After a week of emotional and physical extremes, I wound down on Monday morning by cutting the grass. Lawn care, for anyone interested, during the spring and summer months, is, I find, the best place to sift through all the ideas going through your head. Songs, to-do lists, set-lists, radio sequences and family affairs are often much improved over the course of a proper grass cut.
On the first day of this week when I was rejoicing in the fact I could be outside on such a fine July morning and midway through the last patch of front lawn, I was aware of our postie coming up the path. She’s been our regular deliverer of mail for the last wee while now and she always passes the time of day with me and seems to delight in doing her job, which I have to add, she does very well. It was she who made me reflect that it wasn’t just free-lancers like myself who could be outdoors on such a summer morning, but that the world was full of folks who will be happy to spend their working days in whatever the weather throws at them.
It was then I remembered another postie. Last year the great John Prine was immortalised in a lovely song by Todd Snider called, Honest John, in which he pays tribute to ‘The singing mailman from Maywood Illinois.’ It was on his mailroute that John Prine developed his early, great songs such as “Hello In There.” I wondered, as I saw my post woman skip her way down the path, what stories she might be collecting as she went about her work. I’ve been fascinated by the postal service for a while. I was so taken with the inscription of the New York City Central Post office that it became a song on an album a few years back. Real mail, snail mail as we used to call it when email first emerged, is still such a vital thing for so many. On my return home from some concerts at the weekend I opened a letter from an old friend who corresponds regularly. I’d sent him a postcard and in return he wrote recommending I visit a touring circus coming my way. Unlikely as it may seem, I’ll probably go ahead and do that, not least so I can write back and tell him all about it.
Sometimes writing this blog feels like the kind of letters I’d write to my Mum or Dad when I was far from home. My dad was a good letter writer and would often counsel that first-class letters would be with the recipient the next day, all ideas clearly laid out. Much better, he’d suggest than a rambling phone call. He may well have been correct, but we need all kinds of connections do we not? That’s why I love this prologue but enjoy also the full encounter live on the radio when all these things come together in songs that have wormed their way into my affections over the last seven days.
Not only that, but I have a special bonus of a conversation with Joshua Hedley, Nashville’s own Mr Jukebox, which I recorded a few weeks back when he visited Glasgow. Joshua’s story is, a bit like my week of extremes, a wild old ride. He was brutally honest about his own shortcomings and why, sober again, he feels inspired to write and perform his best work. If you are aware of either of his albums you’ll know this to be true.
Join me this coming Tuesday evening for all of that as well as some fine country favourites. We’re on BBC Radio Scotland from five past eight or on BBC Sounds whenever, wherever.