FolkWorld #58 11/2015
© Walkin' T:-)M

German Book Reviews

Bill Monroe & Lester Flatt, 1972, © Fleischhauer

Artist Video Bluegrass @ FolkWorld:
FW#23, #44, #45, #45, #50, #52

T:-)M's Night Shift

La Talvera

Artist Video Se Canta que Cante The song book Se Canta que Cante is a revised and expanded collection of traditional Occitan songs, featuring sheet music and lyrics in the Romance language spoken in southern France with French translations, reproducing as faithfully as possible recorded performances. The 154 songs have been collected in the departments of Tarn, Aveyron, Tarn-et-Garonne, Lot, Haute-Garonne, Aude, Hérault and Cantal by the association Cordae and the band La Talvera, one of the leading Occitan folk bands, which albums have been regularly reviewed in FolkWorld: FW#28, #34, #41, #45, #49, #53! Listen to these songs in their original version @!
Se Canta que Cante – recueil de chants occitan. Cordae/La Talvera, 2015, pp248, €12.00

Dan Bern

Artist Video 10,000 Crappy Songs Los Angeles has a new private investigator: a failed songwriter looking to put 10,000 Crappy Songs behind him. But solving his cases will take a little luck and his old Gibson guitar. Singer-songwriter Dan Bern’s second novel is a fun twist on LA noir. – With the release of his 1997 self-titled debut album, Iowa native Dan Bern became the latest to wear the new Dylan mantle. With an acoustic guitar and a batch of songs, he left his home for L.A. and subsequently made his way to clubs and festivals nationwide.
Dan Bern, 10,000 Crappy Songs & Other Tales of Detection. Dutch Kills Press, 2015, pp170, US$6.99

Mind you, Bill Monroe's mother had been a "Vandiver," being the Americanization of the familiar Dutch surname Van der Veere. That's why bluegrassers in the Netherlands like to claim the Father of Bluegrass as their own.

And indeed, there is bluegrass music in the Netherlands, which reached the shores of the lowlands in the late 1950s. Recently Loes van Schaijk wrote her master's thesis and examined whether bluegrass music has been related to the phenomenon of Americanization, the term used to describe the worldwide dominance of the English language and the American way of life – often viewed as a threat to the traditional culture.

Ten years ago, she met the Slovak group Waterflow at the European World of Bluegrass festival (EWOB), which is held annually in Voorthuizen, Gelderland. They were looking for a singer and Loes joined them for three years. These days she sings and plays double bass in the Dutch folk and bluegrass trio Red Herring.

Marieke Odekerken & Loes van Schaijk, High Lonesome Below Sea Level: Faces and Stories of Bluegrass Music in the Netherlands. Kunst en Denkwerk, 2015, ISBN 978- 90-9028918-2, pp136, €30,00

For her master thesis, Loes travelled the length and breadth of the country to question musicians, agents and luthiers, both amateurs and professionals, purists and crossover artists – just all folks who have been captivated by this virtuosic subgenre of US country music, characterized by hard-driving rhythms, devastating instrumental solos and high lonesome lead vocals.

There is an enormous freedom to play with tempo and dynamics: you can make it very soft and beautiful, or very loud and rough. Slow songs can be rough too, and fast songs can be tender. The possibilities are endless.

These are the words of double bass player Aart Schroevers, whoy plays professionally with the Blue Grass Boogiemen since the 1990s.

Amongst others, Loes talked to Rotterdam fiddler Rens van der Zalm, who plays with Andy Irvine's group Mozaik, and mandolinist Arnold Lasseur, who met his idol Bill Monroe in the flesh. Guitarist Robert-Jan Kanis is proud that...

American audiences have told us they thought we sounded more authentic than the bluegrass bands in their own country, that were all going with the flow in those revival or innovation trends.

But there is also a critical view on culture. Banjo player Bart van Strien remarks:

I think there is no left or right anymore, just an upper layer and a bottom layer in society. And if there is anything I'm missing in bluegrass music, it's a political message. Bluegrass is usually about love or death, which is fine, but it never goes beyond the personal feelings of individuals. It would be great to see that gap filled.

The Open Universiteit exam committee delivered the following judgement about Loes' master thesis:

A beautiful theoretical reflection, which contributes to current research on the boundaries of the concept of Americanization, which is also the first academically sound empirical study on bluegrass in the Netherlands.

However, to turn dull thesis material into an accessible and artsy book, Loes teamed up with professional photographer Marieke Odekerken, who plays guitar and sings in the acoustic trio Way Beyond, but is rather inexperienced about the bluegrass genre in general.

I'm being submerged in bluegrass music, and I love it. I've always had a preference for acoustic music and vocal harmony, so I feel at home in this style.

Red Herring

Artist Video Red Herring @ FolkWorld:

Thus, High Lonesome Below Sea Level: Faces and Stories of Bluegrass Music in the Netherlands features 56 portraits – a one-pager of Loes's condensed interviews and one of Marieke's expressive black and white images, respectively.

Brevity is the soul of wit. It results in a comprehensive account though. Additional explanation is given by a glossary and an index for reference to Dutch and American culture and music.

Furthermore, readers might listen to the music in question by scanning each portrait with a smartphone app to be redirected to the artist's webpage (Layar technology).

By the way, Loes van Schaijk did come to the conclusion that Dutch bluegrass devotees loved the music for its own sake, not for their place of origin.

In 2015, the 1st Green Grass Music Festival was also held in Wijhe, Overijssel, with the aim of reconnecting American bluegrass music with its European roots, i.e. Irish, Scottish and English traditional music, and exploring connections between bluegrass, old-time, Celtic and other traditional music styles.

That's what we call a living tradition!

Photo Credits: (1ff) Book Covers, (4) Bill Monroe, (5) La Talvera, (6) Dan Bern, (7) Red Herring (from website/author/publishers).

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