EWOB & Europe Tour in May
Saturday, 17 March 2007

Andy Owens & Druha Trava to Headline at EWOB & Tour Europe in May

    Besides being an incredibly fun type of music to listen to and play, bluegrass music is interesting from a cultural perspective. Most fans agree the classic sound of bluegrass music jelled in America in the mid-40s when Earl Scruggs, with his unique style of three finger banjo playing, joined Bill Monroe & his Blue Grass Boys—including Monroe on mandolin, Lester Flatt on guitar, Chubby Wise on fiddle and Cedric Rainwater (Howard Watts) on bass. The genre was born in America and imported around the world, as evidenced by the depth of talent booked for the 10th annual European World of Bluegrass events in Voorthuizen, The Netherlands, May 17-19.

The roots of bluegrass music, however—the influences that combined in Bill Monroe’s imagination and musical background, even the instruments themselves, have very international roots. Monroe was influenced by Scottish and Irish dance music, in addition to gospel music at church and old-time English ballads he heard his mother play on the banjo and his
Uncle Pen play on the fiddle. Bill always credited the “high, lonesome sound” in bluegrass to the influence of blues guitarist Arnold Shultz, an African American neighbor he played music with as a boy. The banjo itself comes from Africa, and of course the original designs for guitars, violins and mandolins all came from Europe. The Dobro, bluegrass music’s “sixth child” added the line-up later when popularized by Josh Graves in the Flatt & Scruggs Band, was invented by two immigrants from Slovakia, the Dopyera Brothers. Bill Monroe’s family on his mother’s side, the Vandivers, were of Dutch heritage.

Bluegrass is sociologically interesting in one respect because its roots were drawn from a number of international influences, they combined and jelled into a classic form in the United States, and then the music went back out into the world. Today, scores of fans enjoy listening to bluegrass music and many great bands play it literally around the globe.

The Andy Owens & Druha Trava European tour in May is a graphic portrait of the international personality of our music, an illustration of influences combining on one stage to play a common music.

Owens himself has toured widely outside the United States. In addition to multi-faceted musical talents (he sings, writes songs, produces, builds & repairs instruments, and plays mandolin, banjo, guitar, fiddle, Dobro and pedal steel), Andy has performed bluegrass music in 34 different countries around the world…so far. His goal is to hit 100 in the next ten years.

Owens will hit the road again, mandolin in hand, with Czech bluegrass superstars Druha Trava during the month of May 2007, with dates scheduled so far in Slovakia, Bulgaria, Switzerland, England, Scotland, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany and the Czech Republic. The first leg of the tour from May 1-20 will feature Andy with Lubos Novotny on resophonic guitar, Lubos Malina on banjo and whistles, Emil Formanek on guitar and Petr Sury on bass. Renowned Czech songwriter and Druha Trava band leader/lead singer Robert Krestan will appear with Owens and the band for the May 5 kick-off concert in Bratislava, Slovakia, rejoining them later on May 21 in Ulm, Germany, through the remainder of the month.

“Besides being one of my best friends, Andy is a great singer and songwriter—and I have always enjoyed such company,” says Lubos Malina, with Druha Trava. “This is actually not our first collaboration. He helped us produce our Czechmate CD nine years ago and also sang on it. Andy has toured with us in our country several times, and we have played shows with him in the States, too. For this tour, we will play entire concerts as his band and will present his musical ideas,” Lubos adds. “Also, we have recorded many of his songs for a new CD and these will be the basis of the show. I really look forward to playing with him again.”

Originally from Kentucky, with moves to Los Angeles, West Virginia and then Texas while his father pursued a medical education and practice, Andy’s past bands have included The Fredonia Rebellion, The Foves, Danger in the Air, Killbilly, and The Andy Owens Project. He recorded three albums of original bluegrass music in the ‘90s.

In addition to songwriting and touring in the U.S. and abroad, Owens currently manages a toll-free telephone marketing business (1-800-Pathways) and the bed & breakfast-style Lonesome Pine recording studio in the mountains outside Deep Gap, N.C. (www.lonesomepine.com). At home, Owens is teaching his 15-year-old son, Cameron how to repair and build instruments, and father and son are also putting together an edgy, jamgrass-flavored band called freeGrass that will appeal to the local college and young “Deadhead” market. Cameron Owens is the current bass player in both freeGrass and The Andy Owens Project. Older son Stuart, a fiddler, is a pre-med student in college.

Andy and Druha Trava have collaborated on a new CD, Drive South, which features Andy on lead vocals and mandolin backed by the band. The song list includes a couple of originals, along with covers from The Allman Brothers, John Hiatt and Warren Zevon. “We were experimenting musically and kind of looking for a ‘sound’ with this project because I’m wanting to start touring a lot more with them,” Owens explains. Cuts include songs like “And When I Die,” Zevon’s “Frank and Jesse James,” “Sweet Melissa,” “Turn the Page,” “Amazing Grace,” and the oft-requested “Kentucky Waltz,” along with originals “Ballad of Bessie Byrd” and “Danger in the Air”—the latter penned by Owens’ long-time musical “soul mate,” Steve Hartz, plus an instrumental from Druha Trava’s Lubos Malina, “Brazos Bottoms.”

It’s an experiment that worked. No matter which way the set list zigs or zags, Andy’s soulful, free-flying vocals and galloping mandolin are the connecting elements, backed by a band that can literally handle anything thrown at them. “They’re so tight. It’s just unreal,” Andy says about Druha Trava. (The name translates to “Second Grass” in Czech.) “I love playing with European bands; there’s such attention to dynamics, more not playing than playing sometimes, and only playing things that make a difference to the song.”

Andy agrees that the camaraderie he feels with this band, both musically and personally, is like a family. “That’s exactly how it is,” he states emphatically. “They’re my brothers, and it’s been that way since I met them 10 years ago at the IBMA convention. It was a chance meeting, the first year they came to Owensboro. I was always looking for a jam that didn’t have a mandolin player, and they were jamming in the back room in the Bluegrass Unlimited suite. I picked up a mandolin and started playing with them. Then we got to be friends, and I started to facilitate tours for them.”

“I started playing with them then, and now they’re some of my best friends,” Owens continues. “They didn’t even speak English at the time, other than Robert Krestan, a little. There’s a really strange connection there…. It just feels like home when I’m in the Czech Republic. It’s a brotherhood, based on a lot of time on the road,” he smiles. “But you know, I have friends like that all over the world. I have a lot of friends who don’t speak English at all, and I don’t speak their language. Sometimes someone will translate for us, and sometimes we’ll just hang out. Music is universal language, especially when you’re in some country halfway around the world and you can’t talk to each other, but you’re singing harmony together! It’s a strange thing.”

Back in 1999 Andy sold everything, leaving Dallas, Texas to go on a 12-month musical walkabout he called “The Bluegrass Expedition” with his wife, Cathy and two sons. The musical family performed in 28 countries, before ending up back in the states 63,000 miles later, settling in North Carolina.

Andy loves the idea of touring internationally with bluegrass music. “It’s kind of funny,” he recalls, “I remember one of the last conversations I had with (Bill) Monroe; I told him one of the things I was doing was trying to take bluegrass to other parts of the world and that was something he told me to do. He said, ‘I want you to take bluegrass to as many countries as you can.’ I really like the idea of playing for people who don’t get to see what a bluegrass band from the U.S. sounds like, very often. They don’t take it for granted, and at the same time, you get to visit some incredibly cool places. During the Expedition, we probably spend 70% of our time in people’s houses vs. staying in hotels, and it’s such a better way to travel. I made so many friends all around the world, and it’s kind of a bittersweet thing. Most of my best friends are 8 or 10,000 miles away, and I only get to see them once or twice a year.”

Look for Andy Owens with the fabulous Druha Trava in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe in May, as the grand adventure continues. Bluegrass music is lucky to have Andy Owens, the big man with a Kentucky bluegrass heart wearing a Texas cowboy hat, helping to spread bluegrass around the globe. We couldn’t ask for a better ambassador. And Andy is just as lucky to have one of the best bluegrass bands in the world—who happen to be from the Czech Republic, backing him up on this tour.

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May 2007 Tour Dates:

Andy Owens with Druha Trava—

May 7-10: Bulgaria

May 12: Festival, Willisau, Switzerland

May 14: London, England

May 15: Glasgow, Scotland

May 16: Brussels, Belgium (tentative)

May 17-18: Mulligans www.mulligans.nl, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

May 19: European World of Bluegrass (EWOB), Voorthuizen, The Netherlands

Andy Owens with Robert Krestan & Druha Trava—

May 5: Bratislava, Slovakia

 

May 21: Ulm Germany

May 22: Cheb, CZ

May 23: Prague, CZ

May 24: Plzen, CZ


May 25: Jamboree Festival; Strakonice, CZ


May 26: Festival; Kostelec, CZ


May 26: Festival; Rostin, CZ

May 27: Concert; Zlin, CZ

May 28: Concert; Pozlovice, CZ

May 29: Concert; Brno, CZ


May 29: Concert; Tisnov, CZ

 

 

Last Updated ( Saturday, 17 March 2007 )