HIGH LONESOME BELOW SEA LEVEL:
FACES AND STORIES OF BLUEGRASS MUSIC IN THE NETHERLANDS
BY MARIEKE ODERKERKEN AND LOES VAN SCHAIJK
Kunst en Denkwerk 9789090289182.
Hardcover, 138 pp., 30 Euros.
Something magical happens when people of enormous talent combine to produce a labor of love. In this case, the writer Loes van Schaijk and photographer Marieke Oderkerken have given us the very heart of bluegrass music in the Netherlands in the form of interviews and photos of nearly a hundred Dutch musicians, songwriters, singers, luthiers, promoters, fans, and artists who share a common love of bluegrass and acoustic music.
It is perhaps the most professionally made book I’ve ever reviewed. The photos are gorgeous. Using black-and-white photography, much in the style of Richard Avedon, Marieke has an ability to capture the truth—sometimes humorous, sometimes dramatic—of her subjects. And Loes (both authors are women) brings out the voices of these subjects, allowing them to speak for themselves, but also adding background and context, as well as a very informative introduction. She understands what we all have in common, but gets there through what makes us unique.
You may be asking, what does a book about bluegrass in the Netherlands have to do with me? I would answer: everything, because this is a book not just about Dutch people, but about all of us who live within the geography of music. And if that’s too esoteric, I have another reason for you to buy this book: inspiration. This is a model for what might be possible in regional histories of bluegrass everywhere. When it comes down to it, all music is local, and this book revels in and reveals that truth.
The Netherlands has a long and intimate association with bluegrass, dating back to the 1950s. The fan and artist base there are as knowledgeable and talented as anywhere in the U.S. Some features in this book: a 1962 letter from Bill Clifton encouraging the first fan club, and a nice preface by Sandy Rothman. Also good to catch up with what Kevin Lynch, who now lives there, has been doing! Surely one of the surprises of 2015, High Lonesome Below Sea Level is at once local and international, universal, and personal. Highly recommended. CVS