European Bluegrass – Swedish Style

This post is a contribution from Terri Holloway, one of our 2010 IBMA correspondents. See her profile here.

Blog contributor Terri Holloway, with the Swedish bluegrass band Downtown RamblersWhile sitting on the bench this afternoon this writer had the wonderful pleasure of talking with the guys from Downtown Ramblers, who have traveled from Gothenburg Sweden. Oskar Reuter, Par Ojerot, Martin Blomberg (bearing an internationally adapted name), and Karl Annerhult, missing Emelie Junsten who was home with her brand new baby, stopped by the bench to share their thoughts on IBMA’s World of Bluegrass. These guys were having “a great time at the conference, although they were a bit nervous,” said Blomberg. “This is our first time in the States, and knowing all these great people were there to see us made us a bit nervous,” he continued. “We’ve waited one and a half years, to be here.”

And, this band is making the most of their time here in Nashville. They’re playing one set each night at the late night showcases, and were featured at last night’s Northern Indiana Bluegrass Association sponsored after hours showcase in the Renaissance hotel ballroom.

The band came together three years ago, although they have known each other longer. Reuter and Annerhult grew up together, and have been friends with Ojerot and Blomberg for several years. Annerhult said that, “although we look the same, we’re not brothers.” A good comment because at first glance, they all could be related.

In their off stage time some of these guys are still making music: Ojerot teaches guitar and takes care of his infant son, and Reuter just graduated from the university and is also teaching guitar. Blomberg said that they all “have bring home the bacon jobs” except for Annerhult who is, “the computer muscle” of the group, who also maintains their social media presence.

They began playing for different reasons, but all came together after missing member Emelie Junsten asked Ojerot if he’d listen to some country music, learn it and play along with her. The others came from the punk scene and blended right in. “It’s the energy – we’re talking the same language, just changing instruments,” said Blomberg.

We began exploring the popularity of bluegrass in Sweden, as well as in other European countries. Blomberg said that bluegrass is really popular among a small group of people, but in the general population the genre is not as well known. But, this band tours all over the country and exposes crowds to the music. He said many people will often come up after a show and tell them just how nice the music is and how much they’ve enjoyed it.

Ojerot has visited the United States previously, but is still overwhelmed, along with the other band members, by what they encounter. They all agreed that their image of America was gleaned from watching Hollywood movies. They love that “people are so friendly, and people take care of us,” he said. They all enjoy talking to people out in the streets, including this intrepid reporter.

While in Nashville their plans include visiting all the hot spots as well as the musically-historical ones like Tootsie’s and Ernest Tubbs Record Shop. This writer is thinking that their postcards home will read, “having a good time, wish you were here.” They’re also planning on sampling more of America’s finest brews to compare with to what’s available at home. So far, they haven’t found any they wouldn’t drink again.

The band is making plans to return next September for the 26th anniversary of IBMA and the World of Bluegrass conference. Along with coming to the conference they’re also seeking to find a lot of places to expose America to bluegrass Swedish style, and sampling more of the finest brews we can offer.