The past week was a particularly stressful one. All I had wanted to Friday night was read Verblendung/The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and try the new beer I found in the beverage store. When some friends invited me to go hear a country music duo at the Big Ben Pub, I hesitated, but decided to go anyway. I’m glad I did.
The duo is called the Rambling Rovers. Their repertoire consists of country, southern rock and Irish folk songs; basically, everything a slightly homesick, Pittsburgher-turned-southwest Virginian would need to be set right again. I got to have a Guinness while hearing Willy Nelson, “Molly Malone,” and CCR. The show was really enjoyable, but there were two highlights. The first was the gospel medley that included every song I sang in Sunday school or in the car with my mother as a child (like “Michael, Row your Boat Ashore” and “This Little Light of Mine”). The medley also included, somewhat inexplicably I might add, “This Land is your Land,” but I guess Germans could also appreciate a Depression-era, pro-worker protest song.
The second highlight came after we talked to the guys during a break. When my friends told them I was an American, we talked about where I was from. Once I said I’d spent five years in Virginia, they were determined to play John Denver’s “Country Roads.” For me, this was an excellent choice. I grew up listening to John Denver. I’m pretty sure that his was the only music my parents could agree on, so we heard it a lot. For Germany, this was an obvious choice. There are a few American songs that everyone in Germany seems to know: “Summer of ’69,” “Strangers in the Night,” and “Country Roads” are big ones. Everyone in the bar sang along, and then we went home. It was a lovely evening!
Now that I’m in country-ish mood, it’s time to talk about Katzenjammer. When you spend time somewhere new, it is easy to associate that things do there with the place. The fist time I was in Germany, for example, I knitted with friends once a week. Now, knitting and Germany are forever linked in my imagination. Katzenjammer is the same. This group is actually Norwegian, but they are always on the radio and VIVA, so they now belong to Germany in my mind. This is a good thing, too, because these four ladies are terrific! They play 13 instruments between them, including crazy traditional instruments like the contra-bass balalaika. Their music is a blend of rock country, folk and gypsy jazz. It’s fun, catchy and easy to enjoy, and I love their aesthetic. They could definitely draw a crowd in Floyd, VA. Great songs to start with are the Demon Kitty Rag, Bar in Amsterdam, I Will Dance (When I Walk Away), and Tea with Cinnamon.
Finally, I highly recommend this great program called Auf den Dächern (On the Roofs). Musicians do live acoustic sets of three or four songs on the roofs of buildings in various European cities. Here’s the link. Scroll through the list on the right to see and hear Katzenjammer.