It’s 2007 and I am driving back to Nashville, Tennessee. I’ve gone from Music City on a bright Saturday morning and managed to have a whirlwind twenty-four hours in Memphis taking in The Lorraine Motel, Gracelands, Beale Street and The Stax Museum.
I’d vowed to myself earlier in the year that I had finished with collecting physical copies of albums and was all geared up to go digital. By the time I’d spent my first week in Nashville that vow had been well and truly broken and on my return from Memphis I was realising I needed to buy and check-in another suitcase for the albums I’d purchased. The Stax Museum had brought another haul which was sitting on the passenger seat as I made my way north and east back to the country capital. A friend had mentioned Buddy Miller’s recent production of Solomon Burke’s Nashville album and I’d found a copy in the gift shop at Stax. It was there, breezing along Interstate 40 and taking in the scenery I first heard Tom T Hall’s ‘That’s How I Got To Memphis.’
Since then, I, and you too if you spend any time listening to country music, will have encountered the songs and the voice of Tom T Hall many times. A year after that drive on I 40 Hall was inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame. If this felt a little late in his career he explained it by citing the fact that he wasn’t well loved by the songwriters of Nashville as he didn’t collaborate, but chose to write songs by himself. I’ve got a lot of sympathy for Tom’s opinion here as I’m pretty sure some of these great songs might never have come to be heard had it not been for the individuality of his genius. Solomon Burke got it, Tammy Wynette, George Jones and Gram Parsons too and hopefully, if you’ve not heard his music already, you too will be wishing Tom T Hall a hearty congratulations on his 85 years in this world this Tuesday.
As well as blowing out some candles on Tom’s cake we’ll mark the passing of another great artist who we lost some thirty years ago this week. Gene Clark was an original Byrd whose music is still cherished by the wider music community beyond country, folk and Americana. If all this doesn’t make you tune in you might like a little journey we are making through southern blues courtesy of The Black Keys whose new album, Delta Kream is simply that. Listen out too for new things from Robert Finley, Allison Russell, Todd Snider and Son Volt. If you haven’t heard last week’s Bob Dylan special there is still time and we have Emma Swift to remind you how great his song writing really is.
It’s a packed two hours of new music and some classic country cuts all hand picked to bring you some late May joy. You can find the show this Tuesday evening on BBC Radio Scotland from five past eight. Join me if you can.