The Old Ways

It’s a funny old thing getting old. On one hand there’s much of modern life which eludes me and on the other there’s so much of the past I can enjoy for reasons of nostalgia which must seem incomprehensible to any millennial.

Much of this came to me while watching the football the other night in my old home town of Dundee. There’s so much that is familiar in walking down to Tannadice from Clepington Rd with my son. In some ways almost nothing has changed and yet…My pal and I got talking in the ground about how much of the stadium had changed, what half time refreshments consisted of (was it simply pies and bovril as he remembered?) and I recalled how during the early 70’s the crowds were so low the club put on side-shows at half-time to bring in more customers. Who can forget the pie eating contest or Santa visiting one year? (Santa, it seems, still runs our defence)

There is in music too a great nostalgia for the past, often half remembered. There’s much that I forget but I’m quite good on years. Unfailingly someone will insist on telling me they saw a gig I was involved in before it was even possible to have performed it. Musicians will wax endlessly about instruments built in particular years and insist (usually to long suffering partners) how owning a particular guitar of some far off year will make  their musical journey so complete that all appropriate sacrifices should be made.

There is too a  great myth of old for old’s sake. The word ‘tape’ is now expelled so reverently in some circles one almost feels the need to genuflect. The disdain with which certain musician vew the term MP3 is always a joy to behold. A very good producer told me how a more famous producer colleague insisted he had such items on his computer until the first one helpfully went through his digital store to point out that, contrary to his claims, he listened to them all the time. Neil Young is the high priest of this incorruptible sonic school. Quite how Neil establishes the difference in the aural quality of digital sampling after a lifetime of rockin’ in the free world at deafening volume is beyond me.

I thought of some of this when thinking about our guests this week, The Low Anthem. When they first appeared as session guests they brought with them a rolling musical junk shop of instruments and tuned percussion that delighted us. Eschewing the musical snobbery of all I have set down above they rejoiced in the pump organ, the crotale and the slightly distressed drum kit. They created the impression that, should someone offer to replace any of these artefacts with more reliable pristine items, they’d be told where they could put store them.

So it was sad to hear of the missing years of the band where many of the instruments used in these early gigs and recordings were destroyed in the van crash which also injured bassist and founder member Jeff Prytowsky. In a remarkable turn of events it was the convalescence of his band mate Prytowski that triggered the creative spurt of Ben Knox Miller to write the current album, ‘The Salt Doll Went To Measure The Depth of The Sea.’ You can hear that story and the band in session on this Tuesday’s Another Country when they’ll share the genesis of this album and what really went on in the years since we last saw them.

We’ll have bluegrass, gospel, country music you love and some great new things from Kim Richey, Kala Kater, Deam Owens and many more. We’ll be live this Tuesday from five past nine on BBC Radio Scotland FM. Join me if you can.

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