Over the last few weeks, in my live absence from the show, I’ve been on a long holiday on the west coast of the USA. We travelled quite a few miles starting off staying with my daughter in the Bay Area and taking in the California Coast, Nevada and Arizona. It’s only three states but even within that small sample it wasn’t difficult to conclude that there are many Americas.
As a kid I dreamed of visiting the US. I was too busy saving up for instruments during my college years to engage in long travel adventures so I never visited the US until I was thirty years old. Since my first visit I have gone back nearly thirty times and, am excited to meet my first grandchild who will be born in California this summer. It’s a country that always reveals new characteristics on each successive visit and these last few weeks proved no exception to the rule. As much as I love America the division of the last few years seems to loom larger (even to the casual tourist) than it has ever done on any previous visit.
That our holiday was bookended by two atrocious gun massacres cast a long shadow. I’ve been in America when mass shootings have taken place. Ironically I was on holiday there when the children of Dunblane were killed in the worst (non terrorist) mass killing to have ever occurred in the UK. That the name of that town still resonates with all those who remember that event illustrates the contrast in responses of our two countries. In the US however, there are simply too many towns to have suffered similar events for their names to become synonymous with gun violence. What has become more apparent to me in recent years is our outrage at gun ownership is also matched in many parts of the US. Equally there is a large percentage of the population there for whom the only answer to the growing violence is to encourage more people to get armed.
What has interested me is the righteous anger, sorrow and naked outrage by many of the regular artists we support on the AC. You may remember also that last week’s special guest, Eric Church, tried to suggest some gun law reform after the biggest mass shooting ever, which directly affected the country community. That Eric was quickly shut down and spent the next year or so refusing all interviews explains some of the problem reformers are facing. It’s not a great career move in country music to support gun ownership reform.
There are many good voices within the wider country community however. It’s noticeable too how the sense seems to come from women. In all the hand wringing and emotion I witnessed on TV press conferences it was overwhelmingly men who defended the status quo while women…and particularly mothers who wept and called for change. It’s been good to see so many of the women we play regularly on the AC show courage and leadership on gun reform. Let’s make sure we amplify their voices over all the noise that currently fills the airwaves.
We’ll play many of these voices this week as we catch up on the great stories and songs country music tells so well. Join me this Tuesday evening at five past eight on BBC Radio Scotland for two hours of great music. It’s country music…our way.