01 December 2020

Ireland remembered - in Switzerland

John Lawless posts on Bluegrass Today the sad news of the death of Bruce Johnson, well known fiddler on the Californian bluegrass scene, at the age of 67, just four days after testing positive for COVID-19. Details of his career are on Bluegrass Today, together with a video showing parts of a concert played by Sawmill Road in Basel, Switzerland; Angelika Torrie of the Swiss Bluegrass Music Association is seen introducing the band. Bruce Johnson is of course on fiddle; playing bass is Steve Spurgin, who had toured Ireland with California and consequently wrote the song 'A walk in the Irish rain' - which Sawmill Road sing with gusto on this video (also on YouTube).
The BIB editor writes:

Another Swiss connection: the Engelhardt Music Group announces that multi-award-winning singer/ songwriter Ronnie Bowman has released as a single the seventh track from his 2019 album, 'Matterhorn'. The song, written by country superstar Mel Tillis and Fred Burch, entered the bluegrass repertoire with the recording by the Country Gentlemen on their 1968 LP The traveler and other favorites.

Many bluegrass bands have since found it to be a crowd pleaser, notably Jeff Scroggins & Colorado on their recent Irish tours; and Chicago's Henhouse Prowlers, in their capacity as Bluegrass Ambassadors, have contributed a backing track to a recording by Martin Schaffner of Olten in Switzerland, who rewrote the text in Swiss-German, using Swiss names and expressions but keeping essentially the same story. The two texts can be seen here; the Prowlers comment: 'Martin clearly had a desire to bring the song home to the country that inspired it and he’s done an incredible job here, we think.'

Neither song, however, has any connection with the first man who actually reached the summit of the Matterhorn: the Londoner Edward Whymper (1840-1911) in 1865.

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