It was this time of year in 1987, as I recall. We (DB) had just gone round the country once again promoting our debut album and something was beginning to happen. It wasn’t anything life changing but back home in Scotland we were packing out a few venues. One of those was Edinburgh’s Queens Hall in November. My memory is chatting to the promoter about a gig that had just happened there a few nights previously. I’d bought a cassette copy of 10,100 Maniacs ‘In My Tribe’ a few weeks earlier and I’d been keen to hear about their gig there. ‘Oh it was great,’ I recall him saying, ‘Natalie was enjoying herself and writing somgs on the piano before the show at the sound check.’ This Natalie Merchant, I found myself thinking, ‘She’s very interesting.’
A few years back I conducted a short interview with Natalie on a visit she made to the BBC at Celtic Connections, so it was great to catch up with her a couple of weeks ago a few days before she played the Glasgow show as part of her current tour. Her new album, Keep Your Courage, is her first set of new songs in some nine years, though, as she was keen to tell me, there have been other projects in that time. Nevertheless, it’s a remarkable project in many ways, not least because in that ‘downtime’ she underwent surgery which impaired her ability to sing. Her voice, as I’m sure you know, is a uniquely precious instrument which always makes her music quite distinctive.
You can hear the story of the album, the lost and found voice and the themes of courage and love which permeate the songs this coming Tuesday on Another Country. It’s a fascinating conversation about her life and her great legacy of songs.
In the first hour we shall reflect on last week’s CMA awards which saw Lainey Wilson, a beloved act of this show, walk away with 5 (FIVE!) awards. Elsewhere there were prizes for Jelly Roll and something no one could have foreseen a year ago, as precious CMA award to Tracey Chapman. We’ll have fab new songs from Logan Ledger and Erin Ray, Jamie Wyatt (whose new album is really great) and our own Dean Owens. We will introduce you to Viv and Riley and remind you why we have enthused about Jack Francis.
I shall also tell you about my wonderful Friday night last week when I drove an hour south of where I was staying on The East Bay to see Chuck Prophet and The Mission Express ‘put Livermore on the map.’
It’s two hours of country music , our way, and you can hear it all on BBC Radio Scotland or BBC Sounds from five past eight this Tuesday evening. Join me if you can.