17 January 2018

News from the Mother Country (updates)

The Japanese band Bluegrass 45 was formed in 1967, toured the USA in 1971-2 (making a great impact at festivals), and celebrated fifty years' existence last autumn with their latest tour of the USA, still with all the original members. A comprehensive and detailed account of their career by Richard Thompson, with contributions by band members, appears on Bluegrass Today.

Their mandolinist Akira Otsuka moved to the USA in 1973, so since then the band has played in Japan only on his occasional visits. 'The total number of gigs we played in fifty years', he says, 'can be less than a professional bluegrass band plays in one year.' It would be interesting to compare their record with that of Cork's Lee Valley String Band (shown above in a recent configuration), who first formed at almost the same time as Bluegrass 45 and are still around, though regrettably not with the original lineup.
Bluegrass Today and the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, in Bristol, VA/TN, report that a rare recording of the Stanley Brothers on a radio show has been listed by the Virginia Association of Museums among their Top Ten Endangered Artifacts. The original disc is literally coming apart and cannot be made playable, but modern technology allows the music on it to be rescued. The ten artifacts on the list are shown here, and the good news is that, at present, the Stanley Brothers disc is leading the field in votes received.

Update 18 Jan.: Our good friend Rienk Janssen, of Strictly Country in the Netherlands, also forwards this news, with the important addition: 'Voting opened today, January 15, and will remain open until January 24 at midnight. Anyone can vote once a day by visiting VAM online, selecting the artifact they want to vote for, and entering their email address. The top two artifacts will be announced on February 6, and all honorees will be recognized at the Virginia Museums Advocacy Day on February 21.'
Update 19 Jan.: The Stanley Brothers disc has been overtaken and is now in second place. Vote!

Update 9 Feb.: The recording has won a $5,000 grant for its restoration; see Bluegrass Today.
The IBMA announces that bands wishing to take part in the official showcase programme at this year's World of Bluegrass should apply before 28 Feb. 2018. More details of the application process, and a link to making an application, can be found here; the band shown in the photo on that web page are the Railsplitters, who have already played in Ireland.

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