrace surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of nature.
Let our experienced and caring staff help plan and organize your next special event, whether a corporate gathering, wedding, anniversary, baptism, party or concert - for groups of up to 150. 

I recently came across another place -- this time in France, in the beautiful southern Dordogne area.

The Laboucario Ranch looks like a Saloon and offers "Chambre d'Hôtes Country Western."

I'd love to check it out!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Exhibit on Lucky Luke opens June 2

An exhibit on the cartoon cowboy Lucky Luke opens June 2 at the Karikatur Museum in Krems, Austria -- I'm hoping to get there to see it. Lucky Luke is an immensely popular comic book series created in the 1940s by the Belgian cartoonist Maurice De Bevere, better known as Morris.

The exhibition will run until November 17. It will include original drawings as well as material about the Imaginary Wild West (and -- maybe -- the historic one) and there are various events connected to it.

Enter the world of Lucky Luke on his web site.

For further information about the exhibition, see the web site or contact (or visit) the Museum:

Steiner Landstraße 3a
A-3500 Krems-Stein
T: (+43-2732) 90 80 20
F: (+43-2732) 90 80 21

Monday, May 13, 2013

Rawhide (Belgium) awarded honor at European World of Bluegrass

Congratulations to the Belgian band Rawhide, which received the 2013 "Liz Meyer-European Innovation of Bluegrass Music Award" at the European World of Bluegrass festival and trade show (EWOB) May 9-10-11..

The European Bluegrass Blog reports:

The most active band throughout the history of EWOB -- having performed in Voorthuizen every year since 1998 -- Rawhide was selected as the winner of this year's Liz Meyer European Innovation of Bluegrass Music Award in recognition of their long-running success in bringing bluegrass music to a broader audience. 
In its 35-year history, the band has developed its own unmistakable and immediately recognizable sound, and has become an undeniable presence and driving force in the European bluegrass scene.The members of Rawhide have combined their vocal and instrumental proficiency, their love of traditional bluegrass and their expertise in numerous other musical genres with imagination, creativity and humor, to create a unique sound and stage show that has extended the borders of bluegrass music in Europe.

Liz Meyer, a singer-songwriter, died in 2011 at the age of 59 after a decade-long battle with cancer. Liz, an American who had lived in the Netherlands for a quarter of a century, was a leading figure in the European bluegrass scene and a major organizer and promoter for the EWOB.

Friday, May 3, 2013

First European Images of Native Americans?

Photo courtesy of Vatican Museums

The Vatican says that the restoration of a fresco from 1494 appears to have revealed the earliest European depiction Native Americans.

According to an article in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, the tiny images of nude, figures wearing feathered headdresses came to light during the restoration of a fresco of Christ's Resurrection by Pinturicchio in the Borgia Apartments of the Vatican.

"The naked men, who appear to be dancing, were spotted by a restorer, Maria Pustka, as she removed centuries of grime," writes Nick Squires in The Telegraph. A sketched horse can also be seen.

In the Osservatore Romano article, Antonio Paolucci, the director of the Vatican Museums, suggests that the figures were inspired by Christopher Columbus's own description of native people encountered on his first trip to the "new world" just two years before the fresco was completed.

Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia became pope in August 1492, two months before Columbus set foot in the Americas, and, like other European leaders, he was "interested in the New World," Parolucci wrote.

“What if the early impression of those naked men, good and even happy, who gave parrots as gifts and painted their bodies black and red, came to life in the small dancing figurines in the background of Pinturicchio’s Resurrection?” he wrote. This would then be, he added, "the first figurative representation of native Americans."

See articles in The Telegraph  and Religion News Service