I’m out of my comfort zone, so bear with me. On BBC Radio Scotland we’re celebrating Black History Month and we’ll probably be the one Music show who could have a problem with this. There’s no doubt country music and even the wider genre of Americana is (in the main) made by white people from the southern states. In fact it could be argued that country music is the pop music of the south except, as we know, its appeal is much, much broader.
Similarly it would be myopic to imagine white country musicians have no crossover with African-American artists. To say music draws from a common well is really the greatest understatement. So, on this week’s Another Country we will bring you a very special show which celebrates the common source of the roots music we all enjoy. We’ll reach back to string bands, jug bands, the blues, gospel, rhythm and blues and hillbilly music to bring you two hours of reasons why we should all be grateful to what black music has brought us.
One of the strange things about any of these themed shows or special months is the notion that we have to dedicate some time to show something that should be part of the fabric of cultural life. For me and people like me we can all nod in broad agreement that Black Lives Matter or that Black History Month is a ‘good thing.’ However as I watched the Trial of The Chicago Seven on Saturday night (I recommend it) it occurred to me once more how often in my lifetime black people have been marginalised, abused or exploited.
For me it’s an occasional journey. These are not concerns that fill my everyday life. My life is concerned with doing my own work, cooking, shopping and the usual stuff that fills an old Scottish bloke’s world. However for George Floyd, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Philando Castile and Breonna Taylor and their families, this isn’t a month or even a year. It’s every day, every hour of every day and it goes without saying that their lives matter. It’s a tale taken up by Tre´Burt whose song about George Floyd’s murder is retold in a remarkable and moving ballad just released and which is one of the most vital songs you’ll hear on this week’s show.
It’s one of twenty plus tracks we will play along with short excerpts from conversations we’ve recorded over the years with African-American artists. Listen to the stories in the songs of Linda Martell, Rhiannon Giddens, Darius Rucker, Yola, Adia Victoria and Charley Pride and, if you tune in you’ll be reminded again why we owe so much to Black music and why country music sounds as good as it does. We’ll also be reminded to think for a while about the African experience and why everyday life is still such a dangerous struggle for so many.
We’re on BBC Radio Scotland this Tuesday evening from five past eight. Join me if you can.