Here’s the third report from C.J. Lewandowski on the Po’ Ramblin’ Boys‘ ongoing 2016 European tour. Full tour details, including newly-added dates, can be found online.
We arrived in Vlagtwedde, at the home of Liz Meesters Janssen on October 18th just in time for a homemade dinner. This was our first show out in the country, in a beautiful spot of The Netherlands. Liz is the daughter of a very important figure for bluegrass music in Europe, Rink Janssen, Rienk being a vital part of bringing U.S. acts to Europe for the first time. He also started Strictly Country Records from which many great live recordings, along with studio projects, have been cut.
The property has hosted concerts by The Southern Grass, Charlie Moore, Joe Val, Jim Eanes, Bill Monroe, and multiple acts from across the world. To me, this place has a whole lot of historical significance, from the concerts to the passion this family has to bring American bluegrass to their friends and fans. Without this establishment, bluegrass music may not be as popular as it is in Europe.
The original home place was lost to a fire, but Liz built her house on the same property and continues her family’s tradition right there. The house concert was loaded to the gills and the folks seemed to really enjoy it. So intimate, that no sound system was needed. Liz’s group, Janis McCoury and The Wall of Sound played a great set before we hit the living room. Be sure to ask her how the band name came about, if you ever run into her. Ending with a traditional jam session, both groups got together to close out a great night of fellowship and music.
Adam and I had the pleasure of staying in Rienk’s home, and sifting through his record collection of over 50,000 LPs. I got me a few jewels that night too, including a live Strictly Country album of Joe Val and The New England Bluegrass Boys with a young Danny Paisley on guitar. Did I mentioned that it’s signed?
After saying our goodbyes to the Janssen family, we heading to our most northern show of the tour. The 19th was set aside for traveling to Aalborg, Denmark. An eight hour trip brought us to the northwestern coast city of Hadsund, where we had a nice little cottage/cabin situated close to the bay. If you haven’t checked out Airbnb for housing while traveling on the road, I would highly suggest it!
The Aalborg Country Music Club hosted us on the 20th, with a big chicken dinner and a packed theatre. By this time, the traveling, long nights, temperature fluctuation, and humidity changes had wore out our voices a bit, but we trudged on. We were treated extra well by Michael Hollaender and the Aalborg Country Music Club, from a nice hotel room to a fine reception, and even some cool jackets! We sure did enjoy playing for the club at Aalborg. It never ceases to amaze me where bluegrass music is loved. This small town in northern Denmark was singing right along with us!
The 21st and 22nd had us booked in Copenhagen. Working for “Bluegrass Music Denmark” Friday evening, and “Ole Smoky Denmark” all day Saturday. Arne Sorenson hosted us along with the bluegrass club and we had a great night at the Karen’s Minde Kulturhuis. Once again, another sold out concert. We got some good rest the previous night and were raring to go. The folks really took to Billy’s fiddle. Being that October 21, 2016 marked the 50th anniversary of Carter Stanley’s last live performance, we added quite a few of Carter’s originals and Stanley Brothers classics to the repertoire. I know there was a tribute to Carter in Hazel Green, KY that night, but we also was thinking about him in Copenhagen. I actually had the privilege of wearing Carter’s 1951 Bulova wrist watch this whole tour, and wearing it that night was even more special. Thanks AK, for letting me borrow it.
As for the 22nd, we met up with the Ole Smoky Denmark guys at noon for a traditional Danish lunch, and let me tell you, it was great! Goodness Gracious. From there we headed to downtown Copenhagen, to the old city, for some drink at some of the oldest establishments in the city. Beautiful wooden boats lined the canals and made for a gorgeous site. From the pubs, we walked to The Shine Cellar, the mini version of The Moonshine Holler in Gatlinburg, TN. Kristian and Christian do an excellent job of bringing moonshine to Denmark and we were happy to be working with them as we set off to the first venue, The Generator Hostel. We did 3 short sets there, in the hip hostel, that redefines the whole experience of staying in a hostel. Check it out! They are not your average joint, and it was a whole lot of fun to play for a concentrated audience from all walks of life, and from all over the world.
Last year, I believe our favorite show was at a rock bar in Copenhagen, called The Drop Inn. So, we were anxious to play it again. This bar went plumb nuts last year when we brought good ole traditional grass to their rock scene. This year was no exception, packed to the brim, standing room only with just enough room for clogging and two stepping. Two sets later, we ended the second night in Copenhagen at 2:00 a.m. What a blast. Thanks to Ole Smoky Denmark for hosting us and allowing to come help market your moonshine. Great folks that love every bit of what they do. Ole Smoky Denmark really treated us well.
Adding another first to The Po’ Ramblin’ Boy list, we headed across a HUGE bridge for our first and only show in Sweden. Malmö is roughly an hour from Copenhagen, so we got into town with enough time to explore the square a little bit. Johan Malmberg hosted the first Bluegrass Night at Folk a Rock, a record shop and cafe that was a fine place for a show. After sound check and dinner, Swedish band, The Original Five, opened up the show, Johan being their banjo player. These boys can lay it on you! What a cool, eclectic bluegrass band with a traditional twist. They packed in the crowd and they stayed for us too! We did a 90 minute set to some hardcore fans, along with some newfound bluegrass lovers. Hopefully they continue the Bluegrass Nights at Folk a Rock. This was the experimental trial for it, and I’m gonna say it went pretty dang good. Thanks to Johan for housing us for the night and hosting a great concert. We can now officially say we’ve played Sweden, and it is true… The country has some of the most beautiful women in the world. Lordy!
Well, after a good first half, it’s time for a few days off, and a journey south to Germany. Until then.