In an old, cold church in Hackney on a January Thursday, Mr Richard Murdoch and I shared a mall epiphany. It was a one song sung by Peter Bruntnell called ‘Long Way From Home.’ In the seat behind me was my agent, and a man who knows a thing or two about Americana, Paul Fenn. ‘Ah…’ he anticipated,’ I’ve heard so much about this man but never seen him. He’s meant to be very good.’ He wasn’t wrong. It was, perhaps, the highlight of a very good night at the UK Americanas.
Soon after we were kindly sent two of his albums and informed by our old friend Iain Sloan that Peter was coming to Scotland. Iain (pedal steel player to Blue Rose Code and The Wynntown Marshalls) was putting a small band together and we were keen to see if they would include the AC in their tour itinerary.
As someone who pays scant attention to music journalism I’ve managed to miss out on the good press that has followed Peter over the years. But those of you who know better will already be aware that Peter has been much admired by the music writers over the years although none of that seems to have been matched by exposure to his music on the airwaves. It’s a shame because there is so much there to enjoy. If you love The Jayhawks, Bill Callahan, Alex Chilton, the late Bap Kennedy and Richmond Fontaine you are going to love Peter’s music. In fact I would say his songs contain the same simplicity and ache of our very own Teenage Fanclub. (which makes me wonder why we aren’t playing them more too?) Indeed he is one of Willy Vlautin’s favourite singers and, though Peter’s own subject matter covers a wider target, there is something akin to the pathos and humanity found in Willy’s own songs and novels. Where Willy’s own stories could all begin and end in a dingy bar in Reno, Peter’s casts a detached but accurate eye over Spitfire Pilots, Jimmy Webb and eastern mountain tops.
If that isn’t enough we welcome back one of our oldest chums, the good Ben Glover. Ben defines Americana these days. Moving from Antrim to Tennessee, he’s made a clutch of albums over there and written with some great artists including Mary Gauthier and Gretchen Peters. On Ben’s previous record we found him recording songs in Ireland he’d written in Nashville. This time round he’s looking back across the water and reflecting on home on a partly traditional record themed around exile. The Emigrant (the title track he wrote with Gretchen Peters) contains covers and originals of stories of what what, in Sam Outlaw’s phrase, we’re all looking for: Home.
By the time you read this many of you may have had a chance to see Ben or Peter in concert last week. This Tuesday, stay in and enjoy the songs and stories of these brilliant artists. It all starts from five past nine on BBC Radio Scotland.