Sam Stone and Other Stories

I’m indebted to a listener…Jeremy, if I remember correctly…who reminded me about a new John Prine single about to emerge from a new John Prine album. I re-listened as I’d already taken notice, and I thought he was right. We need to play this.

There should really not be any question about playing anything by John Prine but for the fact I can’t really reconcile myself to where he fits in on my (considerably long) timeline. Firstly I go back to the mid to late seventies and I’m sitting in old pal Rod Gordon’s house off the Kingsway in Dundee where we would just stay up late and play records..loud. He would spin me through the back pages of all the things I’d missed. There would be an inevitable 40 mins or so of prog where I’d have to kid on I was enjoying something vile by King Crimson or some such, but then the mood would change, and suddenly Rod would have whipped off the vinyl and replaced it with Country Boy by Head, Hands and Feet featuring the brilliant Albert Lee.

It was one of these moments when Rod said to me, ‘You’ve heard Sam Stone, haven’t you?’ In fairness this was such a big moment that Rod would would spare me the record and cut straight to the chase. Out came the guitar and Rod would sing and play the song perfectly. This was my introduction to John Prine.

Some time later while cruising record shops I came across a compilation of artists from The Bottom Line in NYC on which was John Prine’s original version of Sam Stone. It’s a brilliant song about a Vietnam Vet who comes home with a drug habit brought on by the medication from his war wound. “There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes, and Jesus Christ died for nothing I suppose.‘ It brought together so much of my life I can’t describe how high I rated and still love the song. And yet….

And yet it still seemed of it’s time and perhaps, because of that time – post Vietnam, pre punk, protest folk singing, it surprised me to see John Prine still so respected and loved by the Americana generation. Tonight on Another Country we’ll try to explain some of that loyalty and love as we play Prine songs from early seventies to present day.

Listen out too for new names: HC MCEntire, Levi Hummon, Stables and Lowpine. Some old friends too…Alison Krauss, Dan Auerbach, Hank Locklin and Caitlin Rose.

It’s the kind of night I really love on the old AC. I do enjoy a guest but I also love being able to do what my pal Rod did all these years ago…bring in a pile of records and play them all because…..well because we love country music.

We’ll be on air from five past nine on BBC Radio Scotland FM. Join me if you can.

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