I once had an email exchange of views with someone who said he wasn’t going to buy my music because he said I supported terrorists. In actual fact he was referring to the fact that I was doing a benefit gig for Medical Aid to Palestine. (I know…but sometimes the public out there can be pretty ill informed.) It came up again recently when I was upbraided online for doing a free gig at a prison. How they thought the prisoners should pay for it was beyond me…
I like to know what I think, I like to think I half know what might be in the news and like everyone else I’m constantly surprised that I still get shocked by things in the news. I guess we’re all reeling from these terrible images from Woolwich and , having just returned from the supermarket and seen the spread of newspapers, I’m perhaps wishing I knew less. The trouble is we often can’t look away, and for some people there was no choice.
Sitting listening to the news over breakfast, I did what I often do in these situations; I turned down the news and put on Bruce. In particular it was Wreck On The Highway – but it could have been so many songs. It’s a gut response with me. I put on music to write this and suddenly the world seemed to make more sense. The songs were these….I Thought I Was A Child – Jackson Browne, Movin On – Sweet Honey In The Rock and Tomorrow Is A Long Time (by Bob) and sung by Nickel Creek. It helped. When I reached Alan Jackson’s Blessed Assurance I knew I was ready to step outside again. I’m sorry if that’s facile – but that’s what music does. Other times it energises you; today it consoled. What do you reach for?
On Friday we gather round a radio on the back of a news bulletin that might bring us more bad news…who will know? Inevitable we need to get on with our lives. Someone posted a lovely share about doing the ironing on Friday nights while listening…I liked that. If we can come into your life and make sesnse of one or two things by surprising you with great music then Mr Murdoch and I and the good Kirsten will believe we have achieved all we set out to do.
This Friday we’re delighted to welcome Eugene Twist and the band to Studio One. It’s a first visit by Eugene since his album came out last year and he’s promising us new songs too. We’ll find out all about him, his recordings and the kind of country he digs himself in the second half of the show.
Before that…. The Dixie Chicks, Son Volt, Jimmie Rodgers and finally Aoife O’Donovan’s album pokes its head out of the box. We’ll play Lord Huron and tell you how you can hear more from them in the weeks to come and we’ll play you a Tom T Hall song that could easily be described as one of the greatest Country Songs of All Time. We do all this in two hours you know. It all starts at five past eight on Friday Evening. BBC Radio Scotland.
A great post in response to a week that has surely shocked almost all of us. I have a deep academic interest in psychology, and in particular an interest in the nature, origin, and very definition of “evil”. I considered a career in forensic psychology some years ago, and still sometimes consider a radical career change in that direction. It’s a dark road to tread, but it somehow feels like a worthy one, too. I am reading a book called “Heaven and Earth” by Richard Landes at the moment, and which I highly recommend—it explores the foundations of millennial thinking, including some of the kind of out-there ideologies that seem to inspire hideous acts such as those in Woolwich this week.
In terms of what I reach for, it is often drama in such circumstances—drama that has something to say in response to the state of the world, or that explores it more deeply in order to seek some level of understanding and that offers hope in response. “Millennium” is the example I most often cite as the most compelling and considered example of this kind of drama, and the one I have written about, but also more recent dramas such as “Broadchurch” and “The Fall” are—oddly, perhaps—reassuring to me in how directly and straightforwardly they explore the nature and impact of violent deaths within communities. I don’t like most of the procedurals that litter the TV schedules, though—”CSI” and its ilk—that are mere capers, and that irresponsibly gloss over the impact of violent crime. For me, I am driven to explore and understand the darkness more fully—some sense of understanding helps me to mediate the revulsion. I have a sense that perhaps if we merely turn away in horror then we allow such actions to quietly propagate further and yet more insidiously in our society.
But music is also a tonic to me, and always have been. I’m a mediocre musician at best, but my mother still reminds me that whenever I was upset or angry as a child I would invariably end up sat at the piano to work myself out of my funk. And, whilst I was very much classically trained at school, no music has as much power to lift or alter my mood as a well-crafted song. I am drawn to songs that invite an emotional or intellectual connection of some kind, and all my favourite artists inspire this in me. The narrative inherent to country music and the craft of wise singer/songwriters particularly so—I know I harp on about her, but Mary Chapin Carpenter is a particular example of this for me, with a voice that invites a genuine intimacy. This is off-genre for The AC, but another of the great songwriters of today for me is Chris Rea, and my favourite song of his—”Nothing to Fear”—is a lengthy, atmospheric piece that on the one hand considers two potential lovers nervous of the possible dangers of becoming closer, but simultaneously the divide between competing philosophies (the guitar line definitely hints towards a West versus Middle East dynamic here) seeking to forge a way forward together. That’s a powerful piece of music to me—considering my response here just had me put in on to listen to. It’s moody, but also optimistic.
So I don’t think your response is facile at all. Quite the opposite—it feels very human, and I understand and share it in my own way. The AC occupies a perfect slot in the schedules for me—coming as it does at the end of the week, it is a good tonic to all that precedes it and ushers in the weekend. Here’s to two hours this evening that will surely make the world feel a little lighter once again.