The first three letters of Greg Trooper’s last name provide a clue as to what he does for a living.
That’s T-R-O as in troubadour — a singer/songwriter extraordinaire who glides under the radar of most people, but has a loyal following of fans who covet his music as much as wine collectors covet those so-called “cult wines.”
I first became familiar with Trooper through another singer-songwriter, Tom Russell. Russell has sung Trooper songs in concert, and the two have been songwriting collaborators.
During our recent “pre-wedding honeymoon” in Europe, Michelle and I had an opportunity to see Trooper in concert at a legendary venue in Barcelona called the Jamboree Club. The club specializes in jazz — its performance alumni including Chet Baker, Dexter Gordon, Ornette Coleman, Stephane Grapelli, Tom Harrell and Kenny Garrett, among many others — but also hosts musicians from other genres on occasion.
Trooper would fit into the broad “Americana” genre, although he has described his style as “loud folk.”
Trooper played two sets that night in Barcelona, and our bargain-priced, 20-euro tickets entitled us to see both. Of course, anytime I hear someone utter the word “wine,” my ears perk up, so I paid close attention to Trooper’s introduction of a song titled, “Ireland.”
He talked about touring Europe, and never knowing how much English the people in any given audience may speak. He then forged ahead with his story.
“The one thing I’ve noticed about Europe is that there are different kinds of countries,” he said. “You have your wine countries — France, Spain, Italy. And then you have your beer countries — Germany, Belgium.”
He talked a little bit about the wine and beer he’d had on previous tours, calling it some of the best he’d ever tasted.
“And then there’s a third Europe,” he added. “And I think you know what I’m talking about.”
He paused, then said: “Ireland.”
The English-speaking people in the audience laughed loudly, and several could be seen leaning in toward their neighbors, translating what Trooper had said. Just as the first wave of laughter died down, another came up. Now everyone was in on the joke, and all seemed to agree that Ireland is a “different” kind of place.
Not a wine country. Not a beer country. But a place that’s… unique.
Having never been to Ireland, I wasn’t sure exactly what he meant. But it made me want to find out, and Michelle and I have now added Ireland to our list of “must-see” destinations.
One of the cool things about following under-the-radar artists is the opportunity to speak with them. You’ll never find Mick Fleetwood or Stevie Nicks mixing with fans during intermission at a Fleetwood Mac concert, but singer-songwriters like Trooper are more than happy to make themselves available, and to sign their CDs.
During intermission at the Jamboree Club, we asked him whether we had earned the prize for “greatest distance traveled to see the show,” having come from America’s West Coast. He laughed, and seemed almost relieved to encounter English-speaking people.
We bought two CDs on his recommendation: “Upside-Down Town,” released in 2010, and his latest, “Incident on Willow Street,” which came out last year. He autographed each, personalizing them with our names and the phrase, “In Barcelona!”
We then let him have his space, so other fans could make their purchases, and grabbed drinks and a snack for the second set. A Spanish Cava from Cordorniu was my choice, and it paired perfectly with the tumbler of nuts, the ambiance of an historic music venue, and the music of an American troubadour performing far from home.
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Bottlings from three European “wine countries” — Italy, France and Spain — are among the selections featured in today’s Cyber Circle offering of “International Reds” from Vinesse.