I still have huge problems with the telly. Mrs Ross has taken to Strictly of a Saturday and I’m partial to all sorts of nonsense myself and then I realise why it all breaks down……the songs. They dance around to them on Strictly and that kind of annoys me. Then you get a documentary – the Trump one on BBC recently was very good – but I found myself more concerned with who was playing the music – Jonsi (thanks for asking) – than the main thrust of the story. For me it all starts and ends with the songs, I even found myself drifting off while someone was talking on the radio over a football PA system blasting Coldplay. Let’s face it – it’s always going to be more interesting than some gnarled old pro saying nothing about football.

The trouble being that it seems to have happened all my life. I used to get hooked on the test-card tunes as a kid and I now get seriously annoyed (is that just being an old fogey?) when I hear great songs played in Morrisons. It seems wrong, to me, that ‘God Only Knows’ can be talked, shopped and shelf filled over. I have to stop, listen and respect in some sort of mad, middle aged protest. Look out for me, bring your kids to watch – you’ll be entertained.

But songs…. I remember my old friend and lecturer, Jim McIntosh sighing wistfully when he exhaled the word ‘songs.’ He was often talking about Shakespeare where the clown gets to say everything everyone has been feeling but hasn’t yet been able to say…’sigh no more /present mirth hath present laughter’…you name them, there’s plenty of great ones.

This week the funeral of Michael Marra was brilliantly punctuated by song. There were his own and some remarkable others…Danny Kaye, Wilco doing Woody and a performance of another which you will know. It’s a song by Gillian Welch we’ve played a few times and should perhaps play again. On this occasion ‘The Way the Whole Thing Ends’  was aptly chosen and performed brilliantly by Rab Noakes, an old friend of Michael’s, and the man who originally thought up the concept of country music on the radio on a Friday night.

This Friday we’ll play some more great ones; some you’ve probably never heard before and others you’ll welcome back as you would lost friends. You never know you might hear something this week that will be become a friend for life. I hope so.

To help us along we have the return of a great old friend. A son of Antrim and Nashville resident, Ben Glover returns for the third time in as many years. He’ll be playing live some of the excellent songs from his new album, ‘Do We Burn The Boats?’ He’ll talk about writing the songs and then he’ll tell us about playing them across the world and occasionally getting to work with some people he’s admired at a distance for some time. He’s great company, so don’t miss a minute.


We’ll have some new music from Punch Brothers, Howler, Tift Merrit and John Hiatt. We’re also going to play a batch of songs that could only have come from…well…Jail! It all starts at five past eight on Friday, BBC Radio Scotland.


I’m back on Sunday Mornings….

I know you are all up at 7 on a Sunday so….. You’re not? Well fear not, for the early riser or the all night clubber I am on the airwaves from five past seven over the next few months each Sunday Morning but  for those with a gentler start to the day you can now DOWNLOAD the best bits of the show and listen at your leisure. Let me know if it works for you.

Talking, listening, playing some great music and getting involved in some of those tricky moral questions which never seem to go away. Each week I also get the chance to have a lengthy conversation with someone I’m sure you too would like to meet. On Sunday I’ll be spending a lot of the first hour of my show with Colm Toibin, Irish novelist, poet and recently author of the play turned novella, ‘The Testament of Mary.’ It’s his imagined account of a memoir by Mary, Mother of Jesus. As you can, no doubt, imagine there’s a lot you can expect in the narrative and a fair amount you don’t.

We’ll hear how the Coptic Christians are going about electing their new Pope in Egypt nearly two years after the start of the Arab Spring. We’ll also hear a very moving interview with Margo MacDonald about her attempt to pass an assisted suicide bill through Holyrood. I’m talking water with Ian Bradley who’s just written a fairly exhaustive Spiritual History of Water ………

And we’ll also meet the next Moderator of The Church of Scotland. She doesn’t look like you’d expect him to either…if you know what I mean.

Along the way we’ll play music from Judy Garland, Ry Cooder, Louis Jordan, Jonsi and Karine Polwart. It all starts at Five past Eight on Sunday morning. But don’t forget you can now download the best bits so you can play any time you want.