I went to Fife this week. I went to see one of my oldest friends be inducted as a Church of Scotland minister in the beautiful old church of St Monans. It’s the nearest church to the sea in Scotland – apparently – and as if to emphasise the point it has two miniature vessels suspended above the pews to remind everyone of the link. After that I went further along the coast to visit some of my family holidaying in Crail. It was one of the loveliest evenings I have spent in a long time. I nosed my way along the coast – still half remembering directions from the days I used to deliver things for my dad. My summer job was driving his van and making sure vital supplies were there for the newsagents of Angus, Fife and Perth. The parcels were full of fishing nets, balls and whatever the craze was that year. Hula hoops…frisbees? There were always plenty of buckets and spades as, in that part of Scotland, you can still have lost of fun on a beach on a cold day.
I’ve taken my children along these same places many times too. We often end up in St Andrews or Crail or Elie. The evening is usually not complete without fish and chips in Anstruther. My friend Pete moving there will give me all the excuses I need to go back more often.
Being alone in the car reminded me of the joys of those van drives many years ago. There was an old radio which Bert the main driver had half installed. It was always said he’d never quite got the compressor properly sorted as the thing screeched white noise under every bridge and you could enjoy it only as a man enjoys someone stopping hitting him. I opted for a pile of batteries and a cassette player. C90’s would be prepared and enjoyed, turned over, mangled, unspooled and played till chewed again. None of us from these days couldn’t fix a cassette with a bic pen. Only the toffs had in car stereos and van drivers usually had the sound of their own whistles. It was on these trips the music I now take for granted was all planted in my memory.
On Friday we play one of these songs from those trips. I loved Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and we get a chance to play one of their songs in the context of our session guests Lord Huron. They loved the harmonies and are part of another Californian explosion of creativity not dissimilar to the Laurel Canyon scene of the sixties and seventies. They come from the north and one by one have re located to joing singer and songwriter Ben Schneider from Michigan on the west coast. Their album was one of the top albums nominated by Paste Magazine last year and rightly so. It’s charming and original and has much of the sunshine of their new location in it. They were brilliant in the session and I know it will have those of you who haven’t yet got their album scurrying to find it.
We’ll also have some new things from The Holy Ghosts, Ned Roberts and Drew Holcomb and The Neighbours – all AC debutantes. New things also from The Wynntown Marshalls, The Mavericks and Guy Clark as well as all the usual surprises from the world of the AC.
I’m taking a short break for a month but Roddy Hart is coming to be your guide for a few weeks. As well as being a great singer and song writer, Roddy is a fine broadcaster too so I hope you’ll enjoy some of the new things he’ll be playing. If you are having a holiday do enjoy it and I’ll see some of you out on the festival circuit starting this Saturday at T In The Park. Friday’s Evening’s AC is on at five past eight on BBC Radio Scotland. Join me if you can.
Ah, the lost art of spooling a mess of twisted tape back into the improbable confines of the C90 from whence it came. I still have some cassettes I could never bear to part with, such is my sense of nostalgia. I don’t know Scotland’s east coast nearly as well as I feel I should—I’ve always tended to end up westward instead—but I will get to make an all-too-brief trip north of the border towards the end of the summer. Looking forward to that.
I’ve grown to love Tift Merritt’s music, too, including “Travelling Alone”, and will be very much looking forward to her session and interview next month. I’ve been travelling myself this evening and so am only catching the tail end of the show live, but Ned Roberts, Sons of the Pioneers, and Drew Holcomb and the Neighbours have all been sounding great. I’ll be sure to catch the show in full over the next few days.
Have a great few weeks away from the AC mike, and a fabulous festival weekend in the glow of the summer sun.