Have you ever busked? Ever passed someone and thought, ‘They’re good. I wonder if they’d make it.’ I do it and think to myself I may be passing the hottest talent ever and I’ve just made the wrong decision. However it is rare for buskers to ‘make it.’ I once came out of a rehearsal of Deacon Blue (early incarnation) to witness my future band mate and wife busking on Buchanan St. They were also performing a song I’d written which was a bit weird.

In a stupid impulse once I suggested (some years later) we all go on the streets and busk. We were rotten, or at least, I was. There was an A & R guy I once who knew who signed a busker who’d been playing outside his building and , although the album got made, I’m not sure what happened after that. It’s always a tricky transition so it is with all of that in mind we welcome ‘Old Crow Medicine Show’ to Another Country for the first time. They have the busking success story of all time and it’s perhaps that experience of testing themselves against the indifferent public that has made them such great performing artists.


They are now so well established on the bluegrass scene they are able to give us the wider view on everyone else they have worked with. They were here during Celtic Connections where Richard and I met up with them at their soundcheck before the show they performed at Barrowlands. By all accounts that night was a triumph. They will talk Merle Fest, Gillian Welch and the appeal and reach of the Avetts and Mumford in the second half of the show.

Before all of that we have some vital new music to play from artists who are due in Scotland soon. Look out for new things from John Fullbright, Beth Nielson Chapman and Billy Bragg. We’ll also have wonderful songs from John Murry and Iron and Wine as well as a fairly wide sprinkling of records you’ll wish you’d known about when they first came out. As well as all of that, something from the pen of this man in this special year.


On Sunday

It is 1219, the time of the Fifth Crusade, and Francis – the future saint of Assissi – and his brother Illuminato have crossed enemy lines to gain an audience with the Sultan of Egypt, Malik al-Kamil……The encounter was perfectly peaceful – no enraged and fulminating Muslim clerics had appeared, as it is claimed, to demand the Sultan behead the monk.

A story from history but prescient perhaps this week as it is also a quote from “The Blind Man’s Garden” a dazzling novel by my guest in the first hour, Nadeem Aslam.

His post 9/11 story of two Pakistani step brothers’ misguided attempt to join the defence of Afghanistan against the invasion of  Western forces is brilliant but brutal reminder of the gulf between the faiths of these two great historical figures. Apt too that we talk to him in a week which brings us a new Francis on whose shouldres the Roman Catholic community have placed great hope and expectation. We will talk to Jim Crampsie, a Scottish Jesuit, to gauge how the Society of Jesus is feeling about one of their own becoming the new Bishop of Rome.

We will also talk about Robots and their moral place in the theatres of war. We’ll be joined by Dr Philip O’Brien from the Scottish Centre for War Studies and Nadeem Aslam about all of that too. Plus we look at Africa’s Missionary legacy and ask what Dr Livingston ever did for them.  Of course we’ll do all that to a brilliant soundtrack of William Bell, Jackie De Shannon and Nickel Creek and more. It all starts on Sunday Morning at 7 on BBC Radio Scotland.