Archive for May, 2012
One of the best programmes on radio is Desert Island Discs. Peter Ackroyd was on last week and chose The Kingsmen doing Louie Louie. It’s perfect pop on so many levels. I love the fact however that it never settles for hi-fi over raw excitement. It’s always an easy mistake to make. I remember asking Jon Kelly our Raintown producer if the noisy synth he was recording wouldn’t leave a lot of hiss on the tape.’ Have you got any records with hiss on them?’ he memorably asked? The reality is we have records with everything on them: hiss, static, bum notes and lots of hum. ‘That wurlitzer next door in the big room is making a really loud noise,’ I said to Bruce Robb in Cherokee one day. (In reality it sounded as if it was about to blow!) ‘I know’ smiled Bruce, ‘It’s beautiful isn’t it?’
So it’s with all that in mind that we’ll welcome Brittany Howard as our special guest this Friday. We caught up with Brittany at the start of a week which ended up with her band, The Alabama Shakes on the front of the NME. (I think that’s a first for us) She was polite and reasonably relaxed about the hullabaloo surrounding her. One of the greatest charms of their debut single – Hold On – is the fact the whole track crunches right into the red towards the end of the song. She confessed the mastering engineer had made a panicked phone call,’ You guys are either mad or geniuses’ You can decide for yourselves on Friday.
Over the few years we’ve been on air you may well have heard many artists talking about meeting other acts at Merle Fest. The festival itself was set up to commemorate the tragic death of Doc Watson‘s son Merle. After Merle’s death Doc was reluctant to get back to performance and the festival’s establishment is tribute in itself to the affection felt for Doc and Merle in the American roots community. On Wednesday Doc Watson died after a long illness aged 89. He was a remarkable character who cannot be claimed by any one music genre so it would seem only appropriate that on The AC (where we never say never when we love the music) we pay tribute to the man and the long shadow he has cast over blues, folk, bluegrass and country music.
If that’s not enough there will be many new and wonderful things to celebrate from Willie Nelson, Woodenbox, The Two Gentleman Band and of course, Neil Young and Crazy Horse. We’ll also get a chance to hear a little of this album which I have played in the house and in my car all week, heck I’ve even inflicted it on my children..it’s called So Long John Fante and it’s by these guys, The Lost Brothers.
It all starts at Five Past Eight on Friday evening on BBC Radio Scotland.
It’s Tuesday early evening and facing the north of Glasgow from the south of the city I’m driving into a spectacular sunset and listening to the radio. On the radio was Bryan’s Burnett’s brilliant Get It On and I hear a song I’m not aware of listening to for 30 years: U2 and Gloria. It reminded me how exciting they were in these early days and how fresh the new is when you hear it the first time. Earlier this morning Lauren Laverne played Neat, Neat, Neat by the Damned and hearing it again I though how great it sounded. I’d often thought I didn’t bond with some punk tunes at the time as my ears were in a different place. Sometimes it takes years to recognise the beauty of it all, sometimes years later the song doesn’t sound as good as it does going around in the juke box of your memory.
A couple of weeks ago Chuck Prophet came into the studio to talk about the songs he’s loved and the people he’s listened to as well as the stories behind his own records. Later on after our interview I went down to King Tuts where Chuck was playing and he would perform a song by one of these bands as an encore. I happen to think this particular track still sounds as great as the day I first heard it…and that was some time ago. You can here that on Friday night. There is so much more to Chuck though: guitarist with Green on Red, solo artist and country music connoisseur. (he once got locked in a studio and covered an entire Waylon Jennings album). On Friday he and his wife, Stephanie Finch give us a great acoustic insight into the songs from Temple Beautiful his excellent new album. Chuck and I talk extensively about San Francisco, brothers, baseball, Jim Jones death cult, strip clubs and country music…how could you not want to hear that? It’s so good we’ve given over the second half of the show. The picture above is Chuck, Stefanie and a friend as they take journalists and media types on their San Francisco bus tour to launch the album. I think Willy Mays is in the legend in the background.
But there’s so much more…… Neil Young (again it’s so great), Beach House (likewise), Jack White, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Levon Helm and a lovely tribute to Robin Gibb from an unlikely source. We will also share something really beautiful from a new Scottish artist (to us), Robin Adams and play you a track from the new Shawn Colvin album – produced by our old friend Buddy Miller.
You see…sometimes it all comes back to the same familiar names, just we put them in a different order! Join us on Friday if you can at five past eight on BBC Radio Scotland.
It’s been a good week. As I write this I’m on the last leg of the journey home from London.
On Monday night The Radio Academy gave us another thumbs up for our Friday night show. In the wee wee hours Richard and I reflected on where we’d come from: We first met in the BBC canteen and asked each other if we knew anything about Country Music. Having discovered we collectively knew nothing we figured out we should pay the stuff we loved and hope for the best. I don’t know what it’s done for you but it works wonders on us every Friday.
What’s been brilliant is your enthusiasm and commitment to the music and support for our efforts. When I’ve been out at gigs I’ve met you and you’ve told me what you’ve liked and been kind enough to save me from hearing too much about what hasn’t worked for you. Many of you have sent in recommendations and some of you have been listeners who have said – hold on – ‘I make music too’ – and sent us your own tracks and albums. Over the course of time we’ve played a lot of that. Together we’ve rejoiced at new things we’ve found and often we’ve all fallen back in love with what we heard many years ago. Some nights you’ve been good enough to join me in the foyer at the BBC and we’ve shared in the magic of some great performances and wonderful conversations. However all of it would be meaningless without knowing that in the far north of Scotland, in the western isles, in the Kingdom of Fife and in the Tweed Valley people have listened in their kitchens, cars, tents, garages and workplaces. From all over the world people are listening on their computers. So this is from Richard , Kirsten – who couldn’t join us on Monday and me. Thank you for listening.
As my train gets closer to Central and the gloaming wraps itself around the city of Glasgow I’m thinking of the first few nights someone let me loose on the airwaves. The joy of pushing the fader up and knowing I was playing loud and clear over Scotland was immeasurable. The first texts back from people all over the country sealed what I had always thought: radio is and always has been the most magical way to hear music. Perhaps it’s the surprise, perhaps it’s the ability for a song to come in where you least expect it or perhaps it’s the sheer ubiquity of the medium – but it works for me every time. When I used to listen to Bryan on Brand New Opry I often went to the garage on Friday nights for sweets for the kids. How many times I circled the block several times until a song finished I cannot tell you. On Friday nights the best I can hope for is to get you circling the same way.
We’ll hear why this man was very glad to be making music once again.
In case you don’t know it’s Simone Felice. Formerly a Felice Brother and one half of The Duke and The King joins us with a session and stories from a near death experience that have changed the way he thinks about things. It’s a fascinating encounter and one I hope you’ll enjoy.
We’ll also remember what we love about Country Music with a little reminder of this man…who I first heard on that Opry Show..
If you don’t remember the face then I’m sure you’ll remember the music of Thad Cockrell.
We’ll hear from My Darling Clementine, Tom Jones, Eugene Twist, Fire Mountain and Sweet Billy Pilgrim.
And we’ll catch up on some great new releases from………. And I’ll continue to remind you how important some of these albums are we’ve played recently. It all starts at five past eight on Friday evening on BBC Radio Scotland.
I’m still on a high after Richard and I went down to King Tuts yesterday to meet up with The Alabama Shakes and despite the best efforst of their Tour Manager to derail the encounter we met up with Brittany Howard – charm itself – for a long chat which we will broadcast soon. I took my 11 year old Shakesloving son to the soundcheck and my 19 year old daughter to the gig. The Rosses are all smiling today.
Let’s cut to music. Here’s what I’ve been listening to:
The new Tom Jones album which not only includes that Leonard Cohen cover, but remarkable versions of Bad As Me by Tom Waits and Charlie Darwin by The Low Anthem. Right now though I’ve just had my ears bent by Kev (one of our Facebookers) into listening to Honey Honey and Father John Misty (Josh Tillman) is a record you will surely get to love soon.
On holiday Monday the family took a trip with pals to the seaside and played the Sweet Billy Pilgrim album from beginning to end. It’s stayed in Mrs R’s car since and I doubt I’ll see it again. Such a lovely record on every level and, though time will forbid this Friday, I fully intend to play more soon. I’ve been enjoying new tracks from Lambchop, Fire Mountain, The Soft Hills and the new album by Beach House. A kind friend me sent me Roy Orbison’s Monument singles collection and it is quite amazing how great the singing, the songs and the mono production is.
Phew….. I think that about covers it…but there has been so much.
So we’ll play you some Tom, some Soft Hills and certainly Beach House on Friday. As always we’ll find something magical by Woody Guthrie and I think you’ll like this week’s choice.
A few weeks back Dave Alvin popped in to play us some songs and have an extended blether. There was so much in this extended chat that Richard has devoted the second half of Friday’s show to Dave and his music. We’ll play Dave, The Blasters, Dave and Tom Russell, Dwight Yoakem and you’ll be in the company of a great American songwriter. Even if you are not familiar with Dave Alvin I know you’ll love this very special night. Dave is company you certainly want to keep.
So we move from American Post Punk to Willie Nelson (forgot to mention him earlier and his cover of Pearl Jam!) via Beach House to Johnny Ace. It’s all just a regular Friday night thing. Don’t miss a minute of it. We start at five past eight on BBC Radio Scotland.
I won’t lie to you, I am having a very quiet morning after a particularly busy spell. Our album is complete, I have finished my run of Sunday Morning shows and am having an extended breakfast with Mrs. Ross, there’s a promise of a long walk already made to the dog and we’re playing Hand Picked Songs by The Louvin Brothers in the kitchen. So what is it about country music that makes it appropriate for any given mood? It suits the sunny day when you accept that life is really not so bad after all, it accompanies the devastation of loss perfectly and, so often, it seems to speak directly to the person who is just getting on with the mundanity of the everyday. But when I met up with Chuck Prophet yesterday he gave me the best answer yet…‘you’ve got to have your heart in the right place if you want to get it broken, and country music will do it for you.’
So thank you Chuck for articulating what I have felt in my bones for such a long time. On the subject of heartbreak we have Ray Charles, Tammy Wynette and Red Sky July standing ready to break yours and Marty Stuart and Flatt and Scruggs to get you back on the road again.
Our special guests this week are this family…
The Band Perry will explain how their music has taken country music by storm over the last couple of years in the States and how overnight success in country terms, sometimes takes a little longer than you might expect. You’ll like what you hear about The Perrys as we talk of the south, gothic literature and what to expect from your folks if you’re family decide to all be in the band at once.
I want to introduce you to an album that might well have taken over as my new favourite of this year. It comes from England and I do think you might just love it. The artist is Sweet Billy Pilgrim and no, they’re not from Nashville…Buckinghamshire actually.
And we’ll also take a quick skip past the shelves of John Peel’s Record Collection and see what gems lie lurking there. All from five past eight on Friday evening on BBC Radio Scotland