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American Bluegrass, Imported By A Czech Band

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NPR's Don Gonyea normally reports on politics, but he finds other stories along the way, like this one about a touring bluegrass band from the Czech Republic.

The first time I heard Druha Trava play was April 2009. I was covering President Obama's trip to the Europe. There was a big outdoor speech in Prague, and the band was playing Czech versions of Bob Dylan songs.

I did a short radio postcard story back then, figuring it was the kind of experience that every music fan knows: You stumble upon a great band somewhere and never see them again.

Now it's the fall of 2011, and I'm chasing candidates around Iowa. Who should be doing a show at the Czech and Slovak Hall in Cedar Rapids? Druha Trava.

Robert Krestan is a singer and mandolin player in the band. Others play guitar, bass, dobro and banjo. Inspiration comes directly from Bill Monroe and other American bluegrass bands, old and new. But Krestan says they don't just mimic the sound.

"Well, I don't just do American music. I write my own songs. I [have written] my own songs since I was 12 years old," he says. "So, it's kind of natural for me, and it's natural for me to combine American influences and my Czech roots."

On this tour, Druha Trava is promoting its first-ever English language CD. The band is on the road in the U.S., with a show in Wichita, Kan., Saturday night.

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