It’s a calm autumnal morning, I’m sitting at my kitchen table and I’m listening to The Nashville Sound. To many that’s the recent (and very good LP) from Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit but it’s also the title to the records produced in the 50’s and early 60’s by Chet Atkins. So there can be no confusion I’m listening to Jason.
I found myself thinking a lot about Chet Atkins over the last while. I was watching some of my friends play a gig recently and my guitarist buddy was sporting a very fine Chet Atkins model Gretch semi-acoustic. Heck it looked so good you’d be broken-hearted if it didn’t sound brilliant. It did though.
On this week’s Another Country we’ll welcome back our regular Nashville correspondent, Bill DeMain who is a songwriter, fabulous musician, journalist and host of the, increasingly popular, best thing to do in Music City, ‘Walkin’ Nashville’ tour. Bill’s been telling us that there is a growing number of folk joining the tour who’ve heard about it from Bill’s appearances on the old AC. We’re proud to be part of the success story. It really is a great experience.
For those of you not lucky enough to have had Bill’s Grand Tour (why did he never call it that I wonder?) let me tell you a little about it. You need to meet Bill on a particular corner of 5th Avenue and Union St in downtown Nashville. That’s the site, outside The Bank of America, where, in 2003, the bank unveiled a life-size statue of the man himself perched on a stool picking his legendary Gretch. Beside the statue is another stool where you can have yourself framed picking alongside the great man himself.
Bill will tell you all of this much better than I ever can of course. He’ll then lead you on a walk of wonders around the lower downtown and Broadway through Printers Alley, tell you about a Grammy Award album recorded right on the street and escort you into Skulls Rainbow Room before winding you through the back streets to the Mother Church of Country Music, The Ryman. Your mind will be exploding with brilliant country stories before you come out of Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge blinking into the sun on Broadway. It’s two of the best hours you’ll ever spend in the city and from there you’ll want to follow up all the stories by buying the records, visiting the museums and catching as much live, music as time will allow.
I thought a lot about the thread of Bill’s walk over the last while as we put together this week’s show. Starting at that statue and going through some of these landmark places is, in one sense, also the narrative thread of country music. These landmarks we pass on Bill’s odyssey signify the bumps and notches that old Gretch picked up bringing the music we get today. It’s changed but it’s still country music.
It’s hugely significant that The Americana Festival which Bill will tell us about this week uses the Ryman Theatre as its centre too. That old church still resonates with Hank Williams, Dottie West, Tammy Wynette, Charley Pride and so many others. Increasingly too it’s the home of the alternative country stars and the those who consider Americana their natural section in any record store.
Significantly, Jason Isbell and his Nashville Sound walked away with all the honours last week. Its no surprise that phrase still resonates all these years after Chet.
On this week’s Another Country you can enjoy music from the Americana Festival from Gillian Welch, Wood and Wire, Roseanne Cash and Brandi Carlile. New things from First Aid Kit and John Hiatt too. All that and Bill too. It’s only live on BBC Radio Scotland FM from five past nine. Join me if you can.