I’ll admit it. I love the banjo. I love the way it sounds. I love the way it twangs. I love its deep connection to the history of American folk music. The banjo is the sonic embodiment of a few hundred years of immigrant grit and hearty mountain spirit, and I could listen to it all day.
The banjo and American folk music are deeply rooted in Celtic, Scandinavian, African and English music history. People from all over Europe and Africa came to this country and, over the course of about 300 years, created the sound we know today as bluegrass.
These days, I am enamored with a strange and amazingly fun bluegrass band from Finland. They call themselves Steve’n’Seagulls.
I have always been fascinated with the way foreign cultures embrace America, and this is one of the most endearing and fun foreign embraces of American culture I can imagine.
Even though they have not released any original music, focusing largely on covering classic heavy metal songs, these loveable Finnish musicians are incredibly talented and are devastatingly skillful with their instruments – accordion, guitar, mandolin, upright bass, banjo, snares, spoons, even a cajón (Afro-Peruvian drum)!
Despite the irreverent fun they have in their videos, this is not a parody band playing to American stereotypes – this is a band that loves and appreciates American bluegrass music. They found a really interesting niche in their fusion of bluegrass with metal, offering a great example of the power of the viral Internet. Steve’n’Seagull’s YouTube viewership is staggering:
Their cover of Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper” has 4 million views on YouTube:
Steve’n’Seagulls – The Trooper
Their face-melting version of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” has 11 million views:
Steve’n’Seagulls – Thunderstruck
They just released another AC/DC cover, “You Shook Me All Night Long,” and it’s wonderful:
Steve`n`Seagulls – You Shook Me All Night Long
I’ll leave you with this video of Steve‘n’Seagulls covering another early metal gem, Dio’s “Holy Diver,” which features members of the band in lifejackets, sitting in a dinghy, in a barn, surrounded by hay:
Steve’n’Seagulls – Holy Diver
Steve’n’Seagull’s is a pretty new band. Their debut album doesn’t even come out until this August. Hopefully, they will extend their European tour to include dates in the United States. Perhaps they’ll even visit the Finnish-American enclave of Northern Michigan.
If Finnish Bluegrass also tickles your fancy, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a sweet jam session.