Archive for September, 2011
The picture that’s most used of me on Another Country links is one taken around 18 months ago. It is a cropped shot of me edited from a wider photograph taken in the corridor after the first visit to the AC of Richmond Fontaine. I’m only guessing but I suspect the reason that Alan (BBC Scotland’s web maestro) and Richard chose it is because I’m looking so damned happy.
No wonder; I’d just had the joy of interviewing Willy Vlautin and I was happy. Interviewing Willy is really one of the cherries on the icing of the very fine cake that is the wonderful job I get to do. Don’t get me wrong – there have been many wonderful moments. Mary Gauthier, Kris Kristofferson, Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings have all been memorable days. Now however, I have met Willy three times and even when my questions are lame and prosaic his answers come back with all the life that Willy’s songs and novels manage to package. Willy isn’t trying to dazzle or flatter, he’s just at pains to explain how music made him the man he was; how albums became ministering angels and songs brought solace. We will spend a good bit of time in the presence of Richmond Fontaine‘s writer and singer and I do believe there will be very few of you not grateful for it.
We will of course be spending time too with this record….
In case you haven’t been on this planet all that long you are looking (above) at he front cover of Bob Dylan’s 1969 album, Nashville Skyline. It comes highly recommended by our guest too. We will also celebrate a few birthdays as well as play some exciting new music from Wilco, Nick Lowe, Hillfolk Noir and JT Nero……who?
JT Nero are from Chicago and they sound both charming and intriguing…..
When Richard mentioned to me the other day that sad news had come in of the passing of Kitty Well‘s husband Johnny Wright I had to admit I hadn’t known of him. It was only when I started doing the blog and doing some digging that I realised that he was one half of that great country duo Johnny and Jack. I’m pleased to say I know very little but I do know enough to own an album by Johnny and Jack. You can hear the music of Johnny Wright on Friday’s show.
It’s called Another Country and it’s on BBC Radio Scotland this Friday at five past eight. Admit it, you can’t miss it.
George Galloway is the man who divides opinions more than anyone else I know. To some he is a fearless challenger to received orthodoxies who has championed very difficult causes all his life. His passion is Palestine and his background is the Labour movement and the city of Dundee. We have a lot in common. I’ll also be finding out why so many people find George hard to take and where he might go next.
We’ll also be talking to the people bringing you a Glasgow Passion Play in October…..Surely it can’t be as good as this one I was involved with a few years back….?
We are going to spend a bit of time finding out why some Christians and others want to keep the 50% Income Tax Rate for high earners even if some people say it brings in less revenue. We’ll ask Sally Magnusson for all the unprintable gossip from Songs Of Praise which is now 50 years old. (Hasn’t it been longer?) Cathy MacDonald is also coming to join us and tell us more about the people she’ll be meeting as she takes over the Sunday Morning baton for a few months. I’ll be back in the New Year reading more interesting books, meeting fascinating people and playing more gems from my record collection. Do join me for one last extended breakfast this Sunday morning on BBC Radio Scotland from seven.
On Friday we are going to spend a lot of time in the company of these men…….
They are called the Avett Brothers and is if by magic one of the stories they will share with you is how they met Bob.…..oh, yes…that Bob. More on the Avetts later but back to Mr. Dylan.
When Richard Murdoch and I sat down to talk about Bob Backwards it was fair to say we didn’t over analyse the weaker Dylan albums. We recognised there might be good weeks and great weeks and the occasional week where we’d be glad we weren’t playing an entire album. What we both thought was that by the time we got to the 1970 we’d be fairly safe. That was to prove slightly naive. Right between two pretty good Bob Dylan albums comes one of these odd curios that I’ve always know was there but have resolutely refused to explore for 41 years. Until now. As I write this on a late wet Wednesday I am putting the proverbial needle down on the first song. …..flipping heck……it’s a double album! How could I have forgotten that?
I like to think I know about thses records. It’s not that I owned half of them. I couldn’t afford that. It was more that we as secondary school pupils used to go and hand around the record racks in Boots, Largs and Chalmers and Joy of a lunch time in Dundee. We may not know what was going on on the vinyl but, by crikey, we could tell you what “Weazels Ripped My Flesh” looked like.
In case you need reminded….
As it happens sometimes the reality of these things is better than the expectations. I’m sitting here quite liking what I’ve heard so far. I think I like Bob’s voice of this period and I love the fact that we get to know what songs he loved at the time. And lest we ever think Bob was flattering to deceive he is not above paying tribute to one of THE songs of the year, Simon and Garfunkel’s The Boxer. (That’s PJ Harvey doing Foster The People’s ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ folks.)
However all of this can be discussed further on Friday when we’ll play the album and at this moment on this Wednesday it’s sounding really fascinating and worth the £7 I just shelled out.
One of the most interesting things is meeting artists second time around. On the AC we”ve been lucky to have had return visits from a few special artists. Justin Townes Earle, Mary Gautier and of course Richmond Fontaine…who will hold the record soon. But none of these acts have had quite the experience of The Avett Brothers. Since they first called in they have steadily grown their US fan base. (They’ve just played Red Rocks for goodness sake) They came back to see us when they were in Glasgow recently. All three guys turned up and made a point of thanking us for our support and told us the pieces in the story of The Avetts success. Anyone who wants to be in a successful band needs to listen to this interview. It’s heartening to know that a cottage industry involving printing CDs, lumping PA systems and playing barbecues can wind up with Gold records and Grammy Awards appearances with Bob Dylan. It’s rags to riches Avetts style and it gives an excuse (an excuse is needed?) to play that great session again.
We’ll have great new music from……… The Jayhawks, Blitzen Trapper, Ben Glover, Eilen Jewell and Anna
Coogan. We’ll start the road trip at five past eight on BBC Radio Scotland. Please know there’s a seat in the car for you.
Sunday Morning With…..
Scott is a man who probably wishes he hasn’t become a familiar name. However I suspect that is a burden he’s going to have to bear for a long time. Scott is the openly gay Church of Scotland minister who had to fight to be ordained against a fairly vociferous opposing such a plan . Although there were forces lined up against his becoming a minister there are also many people who have supported him and he will be joining me on Sunday to talk through that experience . We’ll hear Scott’s own story, hear some of his music choices and we will all get the chance to know Scott a little better.
Also….when was the last time you went on a march? Perhaps you have never done it.In light of the fact it’s been 30 years since the hunger strikes in Northern Ireland, 30 years since Glasgow gave Nelson Mandela freedom of the city and 30 years since the Greenham Common protests began, we’re discussing protests and protesting. We’ll be talking about how protesting and our response to protest has changed over the years.
I’ll also be finding out more about why this man has no intention of retiring….
His name is Lewis Wolpert he’s an octogenerian and he’s talking about how to grow old well.
I’ll also be finding out why David Peat didn’t get this photograph developed for forty years..
And finally, a question: Have you got …….?
We hear from The Humanist Society and let you know where the auditions are being held. The good news is there’s no Simon Cowell. The bad news is they probably don’t whisk you off to a pool-side location somewhere warm either.
We’ll hear music from Danny Kaye, Nanci Griffith, Hoagy Carmichael, Seasick Steve and The Dixie Cups. All from seven on Sunday morning BBC Radio Scotland. Join me if you can.
If I remember correctly it was the summer of 1988. We had been recording over in the west coast of the USA for the first time and returned to the more prosaic duties of playing gigs and festivals up and down the land. I realised I never liked festivals. I still don’t really – though I had one of these strange moments at one this summer which made me realise why people occasionally love them; more on that later. On this particular Saturday our band played an afternoon slot at the Reading Festival. One of our guys pointed to the stage and said, “It’s a bit of a ritual here, but the first 5 minutes of any set the lads throw all their plastic beer bottles on stage. Don’t worry, it happens to everyone.” It happened to us, but as the urine filled bottle hit Graeme’s guitar for the nth time a strange clarity broke over the proceedings for me and I led our troupe offstage.
At the time it seemed as if we were the ones breaking social convention. However I realised that whatever I hoped the live experience might be it was never going to blossom in the mud/bear/beer pit of Reading Festival. In the middle of all this mayhem was an adjoining portacabin which was the makeshift dressing room to the turn on the next stage about to endure the same bottle dodging maelstrom. The turn in question was John Hiatt.He had made a favourite album of mine at the time, ‘Bring The Family.’ It was recorded in a few short days with a supergroup of Ry Cooder on guitar, Jim Keltner on Drums and Nick Lowe on bass. The bass player was sitting in the portacabin hanging with John.
I can’t remember much of the chat with John but I remember Nick vividly. He was charming, welcoming and friendly. I enjoyed John Hiatt’s set from the same vantage point as Nick and took comfort that he received as many missiles as we had. The next time I met Nick it was at a gathering to decide who should be worthy of a Q award ( I know!). After lunch he said to me, “I’ll give you my number – I think you should have it.” I was more than pleased to have Nick Lowe’s number in my diary even though I would never use it. It would be twenty two more years and some wonderful Nick Lowe albums later that I would have the joy of meeting Nick again.
To my delight he was the act on before us at the Glastonbury Festival 2011. It was ironic that it would be at a festival – perhaps the twenty three years had help me forget. To my joy and surprise the festival audience had grown up and changed into quite the most lovely audience in the world. As Nick and I met again in the gloomy backstage marquee that passes as a green room I was curious to find out whether Nick had a new album coming out and was delighted to hear about ‘The Old Magic’ and immediately booked him for Another Country. The plan was for me to go to London to meet him but I couldn’t make the trip so we chatted down the line, and what an enjoyable chat it turned out to be. Nick talked about these wonderful songs on his great new album, about his old friend Elvis Costello (who he’s covered brilliantly on the new record) and about life round the Carter-Cash dinner table. It will all be on the AC this Friday. By a nice coincidence we’ll be playing new songs from Ry Cooder and John Hiatt too.
What else? The Avett Brothers and Ron Sexsmith on their favourite Bob Dylan album, ‘New Morning.’ Yes it’s 1970 in Bob Backwards.
Also wonderful new music from Lindi Ortega, Lindsey Buckingham, Devon Sproule, Ryan Adams and yes……Dirty Beggars. We’ll also mine the catalogues of Hank Williams, Roy Acuff, Johnny Cash and Elvis Costello.
It all starts at 8 o’clock on Friday Evening on BBC Radio Scotland.
Sunday Morning With……
On Sunday I will be chatting to Mary Contini whose memoir ‘Dear Olivia’ is essential reading for anyone wanting to know about the Scots Italians.
Mary’s family story is a great century-long adventure and it never moves too far away from the kitchen – which suits me perfectly. It’s only a shame the radio cannot give you the aromas which must have filled Mary’s childhood.
Aric Sigman is going to join us to talk about this book…
And we’ll hear from parents here in Scotland about how they go about letting their children learn about alcohol and its effects. We’ll also try to discover the best ways to allow teenagers to discover alcohol and see if anyone thinks we can do it better that we have up till now.For those of you wanting a more musical instruction on the perils of the demon drink feel free to learn the words of this Two Ronnies song.
His book on the loss of his own brother and sister-in-law in the Asian Tsunami makes powerful reading.
It’s 50 years since the founding of Amnesty. We hear some of the reasons why we need to keep listening to what they are saying.
Great music from Stevie Wonder, Diana Krall, Ennio Morricone, The Impressions and Michael Kiwanuka. All from seven on Sunday morning. Join me if you can.
It’s a little too easy to get caught up in a drama. Sometimes it’s tempting to want to play a bigger part in it than we deserve. However this last week I have watched three different documentaries on 9/11 and each one has been beautifully made and has allowed people like myself, bystanders across the water, to understand a little of what it has been like for those left behind.
Sundays With..this week falls on the anniversary of that awful day. I have been very taken with WNYC’s (the NPR station in New York) website inviting listeners to suggest music for the anniversary. There are many beautiful, brilliant and stirring suggestions. Some of the songs take on a whole new meaning in the events of 9/11 and others simply echo the sadness. I’ll be playing suggestions throughout the show.
I also hope to include some of my facebook friends and supporters’ own memories of how the tragedy affected them even here. Feel free to add to theses stories here. We’ll here from Bob Dixon who has been gathering memories and stories in the Big Apple itself. I will also be chatting to John Mann who was then a pastor in Minneapolis struggling to contain his parishioners anger and is now a minister in Pollok, Glasgow.
It’s also another anniversary. It’s 15 years since The Mark Scott Foundation was established. Mark was a sixteen year old boy murdered in a shocking sectarian attack in Bridgeton. His father Niall will be in the studio talking about how much or little has changed in the intervening years.
I will also be chatting to Robin Harper, Scotland’s first green MSP on the publication of his new autobiography, Dear Mr Harper.
It’s going to be a special two hours and it all starts at seven next Sunday morning on BBC Radio Scotland.
On Another Country…
It’s 100 years since the birth of Bill Monroe, father of bluegrass. We will have an hour of bluegrass music from Bill, The Stanley Brothers, The Avetts, Dolly Parton and yes…Bob Dylan!
In the second hour it’s an 80th birthday party for George Jones.
We’ll hear George singing George. We’ll hear George singing Bill Monroe and we’ll hear a host of other great artists singing the songs of the man Frank Sinatra called “the second best singer in America.” Listen out for Gram Parsons, The Everley brothers, The Secret Sisters and Kitty Wells. All from five past eight on BBC Radio Scotland.
There’s not time to play all the songs I’ve gathered for Sundays show so I thought you’d be interested to hear this one suggested by one of the listeners at WNYC. Dylan, by Nina Simone.
This Friday evening you can spend some time listening in to the chat I had with Ron Sexsmith. It’s hard to know why we haven’t played much Ron until recently. It’s probably because he doesn’t really fit the “Americana or Alt-Country” tag.
However he did write a song called Lebanon Tennessee and, given that’s right next to Nashville, I think we can include him. He’s also very good and over the last 20 years has made some fine records. He will be talking about the new album, Long Player, Late Bloomer and we’ll also get a little insight into some older songs. I did ask the question of Ron…what did he make of this?……..
I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s done the odd one from this album….
a few people have. We feel we’re doing justice by putting these two together this week.
Talking of Bob – we’ll also hear what Woody Guthrie sounded like 60 years ago when he and his wife rolled up to a community hall in Newark and played to 50 or so locals.
We’ll be playing lots of new things too from Zoe Muth, Nick Lowe, My Morning Jacket our good friend Eilen Jewel and something great from Oklahoma’s own Other Lives…I think you’ll like it. You know, f course, that we’re on air from five past eight on Friday evening. BBC Radio Scotland.
We’re getting nearer to the 10th Anniversary of the Twin Towers attacks. Firstly Elizabeth Goren tells us why she felt she needed to tell her story of New York’s fire-fighters in “Beyond The Reach of Ladders.” The we will hear from Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. You don’t know him? Perhaps you remember some of these headlines?…..
We’re also going to meet John Matthews, who made a decision to leave business and serve the Church. We’ll talk about supporting families and folks….
We’ll play some great music. We’ll go from Ramsay Lewis to Randy Newman and we’ll play some songs about the great city of New York. All from seven on Sunday Morning on BBC Radio Scotland.