Prague Post: Pickin’ and grinnin’

Discussion in 'Music Ministry' started by KenH, Dec 8, 2008.

  1. KenH

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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.”

    That tradition was in full bloom last week at the Vinohrady restaurant and club U Vodárny, where Czech musicians took to bluegrass with consummate skill and all the thrill of fresh-off-the-boat immigrants chasing wild turkeys through the Virginia woods. Elsewhere throughout the country, a network of bluegrass aficionados keeps the music alive with gatherings such as the 36-year-old Banjo Jamboree in Čáslav, which has the distinction of being Europe’s first annual bluegrass event.

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