10 Years of European World of Bluegrass
Strictly Country Records
4.5 stars (out of 5)
So, the high cost of gas is putting the brakes on your festival-going plans for the summer? Never fear: Producer Liz Meyer and the fine folks at the European World of Bluegrass have put together the festival to end all festivals on an outstanding two-disc set. They’ve culled the best of the best from 10 years of festival shows to bring us 48 bands from 15 countries, including the United States. Here are some of the highlights:
The four-piece band, Footprints, and their seamless fusion of hardcore high-lonesome with vocals in their native Slovenian.
Transcendent a cappella gospel from the Czech Republic’s Relief and Italy’s Mideando String Quartet, whose bass vocalist – the liner notes offer no clue as to who sings what part — is one for the ages.
Raymond McLain (banjo) and Mike Stevens (harmonica) raising a ruckus on a lightning fast dash through “Train 45.” Likewise, the Hunger Mountain Boys on “Feast Here Tonight” and the Czech trio, Jiri Kralik & the Rowdy Rascals, with a version of “Ida Red” that would make the New Lost City Ramblers proud.
Sublime pre-bluegrass sounds from the Dutch band, Skyland, on Doc and Rosa Lee Watson’s “Your Long Journey,” and Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands, on the broadside ballad “Wood Thrush Song.”
Outstanding performances from American favorites, Bill Clifton & Pick of the Crop (“Little Whitewashed Chimney”), Randy Waller & the Country Gentlemen (“Southbound Train”), and Dan Paisley and the Southern Grass (“When My Time Comes to Go”).
The innovative gospel sounds of France’s Springfield, who combine driving, Watson-style, guitar with black gospel-style vocals on “Paul and Silas.” This is a band to watch.
The crisp, driving style of yet another band to watch. Jussi Syren & the Groundbreakers come from Finland, but their “Life of a Steel Driving Man” is pure Appalachia. Syren’s rough-and-ready lead vocal and his songwriting chops will thrill traditionalists.
Sublime contemporary grass from both sides of the Atlantic. The members of the Czech band, Goodwill, all play with exquisite tone and musicianship, but Martin Vitasek’s whiskey-rich guitar and lead vocals make this another band to watch. Also in that category, The New England Bluegrass Band grasses up the Everly Brothers classic, “Brand New Heartache” with yearning trio harmonies.
Those are just a few of the brilliant performances in this set. There are many more tracks worth repeated listening, and many more bands worth seeking out. “10 Years of European World of Bluegrass” is a collection of remarkable diversity and depth.
by Maria Morgan Davis