One of the joys of watching films and TV shows over the last year has been to visit (in my imagination) places I have been before. Apart from the delightful elements of farce and faux tragedy in the four series of Call My Agent I took great comfort in hanging around in Paris for a while. There’s been many evenings when something on the TV has introduced a walk-on part for the Brooklyn Bridge, Malibu beach or the Pacific Coast Highway and brought more joy than they should. Heck, recently news items or friends’ shared pictures of other parts of forbidden Scotland have felt like psychological Red Cross parcels.
Music too brings a similar joy. I’ve always had a soft spot for Tift Merritt’s gorgeous Feeling of Beauty during which she muses that her visit has brought so much delight she might just ‘stay on for a couple of days.’ I can’t remember why I think this but in my mind I always imagine this story happens far from her home state in a completely different environment. My thoughts always drift to Texas as it’s a place I’ve never been and somehow imagine that being so far from home would excuse the extension of any vacation.
As I get older I am more drawn to returning to old haunts even though there are still a million vistas I’ve never experienced. A few years back I was wise enough to console myself with the thought that, should I no longer want to fly or sail, I could be happy finding wonderful things to see and do in Scotland to fill the time for the rest of my life. In the last year it’s often occurred to me that this option might be as good as it gets.
When I last saw this week’s guest artist, Israel Nash, his description of his new home in the Texas hill country intrigued me. So it was wonderful to chat to him via FaceTime recently where he was sitting in his recording studio in Plum Creek on a warm spring morning. It was there he managed to make his new record despite all the restrictions and some of the many musicians on the album being hundreds of miles away. I loved the determination he showed to communicate despite the lockdown and the uncertainty of how any artistic endeavour was going to be received in this strange old time.
Topaz, Israel’s new album, brings together all the things I’ve enjoyed about Israel’s music over the last ten years or so since I first encountered him in his double barrelled Nash-Gripka days. It’s Country rock with a hint of seventies Neil Young and added cosmic elements this time round. There is also the added bonus of input from Black Pumas’ Adrian Quesada. There are guitars, a big warm reverb and additional horns inspired by Israel’s devotion to the soulful records of Bobby Blue Bland and, of course, there are songs that will become your friends. You can hear tracks from the album and that spring morning conversation we enjoyed on this week’s show.
That’s not all though. Listen out for some new names including Melissa Carper, Water Tower and Madi Diaz. You’ll also hear from Miranda Lambert, George and Tammy and Loretta Lynn. It’s a packed two hours of Another Country this Tuesday evening on BBC Radio Scotland from five past eight or any time you fancy on BBC Sounds. Join me if you can.