Bob Harris Country

Despite the drizzle this morning, that threatened a more torrential downpour, I kept my spirits up by listening to the most recent editions of Bob Harris Country.

Last night’s guest was Mary Chapin Carpenter. Her set was really enjoyable and I wouldn’t expect anything else.

Bob’s guest last week was one Carrie Underwood who I’ve probably heard before, but this was the first time I’ve heard her being interviewed. And she came across as a really enthusiatic musician, yes, but she seems to have her head screwed on, and keen to enjoy ‘real life’ as well. She is university educated, recently married, looking forward to having children.

And I thought, what a great girl. Very real.

The big surprise is that she is the winner of the 2005 series of American Idol. Yes, really. Carrie and Bob mentioned it on the programme and Wikipedia confirms it.

Now I’m not a big fan of any of these ‘reality TV’ ‘Talent shows’. It annoys me that what happens in them becomes news items. If I were that interested, I’d watch the programmes.

And whenever I do happen to come across a participant or even a winner from one of these shows, X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, Pop Idol, the Voice, there’s loads of them, I am invariably underwhelmed by their personality.

So is Carrie Underwood the exception who proves that such programmes can have real value? I suspect she’s a one-off. So, no, I still won’t be watching these programmes on TV. Thanks for asking.

But I will be acquiring some Carrie Underwood music to soothe my ears.

Bob Harris Country – Radio 2 every Thursday 7pm – unusually, this page isn’t being kept up to date. At the time of writing, July 6, it lists ‘sessions coming up’ in February and March.

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Saturday Live, Bob Harris Country, Cerys Matthews, Mahalia Jackson

Saturday Live is growing. From the coming weekend, it will be 90 minutes each week, so it’s not only more of the same but also it will include what used to be Excess Baggage, which is no longer a separate entity.

As explained before, I usually listen to the programme a while after the broadcast, sometimes maybe weeks after. The benefit of this is that I can fast forward through those segments that I’m not particularly interested in. It has to be said, though, that this is a very rare occurrence.

Right, this week’s first long-lengtyh, extended Saturday Live will include the usual features: this week’s Poet is Luke Wright and the Inheritance Tracks are those of Cilla Black. Guests include David Cassidy and Patrick Duffy, ideal for those (like me) who were around in and still have affection for the 1970s. Presenter Richard Coles will be joined by Sian Williams.

Saturday Live on Radio 4.

My workday experience was enormously enhanced yesterday and today by listening to Bob Harris Country. I’m a little bit behind with the show, so I’ve only just caught up with his 1960s Special. And to use one of Bob’s own favourite words, it was ‘amazing’! At several points during the show, I thought he’d been cherry-picking from my parents’ own (albeit limited) record collection. Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash were all available at home during my childhood.

Usually, Radio 2 shows are up on the iPlayer for 7 days, until replaced by the following week’s show. But the good news is: as I write, there are many previous programmes up there. Which is good news for me. Bob alluded to a previous programme from a few months ago, a 1950s special. Well, I missed that at the time, but I now look forward to hearing it. (That one was 27/10/2011, by the way.)

Bob Harris Country on Radio 2.

On last week’s Loose Ends, Cerys Matthews poke about the documentary she’d made for Radio 4, called ‘Conjuring Halie’, about the delightful gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson. I can’t recommend this documentary enough. I’ve often said that despite being the nation’s major speech station, Radio 4 does come up with some of the best music documentaries.

Conjuring Halie is repeated on Radio 4 tomorrow, Saturday 5th May at 3.30pm, and will be on the iPlater for a week after that.

Conjuring Halie – Mahalia Jackson – on Radio 4.

Loose Ends on Radio 4.

And finally: if you donated material to the national archive and then, thirty-odd years later, find one of the items up for sale on eBay, you’d be a bit miffed, right? Well, this happened to J. David Goldin, from Connecticut. But he did the right thing: he tracked down the thief, who is now serving time.

Read the full, heart-warming story here in the Washington Post.

Bob Harris Country

Rosanne Cash is performing at Union Chapel on March 30th and I’ll be there. Ideally in or near the front row. She is without doubt my favourite country singer right now. I enjoy a lot of country music, but there’s a certain sub-species that I find hard to deal with, though it’s hard to work out why.

When I was growing up, my Mum was a big fan of country and western, as it was then called. Particular favourites of hers were Jim Reeves and Johnny Cash, both of whom I’ll still play from time to time.

Whispering Bob Harris has a one-hour long show each Thursday evening on Radio 2 in which he plays a nice mix of new country music and some old favourites. And ‘Americana’. Still not entirely sure what that is: maybe just a catch-all term for country music, bluegrass and other styles, some of which have evolved from our own Scottish and Irish traditions.

Obviously, I’m hoping that Rosanne will be invited to guest on the Country show while she’s here in the UK – but looking at the list of future guests, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Recent guests include Eric Church and The Band Perry.

The enthusiasm Whispering Bob has for the music is infectious. And his knowledge is encyclopedic. But unlike some parts of Wikipedia, I suspect most of the information he gives out is fairly accurate.

Sometimes he plays a record that, even if it’s totally different lyrically, reminds me of all those records played overnight on the old Country 1035, all the archetypal, my woman left me, my dog got run over and my truck got stolen (I may have made that up) songs that made me wish I’d never volunteered for nightshift.

On the other hand, sometimes he’ll play a record that you wouldn’t necessarily label ‘country’ but which is different, moving, or evocative, a recent example being Raul Malo’s version of ‘Let it be me’. Sublime.

So that’s Bob Harris Country, BBC Radio 2, Thursday evening, 7-8pm.

BBC: Bob Harris Country

Bob Harris’s own website which includes playlists from the last several years.

Rosanne Cash’s own website.