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Review of:

High Lonesome

Below Sea Level

Faces and Stories of Bluegrass Music in the Netherlands

Do you think you are interested in the Dutch Bluegrass and Roots music scene? This book will definitely spark your interest in a very big way.

Vocalist and bassist Loes van Schaijk traveled her country with photographer Marieke Odekerken interviewing musicians. This amazing book brings you deep into a world we recognize well yet is quite a distance away.

Bluegrass and Roots music is international. We knew that. However, taking this journey to this far away land has been most fascinating.

Bill Monroe was half Dutch. His mothers last name was Vandiver (as well as Uncle Pen). In the Netherlands the name is well known as Vander Veere, meaning ‘from the small island city of Veere in the province of Zeeland'. Bill Monroe had toured the Netherlands.

For her master’s thesis in Arts & Culture, the author chose to investigate whether Bluegrass in the Netherlands was in some way related to the cultural phenomenon as it is in the U.S.A. Schaijk has essentially become another Ambassador of the musical genre we all so much appreciate. Exposing her fellow citizens and observing their reactions must have been a wonderful exercise. I met her at the IBMA in Raleigh, NC. She has an exuberance second to none.

There is no doubt that High Lonesome Below Sea Level, is an art book. It is about culture. Many stories of many fine people who are part of this great community. Excellent musicians who may have heard bluegrass music for the first time on the American Forces Network in the 1950’s. Imagine what the quality of the reception was then.

The photography in this book is perfect. It is in black and white and it gives a rich real unique artistic feel. Every story page has an accompanied photo page. Extremely well done.

Some of these musicians grew up in a time when Austrian and German music was the cool way to go. Not for these musicians. These are Banjo, Fiddle, Guitar and mandolin players. People who heard a certain sound and needed to hear much more of it. To become part of it. Sound familiar?

I particularly appreciated the numerous ways different folk got the bluegrass bug.

-Buying a record based solely on the art design (Flatt & Scruggs);

-Being a Led Zeppelin fanatic and your friend says, “We are starting an Old Time Band and we want you to be part of it”;

-or the story of playing a weekly unpaid gig when the band met two Japanese people who were on Holiday in the Netherlands and who were specifically searching for some Bluegrass Music.

These musicians have a history of their own yet they are all influenced by the same hero’s we all share. They raised money and flew to the U.S. on behalf of the Dutch Bluegrass Community in 1985 to present a check for Joe “Val” Valiante, who was seriously ill with Cancer. These are our Brothers and Sisters who start local Bluegrass radio stations just to share their enthusiasm for the art they love.

This hardcover book is loaded with one fantastic story after another. It can easily be considered a coffee table book. Open it up on any page and you are guaranteed to read a great bluegrass story.

As you delve into these great stories you can taste the emotion and the enthusiasm. The fire these musicians bring to each performance. So many of these fine musicians toured and/or visited the U.S. You most likely have seen some on stage or pick’n at a festival driving their musical personalities and influencing the music we listen to.

The musical influences of many of these musicians are similar to our American influences. From Bill Monroe, Pete Seeger, Flatt & Scruggs to Jerry Douglas, Del McCoury, David Grisman, Tony Rice, Tony Trishka, Sam Bush - just to name a few. There were many names of influences that I did not recognize. A great part of our community is finding new artists recommended by others. Then their music becomes familiar and possibly our new influences and favorites.

I particularly loved the story where a family was at a bluegrass festival and were preparing to put their children to bed before Hot Rize was to perform. Their young daughter instead convinced the parents to take her to see the band. Decades later that daughter is taking over Dads position on the Board of Boet’n Deure, an outdoor concert platform for acoustic music in its purest state where musicians are encouraged to get out and play (logically this means you should bring your kids to a Hot Rize show to secure their future success).

There is a hunger in everyone that can be satisfied by learning. Learning new things. Learning old things from a different perspective. Fortunately, we all speak a common language. That is music.

This book should be on your coffee table. A great gift for anyone who loves people and their stories. A fantastic gift for those of us who also love music, photography and culture.

For more information on this great book:

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