Bluegrass Beyond Borders: Cow Comino Train brings French finesse

Cow Comino Train, based in Lyon, France, have mastered the sounds of American roots music courtesy of a descriptive and imaginative sound which digs into the fertile roots of abject Americana. It’s inspired by a bounty of bluegrass and compelling country influences that conjure up echoes of back porch jams, and the sprawling environs of the American south.

While the towering architectural shrines of Lyon may be a world away from the dusty hills of Appalachia, Cow Camino Train still manages to summon up a style that’s honed from a timeless tapestry. They create an emotional imprint through shared stories, proven passion, and melodies that cover a wide gamut of well-expressed emotion, from sheer exhilaration to restive reflection, and tenderness to tenacity. 

The band — comprised of Noémie (doublebass, vocals), Coraly (harmonica, vocals), Myriam (fiddle, mandolin, vocals) and Caroline (guitar, banjo, vocals) — was formed in late 2019. “Myriam and I happened to meet one another at a bluegrass jam that took place at the Antidote Pub in Lyon’s old town,” Caroline recalls. “Both of us love American roots music, so we decided to cover some bluegrass standards together. First Coraly, and then Noémie, joined us, and we did our first gig in a bar in February 2020, just when the coronavirus hit the world. So it’s been only two years that we really have been able to play live.”

All four of the women maintain a fondness for bluegrass, but they all come from different music backgrounds. “Coraly is a blues and soul harmonicist,” Caroline continues. “Noémie comes from a classical music background and has played in many different orchestras. I’m a folk and country music songwriter, and Myriam, who discovered bluegrass before us, is also in love with old time sonorities where the fiddle is highlighted the majority of the time. We are playing traditional bluegrass that we’re trying to modernize a bit, while adding some blues and country-folk colors as well.”

Their influences reflect the fact that they follow the lead of other women who have made an emphatic impression in bluegrass realms of late. “There always have been a lot a men in bluegrass music, but recently some newgrass women have been brought to light,” Caroline says. “It’s easier for us to imagine we might have a place in that particular arena. We can mention Della Mae in particular, but we also love Molly Tuttle, Sierra Hull, and AJ Lee & Blue Summit. In addition, we’re very inspired by Billy Strings, Trey Hensley, Tim O’Brien and the music of the Henhouse Prowlers.”

So far, the group’s touring has been somewhat limited. “We have only toured in France, and near Lyon in particular,” Caroline explains. “We played a lot in bars and restaurants in the beginning, but last year, we had the chance to play in our first festivals and nice concert halls. We also enjoy playing in the streets of our town so we can work our songs and share our love for this music.”

The festivals she mentioned include the Laroche Bluegrass street festival, the Grésiblues festival, and various local gatherings such as the ArggFest, Dessibels Festival, and the Theater festival of Malay. “We can’t wait to be in Laroche 2024,” Caroline said. “We jammed with Ben from the Henhouse Prowlers last year in Laroche.”

The band has yet to record, although they have prepared a few covers that remain unreleased. “Until now we only focused on covers, but Coraly and I began to write and work on some original songs, that we look forward to sharing,” Caroline mentioned. “We basically cover newgrass artists that we love like Molly Tuttle, Dan Tyminski, Trout Steak Revival, Della Mae, Frank Sullivan, and Greensky Bluegrass.”

Meanwhile, they are winning fans back home. “French people don’t really know much about bluegrass music, but they give it a warm welcome,” Caroline insists. “Every time we play, people tell us how happy they feel, because we look like we’re having fun, and, in fact, we really are. Playing together brings us joy. Beside the high technicality it takes, it is also full of warm human emotions.”

That’s one of the reasons why she feels that bluegrass is so universally accepted. “It’s an extremely inclusive music,” Caroline suggests. “The sacred principle of the bluegrass jams offers a beautiful vision of sharing, where everybody has a place and a voice regardless of their level of ability. It’s also an environmentally friendly music because it’s totally acoustic.” 

Meanwhile, Cow Comino Train is doing their part to bring bluegrass to the foreground in what may have seemed like unlikely environs. Their’s is a combination of passion and purpose that reflects their own commitment to that cause. Cow Comino Train certainly know how to milk that dedication for all that it’s worth.

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About the Author

Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman has been a writer and reviewer for the better part of the past 20 years. He writes for the following publications — No Depression, Goldmine, Country Standard TIme, Paste, Relix, Lincoln Center Spotlight, Fader, and Glide. A lifelong music obsessive and avid collector, he firmly believes that music provides the soundtrack for our lives and his reverence for the artists, performers and creative mind that go into creating their craft spurs his inspiration and motivation for every word hie writes.