You can’t go home again. The phrase and the title was first coined by the great American novelist Thomas Wolf and, if your experience resembles mine in any way, you will know it to be true. We make attempts of course, and who can blame us. The past is a misty memory on the best of days and we have forgotten much and (gladly) remembered so much of what we loved.
My school pals gathered on Saturday for a reunion. Though I couldn’t make it on the night I was drawn to the Facebook photographs and loved hearing the tales of people being reunited after such a long time. It was the class of 76 and it’s fairly inevitable that, at that distance, we all remembered our school days being beautifully sunlit and happening to a brilliant soundtrack. Memory, nostalgia and a halo on the past; it’s the stuff of country music is it not? I often hear the phrase, ‘keep it country’ and I like it but puzzle over it too.
I thought of it this week when certain records left me cold and another has wormed its way into my affections so tenderly that I can’t stop thinking about it. In a couple of weeks time we’ll catch up in detail with Brandy Clark but right now I realise her new album, ‘Big Day In a Small Town‘ captures so much of what seems essential to me. A great voice, memorable melodies and great stories you enjoy hearing again and again. You’ll hear a bit of this album on Tuesday.
Another great singer songwriter is about to bring out a new record too. It strikes me that John Prine has been so many songwriters favourite songwriter for such a long time that it is impossible to imagine him not being around. I’ve been aware of him for so much of my musical life and I still marvel at his songwriting and his ability to tell a story that takes you right to the heart of the action. From the sixties and the Vietnam years he gave us ‘Sam Stone.’ Later we heard Nanci Griffith singing his brilliant, ‘The Speed of The Sound of Loneliness’ then the great ‘Angel From Montgomery’ made famous by Bonnie Raitt. A good writer knows a good song though, and John’s new collection of covers, ‘For Better or Worse‘ and duets is a brilliant collection of other people’s classics.
On the song “In The Name Of You” Basia Bulat opens with the line, “I know I can’t home again…..”So it seems hugely appropriate that she is our very special guest on this week’s show. Canada’s own, Basia has made a great break-up record and the best way she found to record her songs was to take the long journey from her home in Montreal to Louisville Kentucky. It was there she spent some significant time with our old friend Jim James (of My Morning Jacket fame) who produced her excellent new record, ‘Good Advice.’ You can hear more about that advice and some acoustic versions of the song on the album by Basia on this Tuesday’s AC.
It’s a very special night and we’ll be on BBC Radio Scotland FM from five past nine. Join me if you can.