Bluegrass Beyond Borders: Grass Pistols shoot the lead out?

Granted, out relationship with Russia isn’t the best it’s ever been now. Even an apparent bromance between our two presidents can’t erase the cloud of suspicion that lingers between us. However if music is the salve that leads to common cause, then The Grass Pistols could have been considered able ambassadors. 

If, in fact, they’re still around…

Hailing from the city of Gorky, they were one of only a handful of bands playing bluegrass in their home country, which made them a unique entity indeed. The band began life in 1979 under the name Country Saloon — apparently Russians still cling to those images of the American Wild West — and they subsequently purveyed their sound almost entirely at home for some 30 years. However, a visit to the band’s website leaves off any information after 2011.

Nevertheless, this we know: the band performed at several festivals in Russia, France, Germany and Lithuania from 1989 until 2005. Their repertoire included several standards, among them, Banks of the Ohio, Walking Shoes, Rocky Top, along with material taken from the catalogs of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Dan Fogelberg and New Grass Revival. In addition, they wrote their own originals. 

Their diligence apparently paid off. Country Saloon’s 2005 appearance at an international bluegrass music festival in La Roche-sur-Foron France netted them a second place prize among best European bluegrass bands. Then in 2008, they made their American debut playing assorted dates in the U.S. A., specifically in Tennessee and Virginia. Two years later, they returned and expanded their reach by performing in Washington D.C. and North Carolina, with additional performances in Tennessee.  In 2010, they made another trip to the States, playing some 40 gigs during a six month stay.

That same year, they also underwent a name change from Country Saloon to The Grass Pistols. The latest line-up appeared to consist of Mikhail Dushin (banjo, vocals, songwriter), Dmitry Pechenov (bass, vocals), Dmitriy Barbashev (guitar) and Sergey Bogolepov (dobro).

Sadly, the last known announcement of the band’s whereabouts appeared in 2012, so their present status is entirely unknown. Hopefully they’ll reemerge. Given the rarity of Russian bands in the grassicana genre, it would be interesting to find out more.

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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.