Evidence for the influence of bluegrass music in eastern Europe grows more obvious by the day, as we hear and see music from former communist countries that rivals anything produced here in the States.
The story of bluegrass in both the Slovak and Czech Republics goes back many years, when the then clearly American sound of the music was part of underground efforts to learn about the outside world which the Soviets tried to prevent their citizens from doing. Bluegrass, along with blue jeans and many other American or western things, was a symbol of freedom to young dissidents in these one-time satellite nations, secretly obtained shared amongst themselves. So when these regions opened up after the fall of the USSR, the west discovered a burgeoning bluegrass scene already in place.
Now a second generation of grassers in eastern Europe is continuing the tradition, producing some truly brilliant players and singers the match of the best we have here in the US.
As evidence, here are two recent videos produced by Ralph Schut of the Czech bluegrass band, G-runs ‘n Roses, along with some of his bandmates and friends in both the Czech and Slovak Republics. Like their compatriots around the world, COVID restrictions had made travel and live performances rare for them this year, but they created these videos remotely to whet their bluegrass appetites all the same.
Up first is this version of Jesse Brock’s Kickin’ Grass, featuring Ralph on guitar, along with Honza Maca of the legendary Czech band Poutnici on mandolin, Richard Cifersky of Bill Faster on banjo, Milan Benkovic of the Slovak country band Neznámi on reso-guitar, Martin Burza of G-runs ‘n Roses on fiddle, and Erik Banic of the band East-West on bass.
In addition to serving up some stout grass, keep an eye on Martin’s antics leading up to his fiddle break.
This next brings in a couple of other artists for a rendition of the Randall Hylton classic, Cold Sheets of Rain, with Ralph’s brother Chris on lead vocal.
A full personnel listing includes Chris Schut of the rock band Holy Water on guitar and lead vocal, Erik Banic on bass and tenor vocal, Ralph Schut on mandolin and baritone vocal, and David Benda of the Czech bluegrass band The Milkeaters on banjo.
Chris did the audio mixing for both tracks, with Eric handling the video editing.
All of the bands represented by these pickers are worth your effort to investigate and learn about the music being made in eastern Europe under the bluegrass banner.
Well done all!