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American Bluegrass, Imported By A Czech Band

The Czech band Druha Trava will perform in Wichita, Kan., Saturday night. The band is on its U.S. tour.
The Czech band Druha Trava will perform in Wichita, Kan., Saturday night. The band is on its U.S. tour.

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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You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.