Friday, June 25, 2010

ROMP 2010 - Day 2

(Photo: RBI Radio interviews former Bluegrass Boys - including Tom Gray, Bluegrass Boy for 2 days)

Even while enjoying all the great bluegrass music in Owensboro this week, a guy has to eat. And yesterday I received unexpected treats at both lunch and dinner.

I walked a couple of blocks from the International Bluegrass Music Museum to a little Greek restaurant that does great lunchtime business. It was so crowded, in fact, that the only way I could get a seat was to share a table with a couple who walked in the door behind me (two Kentuckians in town on other business). About ten minutes after we sat down, the door opened and in walked Hisashi Ozaki and four people who traveled with him from Japan to Owensboro for ROMP 2010. Since our table was large enough to seat an additional five people, I invited Mr. Ozaki and his group to join us - and they graciously accepted the invitation. Ozaki is well known in bluegrass circles as the co-founder of the very first bluegrass band in Japan and he will display his mandolin skills later today when he sits in for a song or two with New Appleseed Band, a Japanese bluegrass band whose performance I am looking forward to enjoying.

That was the beginning of a full hour of conversation about bluegrass and country music in Japan, an hour during which I confirmed that lovers of real country music are the same all over the world. Takao Nakanishi, Secretary General of the Kamakura Opry, and Tetsuo Otsuka, disc jockey and President of the same Opry, were quick to remark that what's passing for country music today (whether it's called New Country, Young Country, or some other marketing lie) is definitely not country music. It was nice to see that the CMA is fooling no one these days; not even people on the other side of the world can be convinced that New Country is real country music.

During a break between sets, I stumbled upon Eddie and Martha Adcock sitting on a bench in the hallway and had a nice conversation with Eddie about the interest that Japanese television has in the complex brain surgery that allowed him to regain his picking skills. Eddie is looking good (he remarked that he has more hair on his head than when I saw him last year) and he says he is feeling very well. I spoke with Martha, in some detail, about the state of the recording industry today and how the digital music revolution is impacting the average indie artist out there. Martha has some interesting insights into what is happening to record labels and whether or not the internet is making it easier or more difficult for new artists to break into the business - and for established ones to find new listeners. According to Martha, it is up to the artist now; no more big brother to take care of all the marketing details. The Adcoks, as always, are two of the nicest people in town this week - and that says a lot when Owensboro is filled with friendly people wanting to do nothing more than share the music.

Dinner at RiverPark Center at a table filled with four of Bill Monroe's former Bluegrass Boys was the perfect way to end the day - but there would still be sets from The Whites and Doc Watson, plus a recognition ceremony honoring about 70 bluegrass legends and Bluegrass Boys. At my table were Yates Green (Bluegrass Boy in 1956), Ernie Graves (1957), Bill Keith (1963) and Doug Hutchens (1971). It was fun to hear their stories about life on the road with Monroe, especially the stories about the four-hour shifts they had to put in behind the wheel getting the band from show-to-show, and some of the practical jokes the guys played on each other. The nice thing is that ROMPs are like big reunions for these guys and they seem to be having as much fun here as the rest of us.

I also spent some time with Steve Leatherwood of WGWG radio who hosts a three-hour bluegrass show on the station every Wednesday night with the help of his son Jeremy. Talking music (and small town life) with Steve was the perfect segue into the great music that ended day two of ROMP 2010. You can listen to WGWG here.

And there are two days yet to go. Gotta run.

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