For the second year we are hosting a Bluebird Cafe stye ‘In The Round’ to celebrate Celtic Connections. It all takes place in the foyer of the BBC building on Glasgow’s Pacific Quay and the backdrop to the stage is the River Clyde, The Finnieston Crane and the Armadillo. This year we are playing hosts to two good friends of the programme and someone with whom we’ve wanting to get more acquainted for some time.

Mary Gauthier will be visiting us for the third time and I honestly believe she is more welcome because of that.

Mary first visited us during CC a few years back and her story is one of the most remarkable of any musician I know. Born and raised in New Orleans, Mary ended up in Boston working as a cook before, at quite a late age, discovering she wanted to write songs and sing her own songs. What songs too! Mercy (recently covered by Candi Staton) and her autobiographical ‘I Drink’ are modern classics. It doesn’t stop there. Mary’s most recent record, The Foundling, chronicles her search for her natural birth mother. Produced by Michael Timmins from Canada’s own Cowboy Junkies it’s a remarkable record by any reckoning. The story isn’t always straight forward, so I’ll let Mary tell you herself this Friday.

She will be joined by another old friend, Ben Glover.

Ben and Mary wrote together to create the brilliant opening track, Full Moon Child for Ben’s second album ‘Through The Noise, Through The Night.’ Since then they have toured together and I’d imagine have at least talked about writing together again. Ben’s originally from Antrim in the north of Ireland but is now a resident of Nashville where he’s been working as a song writer and performer for the last three years or so. No stranger to the round, Ben will be sharing songs from his new album ‘Before the Birds.’ Since then there’s been a new single “Whatever Happens Will” and if Ben doesn’t play it there will be trouble from my side of the stage….it’s that good.

Finally a man who has made a huge impression by going back to the music of the early part of the last century. Of course regular AC listeners will know that this is something we do fairly often ourselves – the difference here being that CW Stoneking writes his own repertoire and plays the songs on his own dobro. You might expect a chap like this to hail from somewhere within a chuckie’s length of the Mississippi Delta, but he hails from  Northern Australia. Now resident in the UK we will hear CW’s brilliant music and ask him how he connected back to these times to create such an authentic recreation and re imagining of the sound of the south.

It’s all live from the foyer this Friday and if you want to join us then you can still. Although the show is sold out we keep some places for friends of the blog so just write to me or post a message up on the AC Facebook site and we’ll keep you a place. As ever it all starts at five past eight on Friday evening on BBC Radio Scotland.


Sunday Morning With..

I’ll be on again on Sunday airwaves again on the 5th February when I’ll be talking to Alain de Botton about his new book ‘Religion for Atheists.’ You may have heard Alain wants to build a temple in London – and he’s serious. Unlike some other atheists (who I can’t be bothered mentioning again) he likes a lot of what he finds in religion and wonders if secular society can learn a few things from people of faith.

A couple of weeks ago my eldest daughter returned from an amazing few months in Cairo and dropped a brilliant book on my desk. “Taxi” she told me “Is the book you need to read to understand what went on last January.” She was right.

It’s a very moving account of conversations taken in rides around Cairo by Khaled Al Khamissi between himself and some of the drivers of Cairo’s 80,000 taxis. It shows a country of deep divisions, devastating poverty but remarkable resilience. We’ll talk to Khaled on Sunday about what things are like now in Egypt a year on from the revolution. We’ll also hear why next week not only leads to St Valentine’s Day but is also Marriage Week. We’ll find out what makes a healthy marriage, what keeps people together and why it’s still so very popular. Lots more as well as music from the artists who have made Celtic Connections such a special festival these last couple of weeks. Join me, if you can, this Sunday morning from 7 on BBC Radio Scotland or catch it on the i player.