Every year I attempt to explain the magic of the song round and every year I meet people who come along to experience it who can testify how enjoyable it is to hear songwriters tell the stories and share their songs.
This year as part of our Celtic Connections show we’re going to change the format (slightly) and have all our artists playing in the studio together without a live audience. We’ve never done it this way before but we’re hoping they will enjoy the freedom to digress with a few anecdotes and back-stories to their songs.
It’s often the diversions and sidetracks which make for the most fun on these nights and over the last ten years or so I’ve been lucky to see rounds in different venues and towns and have witnessed at first hand the joy of hearing songs in the most intimate circumstances. The story was that the Carter Cash family would invite various writers and performers to they house for ‘guitar pulls’ where on a good night you might hear the family names themselves and off-shoots of the same as well as Kris Kristofferson, Graham Nash, Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell.
In the round’s most famous venue, The Bluebird, you may well have no names you recognise but you will invariably know some of the songs. The Nashville song writers are nothing if not diverse and well connected and the songs you may listen to on any night of the week will have been hits in places far away from Tennessee. I remember being at a song-circle in London where I heard Desmond Childs – a great Nashville luminary – play a fairly rudimentary version of one of his biggest hits on a keyboard which had seen better days. Bon Jovi’s, ‘Livin On a Prayer’ never sounded so raw!
One night in Belfast a good few years ago I sat in wonder as Don Shlitz poured out song after song….surely he couldn’t possibly have written them all….even The Gambler? But, of course, he had.
This Tuesday we’ve invited a diverse cross-over of roots artists to play their songs in the round. We’ll enjoy the folk flavourings and brilliant string arrangements of Laura Cortese & The Dance Cards who’ll play songs from their current, excellent album California Calling. Along with East Nashville troubadour Aaron Lee Tasjan both these acts will be first time guests to the old AC. Finally they will be joined by two old friends who we are delighted to be welcoming back. The Secret Sisters from Alabama will be returning eight years after they first recorded a session in our legendary Studio One in Pacific Quay.
There will only be these three acts on the show for two hours of intimate performance and shared stories. We like to think it will be a very special night you won’t want to miss. Join us live if you can from five past nine on BBC Radio Scotland FM.