If you think we’re in a circuitous round of culture wars in this country then you might like to take your mind off things a little dwell on life over in Music City USA. If you do allow yourself to take an interest in affairs there you might well return to our own social scuffles with a lighter heart.
For in the land of country music there seems to be no end of outrage, protest and inevitable cancellation. Even relatively benign stories seem to be causing offence somewhere. Let’s take the recent example of Luke Combs’ cover of Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car. This is a song which Luke remembers loving hearing from a cassette in his Dad’s car when he was growing up. A few months ago he released a cover of the track which (inevitably, given Luke’s fame) became a country hit song. It gave Tracy Chapman her first ever country chart topper and led to some discussion about her ‘discovery’ by a new audience.
In the wake of all this I came upon an article in The Washington Post that included this quote: “On one hand, Luke Combs is an amazing artist, and it’s great to see that someone in country music is influenced by a Black queer woman — that’s really exciting,” said Holly G, founder of the Black Opry, an organization for Black country music singers and fans. “But at the same time, it’s hard to really lean into that excitement knowing that Tracy Chapman would not be celebrated in the industry without that kind of middleman being a White man.”
Now my memory of Fast Car coming out (and I bought the album) is of a world wide hit in 1988 which overnight, turned Tracy Chapman into a serious artist/star who went on the Amnesty with Springsteen and others to cities across the world. So I’m not entirely sure how accurate the above statement really is. However it’s one of many talking points we will address with the man who reads the runes of Music Row better than anyone else, our Nashville correspondent, Bill DeMain.
Bill will be down the line with me this week as there are a good few things to talk about including the recent hooha over Jason Aldean’s Ode to small towns which saw his video being banned by CMT for being a ‘dog whistle’ to racists. See what I mean? And you thought country music was a place to switch off!
On a gentler and sadder note we’ll also pay tribute to Jerry Bradley, son of Owen Bradley, who died last week. The Bradley family are one of the great music families of Nashville and we interviewed Jerry, his sister Patsy and his uncle Harold who played guitar on so many of his brother’s productions, a few years ago on Music Row.
However we will also bring you some great tracks and new names. Listen out for Meg McCree, Tyler Childers and Roseanne Reid who are all on fine form. There will be records too from Dolly, Buck and Merle so believe me when I tell you you should join us live this Tuesday evening from 8 on BBC Radio Scotland or on BBC Sounds if you possibly can.