My name is Bertolf Lentink, I was born in 1980 and I’m from the Netherlands. I was spoon-fed bluegrass music by my father, who endlessly played his records by the likes of Doc Watson, Tony Rice, and Tim O’Brien in my parental home. At a young age, I learned to play both from and with him.
I have released six albums here in the Netherlands and they were more in the singer-songwriter/pop style. But for my seventh album, I decided to return to my roots and my first love: bluegrass. I had the chance to record an album of my own material with some of my favorite musicians of all time, such as Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, and Mark Schatz – guys I’ve been listening to and admiring since I was like 6 years old. The band was completed by two fantastic instrumentalists of the younger generation: Wes Corbett and David Benedict. The album was recorded and mixed by David Sinko in the Sound Emporium Studio in Nashville. I really had the best week of my life recording it; it was everything I hoped for and more.
The album is called Bluefinger because residents of Zwolle, the city I live in, are called Bluefingers. But it’s also a reference to bluegrass and getting blue fingers from studying so hard on the guitar trying to be good enough to record with my heroes.
Bluegrass music has surely travelled all around the world. It even made its way to the Netherlands and continues to inspire young people here. This is a mixtape of the stuff that inspired me and that’s going on in the blue- and newgrass department here right now. Dutch Grass! – Bertolf
“Before The Storm” – Bertolf featuring Ilse DeLange
It was quite a surreal experience to record with my heroes, but at the same time it felt really familiar when I heard those guys’ instruments coming through my headphones. Like I was coming home somewhere I’d never been before.
“Uncle Pen” – Bill Monroe
Bill Monroe learned to play from his Uncle Pen. Full name: Pendleton Vandiver. Uncle Pen’s great-great grandfather was Bill Vandiver, an immigrant from the Netherlands. Vandiver is actually derived from the Dutch Name “van de Veer.” So if Bill Monroe is the Father of Bluegrass and Uncle Pen is the uncle of bluegrass, then Bill van de Veer is the great-great uncle of bluegrass. So there’s the Dutch connection with bluegrass for ya!
“Keep on Pushing” – Country Gazette
My love of bluegrass music is entirely my father’s fault. In 1972, when he was 16 years old, he heard a song on the radio: “Keep on Pushing,” by Country Gazette. That song was actually on the Dutch pop charts at that time! My father was completely blown away and it was the start of his love of this kind of music. And when I grew up, he played nothing else but bluegrass, so I couldn’t help but to fall in love with it, too. (The original ’70s recording of “Keep on Pushing” is not on Spotify, so here is the ’90s remake.)
“Amsterdam” – Douwe Bob
Douwe Bob is a famous artist here in the Netherlands. I wrote this song with him and we thought it was nice to try and write a bluegrass song not about the hills of Kentucky or something, or to once again pretend to be American, but to write a bluegrass song about the city we know, Amsterdam.
“Crying Shame” – Blue Grass Boogiemen & Tim Knol
Blue Grass Boogiemen are a great high-energy bluegrass band from the Netherlands who have been on the scene for a long time now. Here’s a song from an album they made with the great singer-songwriter Tim Knol (who happens to sing a nice harmony vocal on my album Bluefinger as well)
“Fallin’” – Nathalíe
Here in the Netherlands, I’m playing live with a great band of musicians who also happen to have their own bluegrass bands. This song is from the band Nathalíe, that feature my band members Nathalie Schaap on vocals and double bass, Jos van Ringen on banjo, and Janos Koolen on mandolin. I really love what they’re doing.
“The Bipolar Bear” – The Charivari Trio with Janos Koolen
Janos Koolen is the mandolin player in my band. He’s a fantastic multi-instrumentalist and composer as well. Here’s his beautiful composition, “The Bipolar Bear,” with the Charivari Trio.
“Tapdancing on the Highwire” – Ilse DeLange
My career in music started by playing in Ilse DeLange’s band. She’s a big country/pop star here in the Netherlands, and she’s very fond of bluegrass music as well. Here’s one of her songs that I really love from a live album we did back in 2007.
“One Tear” – 4 Wheel Drive
4 Wheel Drive is probably my favorite Dutch bluegrass band. The band also features Joost van Es on fiddle, who’s playing live with me right now. I went to see them live a lot as a kid, and I was always left really impressed and wanting to learn to play, too. I also need to mention the bands The Country Ramblers and Groundspeed, who were from the city of Kampen (which was jokingly called the “Nashville by the Ijssel”), but sadly their albums are not on Spotify.
“Deeper Than the Holler” – G-runs ‘n Roses.
G-runs ‘n Roses is a band from the Czech Republic, with two Dutch guys playing in it: Ralph Schut on guitar, banjo, and vocals and his brother Christopher Schut on bass.
“Till I Found Someone” – The Bluebirds
The Bluebirds are a band that do great and heartfelt three-part harmony. Here’s a song that I wrote with them, with J.B Meijers on dobro.
“Team Hoover” – Bertolf
I’d like to end this mixtape with an instrumental that I’m really proud of, once again from my album, Bluefinger.
I hope you enjoy it and thanks for listening! Cheers from The Netherlands.
Photo Credit: Dirk Schreuders