It was the late sixties before I had regular access to a record player. My parents, for reasons I never fully understood, did not own one. For years I put this down to an extreme form of Evangelical Faith which thought that anything that your body might enjoy should, by default, be bad for your soul. I later discovered that it was more to dowith the fact that they’d never got round to buying one. When this happened finally my sister’s friend gave us a great gift – most of the Beatles 45’s up to that point. (they’d moved on)
Every single and LP we could find was played on that record player. Christmas compilations – step forward Gene Autrey and Jim Reeves – Christian singers and pianists – that’s you George Beverley Shea and all the pop music we could afford. But there was also the random element of records brought over by cousins and forgotten about. (I want to apologise to my cousin Brian now for failing to return the Thunderclap Newman album.) There were also comedy records and children’s EP’s – I had a Scalextrics sound affects single which made the noise of a Grand Prix while you raced your cars. There was an oft-spun JoHnny Morris reading Thomas The Tank Engine……..oh I could go on.
The key to it all was the record player. The fun bit was making a playlist: you stacked as many singles as you could on top and they played one after the other then you flipped the whole pile over and played the B sides. Albums could be stacked too but with mixed effects…after about twenty they started to slide a bit.
It’s with this in mind that we celebrate Vinyl Night again this Friday on Another Country. Old records - Dottie West, Glen Campbell, Tammy Wynette – new records – Doug Paisley, Howler and some rather brilliant re issues of recent AC faves…Patty Griffin. You’ll hear some static, the odd wow and indeed flutter and certainly a scratch or two – but that’s the sound of the needle going down and you’ll know it’s vinyl because it sounds so damned great.
Did I mention this one?
You see…so many great things coming your way.
We start Side One at Five past Eight on Friday. BBC Radio Scotland. Join us if you can.
This week in Studio One we get to welcome the fabulous Suzy Bogguss. I’m not sure if Suzy’s been round this way recently but I know this will the first time she’s visited us in Glasgow. The last time we met she was in great company in the studio we use when the AC goes to Nashville. Along with Matraca Berg and Gretchen Peters, Suzy was part of the trio “Wine, Women and Song.” Looking back now I realise that session was longer ago than I’d imagined….2009!
Suzy is a great country singer who earned her stripes when she used to work at the theme park which became ‘Dollywood.’ Singing there encouraged her to record her own music and the rest is well….history. Suzy became a country star singing some songs you’d know even if you’re unfamiliar with her back catalogue. Nanci Griffith’s ‘Outbound Plane,’ John Hiatt’s ‘Drive South’ and her first radio hit, Merle Haggard‘s ‘Somewhere Between’ were all hit records. However it’s that Merle track where we come into the story. Suzy Bogguss’s new album is an all Merle affair. Called ‘Lucky’ it’s Suzy’s take on many of Merle Haggard’s most famous songs. ‘The Bottle Let Me Down,’ Silver Wings,’ – they’re all there. Great versions too which almost surprise you coming from a females voice. Suzy would probably say that’s why she did the project. However we don’t need to guess anything. She’ll be with us in the studio and accompanied by her touring band we’ll spend the second hour of this week’s AC in her company. That, my friend, is a quality Friday night in.
We’ll also celebrate some great new music. Listen out for recordings from Sion Russell Jones, Loretta Lynn and Robert Ellis. This week I went on a very long car journey and I’ll get a chance to tell you a little about that too – it has led me to some excellent records.
You can join us for all of this on Friday evening at five past eight on BBC Radio Scotland.
About 5 weeks ago I (along with my best pals) went into a recording studio in Lanarkshire to start making a new album. This Friday I hope to walk out with that album almost completed. It’s been a great ride but it’s meant that this blog has had a short holiday and I’ve not been on active AC duty for a while. First off I need to say huge thanks to Roddy Hart for hosting a couple of great shows. Roddy played some new things which we’re delighted he brought along and I hope to be playing some of these again for you soon.
My drive to the studio every morning lasts for about six songs. Enough to know if you love an album and also long enough to move through two or three you feel are maybe ‘not for us.’ Sometimes of course you get half way through one and can’t wait till the return journey so you can listen to the whole thing. I’m pleased to say there’s a couple of these long players on Friday’s AC. Firstly – and this filled me with visible excitement – the new album by Rodney Crowell. It’s impossible to overestimate Rodney. He’s a magnificent song writer and a nightly carrier of the country torch. We probably all got to know him first with these great contributions to Emmylou Harris’s early albums. ‘Elite Hotel’ featured ‘Till I Gain Control Again’ a song so perfect that I feel the need to play it at very regular intervals in my life. Rodney’s new album is called Tarpaper Sky and I haven’t really stopped playing it since it came through my door. We’ll share a track with you and, no doubt, play much more from it in the weeks to come.
A few years ago when I was sitting in for Iain Anderson I came across the music of Eliza Gilkyson. She’s an Austin based artist who has consistently produced some great songs and has been nominated more than once for a Grammy. Her newest offering, The Nocturne Diaries is very fine indeed and if memory serves me correctly she is coming this way soon to perform live.
What else? Well we continue to celebrate Eddy Arnold….once you start loving Eddy you can’t stop and I’ll be playing you some great new artists including Boy and Bear, Mo Kenney and Noah Gunderson – yes we like him very much. We will celebrate the new First Aid Kit single and open up the beautiful colouring box of this man……..
David Scott …yes the wonderful Davie, producer, best pal, professor and Radio Scotland star has a new record out under his usual moniker, The Pearlfishers. We think you might love it a lot.
There’s more but telling you now would spoil all the fun that is the experience of Another Country live on Friday evening on BBC Radio Scotland from five past eight.
Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone
Let’s pretend that we’re together all alone
I’ll tell the man to turn the juke box way down low
And you can tell your friend there with you he’ll have to go
Perhaps you have rules? Heartbreak? Something or someone who’s lonesome?
One of these?
On the face of it there’s not much connecting Townes Van Zandt and Shawn Colvin. There’s the obvious connection to roots music and a common attachment to where that music came from. There’s also a common thread of pure songwriting; story telling, melodies, heartbreak, but heck, we could say that of so many of our featured artists. On the AC we’re lucky to get so many fine singer songwriters through the door that we expect talent as a given.
Digging a little deeper however there is perhaps a thread that has run through both these artists lives. In the sixties Townes Van Zandt’s parents ‘sent’ him to a psychiatric hospital for treatment. It was short, brutal and, crucially not supported by any other therapy or counselling. Whatever their intentions had been, there was no real effective cure from the deep sadness and pain that troubled Townes for the rest of his life. Seeing him as a guy who drank a lot, took various stimulants and failed to form permanent relationships is true but unsatisfactory. His life, it seems to me, was similar to many people we all know who have suffered various forms of mental illness along the road. However much we find that difficult to live alongside, for them, the torment and the torture is a constant thorn in the side; from my own experience I rarely see these wounds permanently heal over.
I didn’t speak to Shawn Colvin about any of this. All I wanted to talk about was her songs. It was only as I prepared some questions and read around a bit that I realised how much her own life has been affected by similar issues. She’s written about this extensively and on the way back from the interview we did at AC towers she told me more about her own life. Here, elsewhere but in her own words, is how she’s described her struggle with mental illness:
“I think there’s a misconception that if one is an artist and, like myself, sings sad or sensitive material, that you’re risking losing that if you treat depression,” she said. “But when I’ve been seriously biologically depressed I’m actually unable to do anything.”
“In fact, being treated for depression restores me to be able to do what I do,” Colvin explained. “So, for people who are familiar with my music and like it, they should know that 90 percent of my recorded work has been done while I’ve been taking medicine for depression.”
So, as so often happens here on the AC, a disparate couple of artists – albeit with Texas connections – make up a fascinating pairing for two hours. Troubled, tortured but with grace and healing in their work we give you a very special Another Country this weekend. A special tribute to Townes Van Zandt seventy years since his birth and, one of my own favourite singer songwriters of any generation – Shawn Colvin talking through some of the major songs of her 25 year career. It will be a fascinating listen. Join me if you can this Friday evening from five past eight on BBC Radio Scotland.
Last weekend I had a great run. We had some friends coming round and I was enjoying some time alone with the CD player while cooking in the kitchen. By my side was a tall pile of CD’s sent in to the AC over the previous couple of weeks and still unlistened to. I’d be lying if I told you I was optimistic. I’ve learned to look out for the warning signs…bad sleeves my children laugh at, worrying hair cuts, unheard of labels and that most tricky record sleeve to predict – the self-release. They were all there. Having done this a few years I’ve always become slightly suspicious of the beautiful sleeve too….it sets up such great expectations that can only be bitterly dashed by track 3.
One tactic I have rigidly try to adhere to is my determination to hear the music before I read too much about it. It’s therefore much more of a joy when you discover a musician, producer, songwriter who is familiar after you start to like a record. Last Saturday I thought I was going mad – in a good way. I began a run of great records that didn’t really stop until Monday morning .It was only some long haired backwoodsman from a southern state that finally stopped it. I have to admit that they’d already ticked most of the above warning signs and it would have been a remarkable record to have defied all of that.
So I’m excited to bring a good deal of these records on Friday night. Noah Gunderson‘s album is a joy all the way through and it was tricky picking one song. The album’s called ledges and it was recorded up in the North West of the states where Noah hails from. Another new name to me is Austin Lucas whose Stay Reckless is already out. He’s also coming to play in Scotland soon…I suggest it’s a date you might want to check out. We’ll also hear from English harmony duo Ward Thomas, 19 year old twin sisters from Hampshire who’ve already spent a good bit of time in Music City. As well as all of that we will reintroduce you to these men:
First recommended to us by an artist who supported them on tour a couple of years back, Caitlin Rose, Deer Tick is the project started by Rhode Island’s John McCauley. Now five albums into their career you might expect them to be wizened veterans but are still a very young band whose audience is still discovering them. They love Iggy and understand the roots of country rock brilliantly. Their songs will break your heart then encourage you all just to ‘go to the bar.’ All that is probably expected. Less predictable is the fact that John’s new bride joined them on the session and she is none other than Vanessa Carlton – yes she of A Thousand Miles fame. If I told you they were married by Stevie Nicks you’d probably not believe me either.
If all this is not enough we will celebrate a wonderful return to the studio with a fantastic band by the great Bobby Bare. Mary Gautier joins a host of country stars to pay tribute to Eddy Arnold and we’ll hear what happens when Dave Grohl met The Zac Brown Band. We thought you’d like to hear what Beck‘s been up to. Beck described the record as coming from the tradition of ”California music” and said, “I’m hearing the Byrds, Crosby Stills and Nash, Gram Parsons, Neil Young—the bigger idea of what that sound is to me.” ….sounds like our kind of thing, I think you’ll like it. We’re delighted to let you hear the first track from the new album by Nickel Creek and, in case you wondered, what Dawn Landes had to say about that very public split with Josh Ritter.
It’s all going to happen in two hours and it starts at five past eight on BBC Radio Scotland on Friday evening.
There have been new people we have discovered on the AC over the years. Many of those have had Country musical education or, at the very least, access to a great country record collection. Last year we were delighted to meet John Fullbright whose Oklahoma roots showed through brilliantly. This Friday however we will showcase the talent of Sturgill Simpson. I cannot think of any (new) artist who we’ve had the pleasure of welcoming over the last few years who has such authentic country credentials.
Raised in coal mining Kentucky his own roots go directly back to the bluegrass he heard on people’s porches growing up in that great hub of bluegrass and folk music. However Sturgill’s route to Glasgow has taken him to some very interesting places. We hear Sturgill’s remarkable story of his 15 year overnight success which brought him to popular acclaim in last year’s Americana awards. We’ll hear about his life in the military, his own personal struggles and about his great hero, his grandfather. We’ll discover how much he’s influenced by Waylon and Willie and find out why he had to goto Tokyo. It’s a great story and as well as all of that he has recorded a blistering session for us. If all of that is not enough there’s a chance to see Sturgill for yourself in Glasgow this Sunday when he plays Glasgow’s Admiral Bar. I’m going!
Roseanne Cash‘s excellent new album is doing very well indeed. We’ll play you some more from that as well as something from the new ‘lost’ Johnny Cash album and to keep it in the extended family we’ll bring you music from a new Carlene Carter album too. We’And if that’s not an excuse to play more of the Carter Family then what is? If that’s not enough we have some fine new things from War On Drugs, Maeve O’Boyle, Ned Roberts as well as something you may just remember from Leanne Rimes.
We’ll celebrate a deserved win at the Radio Two Folk Awards for Anais Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer and share our delight for the gentlemen from The Lonesome Fire. This week our good friend Roddy Hart and his band took America by storm as they played live in from of millions on Craig Ferguson’s Late, Late show. Not only that but this story has gone much further…all will be revealed tomorrow.
That’s Another Country, BBC Radio Scotland Friday at Five past Eight.
I had never heard about Townes Van Zandt until the late seventies when, on Emmylou Harris’s ‘Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town’ she covered his Poncho and Lefty. It enjoyed the song but it failed to get me to check his own albums any further. One of the most probable explanations for that is that I never came across one. It wasn’t till many years later that I owned a copy of ‘At My Window’ and a live album.
However despite this and the many people who have extolled the virtues of his recordings and, in particular, songs I suppose I haven’t ever found myself in the Townes ‘club.’ A couple of years back Steve Earle’s ‘Townes’ album only succeeded in putting me off if I’m honest. I remember us returning from holiday and a pile of records awaited me in my car from AC HQ. I gave Steve’s album a try but after enduring it for half an hour my family,as one, begged me to take it off. I got their pain.
So I am approaching a special on Townes with some hesitation. Part of me is loving catching up (I’m reading ……’s biography and listening to all the songs) but another part is finding this strange, slightly unpleasant character quite a hard nut to crack. I suppose it all comes down to finding a song which you want to play and play again. The only song of Townes that has (so far) come into that category is If You Needed Me and I must say that’s a song any writer would have wanted to write.
So as we approach what would have been his 70th year let me open up this particular blog to you, the listener. many of you have asked us to pay proper tribute to the man and we are delighted to be doing that. But we need some input too. What is so special about Townes Van Zandt? Why is he so highly respected amongst his peers? What are the key albums and which songs would we be foolish to omit? Do join the blog for this particular quest and don’t be afraid to keep us right or equally let us know if his music has passed you by.
Richard Murdoch and myself started this show by declaring to each other that we loved country music but knew very little about it. In the same muddled way we hope we can bring you some of the greatness in Townes Van Zandt and reflect the passion his fans have had for his records over the course of over 40 years. So if you are new to the blog, welcome along ..come on in the digital water’s lovely.
From the 08:30 London Euston to Glasgow Central: The train is barely at Watford and already everyone hates the bloke in Coach B seat 40..yes that’s you sir. The good news is he’s getting off at Preston. The bad news is that’s another 2 hours away.We know that because his ludicrous voice has broadcast it to the entire train as we sit through his pitiful sales conference with his team. As each new colleague/employee/victim comes to the phone they are each addressed as mate. Believe me this guy’s a mobile weapon. Oh no – he works for a mobile phone company – he can talk all day! Two wonderful things happen though: one of these delicious long tunnels which will kill the most resilient of mobilistas and…finally, my ipod and Don Williams. If I ever needed Don to pour oil on troubled waters it was this morning. I’ve looked up and checked…yes….we’ve all gone for that Williams manoeuver..it’s headphones all down the aisle.
I’ve spent the week with some great song writers…step forward, Charlie Dore, Steve Booker and Dan and Rich from The Feeling. My dear friend Charlie – a good friend to the show and one of the funniest people I know – likes to say we spent the day down the song mines searching for nuggets. It’s a good metaphor and funny but like all throw away lines has more than a glimmer of truth to it. It often amazes me how often I step into a studio/room/kitchen/garden room with a fellow songwriter on an uninspired morning and leave after dark with something – albeit not always the great song we hoped for – but a song, we write a song. The only advice I have ever been foolish enough to give to a young songwriter is…finish the song.
This week we get a chance to listen to the songwriter and the singer interacting in different ways. We have the raw surge of Howler, the introspection of Samantha Crain, the joy of Beth Nielson Chapman and even Joni Mitchell covered by Aoife O’Donovan. It’s a theme we’ll explore a little further with Merle Haggard being sung by Suzy Boguss ( I love Suzy…she also came to the rescue in the aforementioned sonic war from B40). We hear from some voices we almost thought had disappeared…good news for Mary Margaret O’Hara, Uncle Tupelo and Lucinda Williams fans.
So it’s all records tonight. Plenty fine new ones and others that will have you scrambling down the back of the sofa for lost change so you can buy one more album you’ve got to have. Finally we recognise a significant anniversary. 100 years since the birth of this man…
He knew how to run a record shop and I bet he wouldn’t have dreamed of ruining anyone’s train journey with a business call. Here’s to you Ernest Tubb.
All this and more this Friday at five past eight on BBC Radio Scotland.
We got a loverly Christmas present from our children. Two tickets to see War Horse in Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre. Mrs Ricky has never seen it and I’ve only seen it twice. Needless to say we loved it – I loved all over again – and loved seeing my wife’s reaction to one of the best stage productions of recent years. Michael Morpurgo (author of the original children’s novel) says how seven year’s on his novel hasn’t changed but that, in Shakespeare’s words, ‘The play’s the thing….that has transformed the fortunes of the book.’
He’s modest but he’s right. Of course Shakespeare’s quote is quote is from Hamlet and there the acting out of the drama is played for the young Prince to see how much the truth of a deceitful monarch in the stage play will trouble the conscience of his new step father. The power of art to speak to power.
Isn’t that what we love about song? In a week where the passing of a great man of song has led people to eulogise at length about various great aspects of Pete Seeger’s character it’s also fair to say that he would have pointed all of these people back to the moral courage of the songs. Songs of protest, songs of hope and songs of fear for the future….it’s always about the songs.
This week a singer from that great folk tradition of protest joins us live in Studio One. With her live band along for the ride Anabelle Chvostek will be visiting us for the second time. A former Wailin’ Jenny, Anabelle’s current album Rise tracks the story of street protest in the recent Occupy Movement. It’s a in inspiring listen.Bang up to date and a great testimony to songs reflecting the times. Expect great things and some great songs.
In the first hour we will also have Anthony D’Amato with us in studio one. Anthony’s debut album was one of the AC’s favourites of all time. We had him as a session guest 18 months ago and since then he’s been signed to the New West label and has recorded a fantastic new album which comes out later in the year. I’m listening to it now and I can tell you we’ll be playing this one a lot. You can see and hear Ludlow from the album on his website now. Personally I hope we can also get some of the highlights of that first album too…it’s still a great listen. He is, of course, a believer in the power of the song.
As well as that we’ll squeeze in some new records and remind you again why it is we love country music. It all starts from five past eight on BBC Radio Scotland.