Bringing a traditional bluegrass song back Switzerland.

One of the beautiful inevitabilities of being in a band is the deeper friendships you make on the road. Often, the show organizer takes you out to dinner and you build a connection with them over food, love of music and more. In Olten, Switzerland that connection came with Martin Schaffner. Martin runs a wonderful music series called “Next Stop Olten” and brings all kinds of music through this small (and gorgeous) Swiss town. His love for bluegrass in particular runs deep, which we think is pretty cool of course.

Martin, his wife Susannne + band in their backyard in 2017

Martin, his wife Susannne + band in their backyard in 2017

About four months ago Martin shot us a message asking if we might be able to record a backing track for the song “Matterhorn”, a traditional Mel Tillis song about a tragic expedition up the famous Swiss mountain. It turned out he had translated the song to Swiss-German and given some slightly more accurate adjustments to the lyrics that only someone from Switzerland could pull off.

If you didn’t know, our own guitar player Chris Dollar is a tech guru and he saw this as a opportunity to pull out his portable recording rig. We had a Bluegrass Ambassadors School program in Peoria in February and rented an Air-BnB, which became the studio.

Chris + Kyle in the middle of said recording session.

Chris + Kyle in the middle of said recording session.

For context, watch the Country Gentlemen play the original song below here. It’s a wonderful tune and definitely a seminole tune from one of the best bands in bluegrass history.

And below here is the version we recorded and Martin sang over. His friend Larissa set the music to a fantastic stop-motion video as well.

Martin clearly had a desire to bring the song home to the country that inspired it and he’s done an incredible job here, we think. We asked him to re-translate his version back to english, which makes it really fascinating when you put them next to each other.

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It was such an honor to be a part of this homecoming for both Martin and the song Matterhorn. At some point we’ll be doing a Bluegrass Ambassadors podcast about Martin to the song to tie it all together in his own words.

You can read more about his concert series here: NEXT STOP OLTEN

…and we’ll leave you with a picture of an incredible covered bridge that runs crosses the river in the middle of town.

Shannon Halford