We have several groups in Utah that re-create music from other countries. Tenpenny is a local Irish favorite, the Scottish bagpipers are another.
So it was a kick for me to see the phenomenon set on its head last week.I was at the Westerner to hear the Driftin' Cowboys (the original Hank Williams Sr. band). There, David Stott introduced me to David Scott.
And if that sounds odd, I'm just beginning.
Both Stott and Scott play in a country band, so we were smiling and tapping our toes when David Scott spoke up. I couldn't believe my ears.
Scott was introduced to me as the premier pedal steel guitarist in the West, but he sounds just like David Niven. He's classic British - from his clipped diction to his stiff-upper-lip. He could have been Prince Charles.
I tried to imagine this proper, articulate gent churning out weepy, sleazy leads on the steel guitar, but the notion wouldn't even fit in my head. The steel guitar sounds like swampy Louisiana snakes crawling up your spine, but this guy didn't even seem fit for the fiddle. Oboe player, maybe.
Yet Scott knew his stuff, from Jay Dee Maness down to the lowliest steel player in the poorest bar band. It was easy to see the man could play.
And Scott was fascinated with the aging pro playing pedal steel for the Williams band - a guy named Don who apparently didn't own a last name. The old guy wore a slouch hat, had more crags than Cottonwood Canyon and played completely by ear and instinct.
During the break, Scott couldn't wait to buttonhole Don when he walked by our table. As I watched them talk, I tried to imagine the conversation.
DAVID SCOTT: Well, my good man, you offer one jolly good rendition of Wills up there. I'm bloody impressed."
DON: Say what, hoss?
SCOTT: I'm saying you're the Swinburne of the steel, my good man.
DON: Swin who? I see your gums bang-in', Slim, but I ain't hearin' English. You lookin' to fight or something?
SCOTT: No, no, no. I'm simply giving you a hardy clap on the shoulder, Yank.
DON: Yank? Who's a Yankee. Say it again and you'll be spittin' teeth.
And on and on.
Actually, when Scott came back to the table I did ask him what they talked about. And things went very well, apparently.
"He plays a Marlin steel guitar," Scott said. "I play an Ammons. The Ammons is manufactured 22 miles from the Marlin company in South Carolina. It's a regular little folk industry of steel guitars down there."
As the evening wore down, I couldn't help but ask one question.
"So tell me, David" I said. "just how does American country music sound in Britain?"
He shook his head. "Oh, country music is much, much better in England than it is here," he said.
I couldn't think of a thing to say. I just sat there.
I remember reading Mark Twain's "Innocents Abroad." In one chapter, Twain had just entered the Sistine Chapel in Rome. The guide, a prim Italian, reverently tells him how many years it took Michelangelo to paint the ceiling. Twain looks up.
"We got artists back in Missouri who could slap this thing up in a week," he said.
The guide was speechless.