This is a double album, with a first CD called “The Lausanne Sessions” and a second one “The Lengerich and St-Légier Sessions”, after the places where everything was recorded. You might remember the band from EWOB 2007. On the first CD we mainly hear the basic 4-piece band : Jean-Blaise Rochat (JB), Raymond W. McLain, Joost and Bram van Es, accompanied on a few tracks by Michel Buzzi, Pipo (the opening one) and Pierre- Yves Gyger. CD 2 shows a wider variety: only Jean-Blaise is playing on all tracks, Joost van Es eight times and McLain only in “Bill Cheatham”. As an extra, we have Matthias Malcher and Bill Clifton here, both in five songs. Bill plays his famous autoharp two times. It’s worth looking at the line-up while playing each track.

But let’s not forget listening, because this is an outstanding piece of music, “a new look for mountain music”, as Bill Clifton describes it. The line-up is very varied, with several successive vocalists. A vivid start is followed by a rather quiet “One Morning in May” with some beautiful fiddle work. It’s followed by a fast instrumental piece, with a wonderful banjo solo by Jean-Blaise and two fiddles from Joost and Raymond, who is also playing the mandolin here. The CD is worth buying if only for this instrumental track. These three musicians could do anything together, even a gospel. A tenor, a baritone and a low bass make “He’s coming again” a top-notch piece. We immediately understand why Bill Clifton picked this band to play with him. There’s also “If I needed you”, which sounds as if it were coming from over the mountains: a slowly approaching fiddle, accompanied by a lonely picker, then the saddened voice of Jean-Blaise, followed after a while by the rest of the band. I have never heard this song sound any better. If only Townes van Zandt would have heard it! Enough, though. If nobody stops me, I will fill this issue of “Strictly Country” with my comments on this double album.

Actually, just one more thing about CD 2, especially Bill Clifton’s part. “Blue-eyed Elaine” (ErnestTubb) really is a song for his voice, as is “My Old Cottage Home” (A.P. Carter). Bill is getting older and his voice more fragile, but this adds a particular touch which is very appropriate for this kind of nostalgic song. He has sung “Two Sweethearts” (One has hair of silver and gray) thousands of times. The last song has several surprises in store, a piano amongst them. 

“Bill Cheatham” was recorded live in Lichtenvoorde in 2001, during Bill Clifton’s European Tour. Joost van Es replaced Art Stamper at the last minute. What a great rendition this is, with Tom Gray on the bass! Tom’s name is not mentioned in the official musicians line-up. This is the only point of criticism I could find on this superb double album. Whoever listens to it will absolutely agree with Bill Clifton’s words: “The more I listen to these discs, the more they brighten my days.”  

Hans van der Veen


Translation: Joost van Es, Jean-Blaise Rochat, Stephanie Booth 


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