It was red dirt track and our four by four was bouncing along nicely. From the rear-mirror swung the rosary beads and on the passenger side of the windscreen were the stickers of his favourite football team. The radio was playing some of his favourite songs. As the dust came up from the wheels and the truck made its way back to the main drive my friend, Stephen, pointed to our driver, Francis. ‘There are three things he loves, Ricky: The Catholic Church, his football team and……country music.’
Sounds like Tennessee or Texas? Wrong. It was Kazungula near Livingstone, Zambia just a few days ago. The driver was Francis the local organiser of the charity I was visiting. That whole story is for another time but, needless to say, Francis and I got locked into talking country for the next bumpy part of the journey. Later on in the week I’d come back after a long day visiting projects to see a fuzzy TV broadcasting the presidential inauguration from Washington DC. I wondered what my friend, Francis would make of the only name act that seemed to turn up for the event. Like may of the AC audience and production staff I can’t say I imagined Francis staying up beyond his bedtime to see a few songs by Toby Keith. It seems however Toby was one of the few to honour the new incumbent on Pennsylvania Avenue. If The Donald wants to have an argument about numbers relating to this one then I think I can recap it fairly concisely:
Number of country acts you’d want to hear on any given night on the AC to play at inauguration: O.
Number of country acts not touching event with a barge pole: pick a number starting from 1000.
So this coming Tuesday you will hear a variety of artists, old and new, who were busy watching tv or shampooing their chickens last Thursday evening. You’ll hear some vintage Bob Wills on vinyl and something really great from Hank Williams. There will also be some new things from Brent Cobb, Holly Macve and Courtney Marie Andrews. Much of this is by way of celebrating the visit of many of the artists to Celtic Connections this month. Don’t forget that this week brings two AC’s as we will be bringing you our live show from the CCA in Glasgow as simulcast with BBC Radio 2 on Thursday evening. If you are not able to make the even you’ll be able to sit in the comfort of your own home or car and hear Margo Price, Lewis & Leigh and Tift Merritt perform songs live from the very heart of the festival.
I think Francis would have enjoyed all this much more than any inauguration ball, don’t you? When I asked him who his all time favourite artist was there was a simple answer: Don Williams. Sometimes you just have to opt for the right Don!
We’ll play a bit of that Gentle Giant this Tuesday on Another Country too.
Join me from five past nine on BBC Radio Scotland FM on Tuesday. On Thursday we’ll be live on BBC Radio 2 and Radio Scotland from 7.