Archive for February, 2010
I’m not going to have time to do n extensive blog, but this is a short note to announce that I’m back on Sunday mornings.
We’ll have the usual variety of topics and discussions that centre around religion, ethics and morality.
Tomorrow (Sunday 28th Feb) we will discuss the modern way of death, on a similar theme Jolyon Mitchell discusses the film, “The Lovely Bones,” Rosa Murray and Maureen Sier talk about religious fasting seasons and Dominic Smart tells us about the Test Of Faith tour which tries to show that religion and science are not at logger-heads.
Music from Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman, Rodney Crowell and Teenage Fanclub. BBC Radio Scotland 8 – 9 a.m.
My little boy came into the room while I was writing this. Is that Johnny Cash dad? I asked him what he knew and he told me that a friend in his class and he had been discussing music they loved. They both loved \’Ain\’t No Grave.\’ Believe me when I tell you that this has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the man we are about to salute.
It seems that we’re finally getting round to something that’s been looming for a long while. On Friday we are going to spend the two hours that Radio Scotland has given us on Johnny Cash. I naively wondered what we’d do with the time a while back there. Then my producer, Richard asked me for a list of favourite JC tracks and I realised if we were both going to be happy we’d need to take over the airwaves for the whole evening…there’s a thought!
So for good or bad we have two hours in and around the music of Johnny Cash with tributes from friends of the programme as well as an exclusive long chat with Johnny’s only son, John Carter. The excuse (as if we needed one) is the release of American VI – Aint No Grave for which John Carter has acted as associate producer, but the reason is more fundamental. Johnny Cash was part of a huge dynasty of music which goes back to the very first recordings of what we now call country. That music was gospel and rythm and folk and blues and eventually rock ‘n’ roll. Johnny himself was one quarter of the most potent rock ‘n’ roll roster of all time and even now there will be arguments about which one of the Presley, Perkins, Lewis, Cash quartet was the greatest. I wouldn’t begin to try. Competition has no place in the arts for me. Let’s just be glad we have the recordings. And if you’re still not sure….try this
What is particular interesting in the case of Johnny is the fact that his career re ignited in the last years of his life. This wasn’t because he was suddenly on a cool label with a cool producer. It was because that producer decided to do what great producers do; allow the artist to shine through on his own merits. This might explain further.
The singer became the star and anything that got in the way of that voice and the story of these songs was quietly rubbed out. Johnn Cash himself had the idea of singing these songs in that stripped down fashion long before he’d ever met Rick Rubin.
Unfortunately he was then on a record label who’d long forgotten about why they’d signed him in the first place.
On Friday we will play music written and performed by Johnny Cash, music that inspired and influenced Johnny Cash and hear the voices of artists who continue to be influenced by the Man In Black. In my opinion that two hours is going to be worth our license fee alone.
Lest we forget too, Johnny’s life was never straight forward….
One last story. A couple of years ago I visited a boy in hospital. He was the same age as my 2nd eldest daughter. He’d been in hospital for months as he’d suffered a spinal injury paralysing his lower body and limiting the use of his hands. We chatted for a while then I explained I had to go. I was doing a radio programme that night. Was there any country music he might like? Yes, he said, Johnny Cash.
It’s mid term here in Glasgow. We’ve all been up to my favourite East -Coast haunt, St Andrews. It’s glorious there in winter.The sky is as clear as can be with the only interruption to the view the small dots of fighter planes taking off and landing in Leuchars. I felt glad to be alive.
I tell you all of this as the title alludes to the Seamus Heaney poem of the same where he is brought home from school to discover the sudden death of a younger brother killed in a traffic accident. I thought of this poem last night when I re read the episode in Johnny Cash’s autobiography where his father picks him up unexpectedly to tell him the news of his brother’s accident. In Cash’s case it was an older brother, but the memory and the sentiment is as powerful. Why do I tell you this? Because next week would have been Johnny Cash’s 78th birthday and we will be celebrating that as we welcome the new release of American VI – Aint No Grave.
Perhaps you’d like to suggest some Cash songs you wouldn’t normally hear for our JC special on Friday 26th? We’d love to hear from you about your choices.
Last week I said, on air, that there was no such thing as a great double album. I wasn’t deluged with corrections but I did get one from Vanessa saying…3 words – “Blonde on Blonde.” Good point, but at 14 songs and running shorter than a lot of single albums it’s hard not to conclude it’s not really a doubler. I stand firm. But hey, it was recorded in Nashville so let’s celebrate it anyway.
Also on the show will be that session and interview with Sara Watkins where she talks about her new life outside Nickel Creek and the making of her new album under the watchful eye of John Paul Jones. All the usual stuff too with new songs from Local Natives, Darden Smith and The Acorn plus one or two old ones too.
What’s you favourite story?
Most of the ones I really care about I love to hear again. Maybe it’s getting older and becoming more like my father but I do enjoy it when some of my best friends (and I include my wife here) tell me a story again. Often they forget and I act as if I’ve never heard it before because, in actual fact, it’s often more enjoyable the 3rd or 4th time.
It happens to me all the time too. I look at my producer Richard Murdoch and say – “Have I told you or the listener this one before?” He’s usually kind enough to say, ”No.” I say all this because I started the week and am ending it in the company of some of the best story tellers I know. On Sunday we (Richard and me) went through to Edinburgh to see Nanci Griffith and it was a real pleasure to spend time in the presence of a great song writer and singer who always knows how to get you hooked on the end of a great yarn. We’ll broadcast my chat with Nanci over the next few weeks. Tomorrow night in Glasgow Willy Vlautin comes to town. He’s playing at the Captain’s Rest on his own and, I imagine, reading from his new novel Lean On Pete. Willy came to see us before with his band Richmond Fontaine and we enjoyed it so much we invited him back again. He’s popping over to BBC Scotland before the show to talk about some of his favourite songs and, hopefully, tell us a few more tales. Willy is the master of this and I have spent a few days now listening to Richmond Fontaine and reading his latest novel in preparation for tomorrow night – which I still hope to attend after we come off air.
We’ll also be broadcasting that chat with Willy soon and look out for the Richmond Fontaine tour which comes to Scotland soon. Tomorrow night we pause to enjoy conversation and a session from Diana Jones. Diana tells her own story brilliantly and her own experience of adoption and rediscovery is well worth hearing and is beautifully illustrated in her last two albums. Elsewhere we re visit Langhorne Slim, Audra Mae and Tift Merrit and will give spins to Israel Nash Gripka and The Middle East – all very new. We’ll not forget the anniversaries or our occasional Beginners Guide to Americana. Tomorrow night we suggest that Stephen Stills‘ 1972 Manassas album might be another record well worth owning. All from 8 – 10 on BBC Radio Scotland.
Richmond Fontaine…despite meeting a creepy guy in seer sucker, Willy’s coming back!
There was a nice tribute in The Guardian today to Nancy Banks Smith who has completed 40 years as a TV reviewer. It made me think about what I’ve watched over the last week.
I watch as much or as little TV as the next person but I’m really not given to watching much music. I don’t find it it too compelling to
have to know what people look like; sometimes it can even put you off. I did see two bits of music TV this week. Firstly I saw as much as I could take of the Grammys. Here was a case of the medium becoming the message. Each live performance blended in to another as everyone decided the only thing missing from any given song was the kitchen sink. Truly awful. (I hasten to add too that the winners bore little or no resemblance to good records that have come out over the last year – but that’s for another day.) It was all that is bad in the music business and Lord knows I’ve been in it long enough to recognise its bad days.
I decided instead to watch something which I recorded weeks ago and hadn’t yet seen: a BBC4 documentary of Fleetwood Mac. Many would say that my dismissal of the Grammys would be equally apposite for the Mac…but not me. Here was a great documentary which had the cumulative effect of doing the very thing any good music show ought to do: make you go out and listen to more of their music. On that criterion the programme was a resounding success. Sara, Dreams, Landslide…all songs that I had to hear again. Three great song writers in one band all giving their own story of being in one of the most successful acts of all time – then divorcing each other – well, that’s a story that’s got to be worth hearing. Conclusion…. keep getting back to the music. Ignore all the hoo-ha of Brits, Grammys and any other televised awards and celebrate what you hear and like. As E M Foster so beautifully put it, “Avoid all occasions which require new clothes.”
You can listen on Friday in your semet. A great double act of Charlie Dore and Beth Neilson Chapman, new music from Ben Glover, Midlake, John Hiatt and a special mention to Caitlin Rose (one to watch). We’ll finally get round to playing The Avett Brothers – which I’ve been dying to do since the start of the year. If that doesn’t convince you try this: the first track from, what must be the final record from Johnny Cash, American VI. All from 8 on Friday night on Another Country, BBC Radio Scotland.