Firstly, let me wish you all a very happy new year. It’s been a while and you might well wonder what has kept the blog from appearing over these last seven weeks or so. The main reason is that my day job took me to Australia and New Zealand, and if you are reading this from that part of the world, thank you for your warm welcome and some amazing nights.

Some of you listen to Another Country down there and you had the fortune to hear, at first hand, a couple of the artists I came across on my travels. Bud Rokesky opened for the Deacon Blue tour all across Australia and we enjoyed the sounds of his remarkable country baritone all across the tour. When we got to New Zealand I got to stand in the wings of the Opera House in Wellington hearing the songs of Holly Arrowsmith, who, it turns out, was heavily influenced by an old AC fave, Nadia Reid. You’ll hear both these artists on our first live show of the new year.

This time of year also brings some of the most interesting Americana artists into Scotland for the winter festival of all festivals, Celtic Connections. If you are within driving, bus or rail distance of Glasgow over January there are some great nights to be enjoyed. Teddy Thompson, Sarah Jarosz, Molly Tuttle, Allison Russell, Margo Price and Israel Nash are just some of the AC faves coming into town over the next few weeks. We’ll share some great tracks from all of these acts on this week’s show.

We’ll also have some great new releases and one or two things we never got round to in ’23 share with you and I’m particularly excited to play Jess Williamson whose name keeps popping up these days. She’s going to be a very special artist. We have, of course played and loved Jess before but it was in the context of her collaboration with Plains and Waxahatchee. Her album, Time Ain’t Accidental holds some real trasures. We’ll make a point of digging deeper over the next few months.

Finally, a personal story from my travels. In November I spent a week seeing my grandson who lives across the Bay from San Francisco. I found myself taking the Richmond Bridge over to Marin Country a few times over the week. At one end of that bridge sits St Quentin Prison. As you cross the Bay you can’t but miss the stolid walls and bars of California’s oldest penal institution and imagine some of the people and events which took place there. One night in 1968 Johnny Cash brought his touring band to play to the inmates and packed a mobile studio into the truck. The subsequent live album became one of CBS’s top sellers and it contains some great performances as well as being the occasion on which one of the most famous shots of the Man in Black was taken. I found an anniversary edition of the album on my travels and I’ll play you a highlight on this week’s show.

There’s so much to get into two hours and it all kicks of at five past eight this Tuesday evening on BBC Radio Scotland and BBC Sounds whenever you like. Join me of you can.