NASHVILLE DIARY 2008
I am just back from Nashville, in the process of placing the kaleidoscope of memories into some kind of order through the photographs in the main gallery on the site.
The Radio 2 team was comprised of my producer Al Booth and me (with help from Kissy Black) and the centrepiece of the week for us was the Americana Music Association Awards at the Ryman Auditorium on Thursday evening, September 18th.
The Ryman is the church of Country music...a magnificent, traditional venue in the centre of Nashville, dating back to 1892. The acoustics are as good as any venue in the world, heard to brilliant effect the previous evening during the launch concert for Americana week...Levon Helm’s Ramble on the Road.
Robert Plant, Alison Krauss, Sam Bush, Sheryl Crow, Steve Earle, Allison Moorer, Delbert McClinton and Buddy Miller were among those who joined Levon’s band for an elegant and soulful celebration of American music. There were fifteen people onstage at one point but, from where we were sitting in the centre of the gallery (right behind Carlene Carter) we could hear every note of every instrument at every moment.
The musicianship was superb. Larry Campbell was the driving force as he moved effortlessly from guitar and vocals to mandolin and violin, through a two and a half hour set which featured Band classics and songs from Levon’s ‘Dirt Farmer’ album. It was particularly wonderful that Trudie was with me, having arrived in Nashville the previous evening for a two day visit with our friends Roy and Karen.
For the Americana’s, Al set up a mini-studio in a tiny office at the side of the stage, where we interviewed the winners as they left the stage with their awards. The highlights of the evening for us were fantastic moments with John Hiatt and Joan Baez and our conversation with Nanci Griffith and producer Tony Brown...the big news of the evening was the success of Robert and Alison and the ‘Raising Sand’ album.
Al then collected a full recording of all the onstage performances from the mobile studio parked outside the Ryman and you’ll be able to hear edited highlights on ‘Bob Harris Country’ this Thursday evening. Loads of extra interview material will then be available on the Radio 2 site www.bbc.co.uk/radio2
The Ryman is situated just behind Tootsie’s, a wild roadhouse-style venue on Broadway in downtown Nashville, which is where we finished up at the end of the show!
We recorded a whole host of sessions at the Audio Productions studios during the week, our home from home in Nashville, including Malcolm Holcombe, James McMurtry, the Steeldrivers, Kathy Mattea, Suzy Bogguss, Chris Knight...all of them really good. And we broadcast live from Audio Productions on Saturday night, with T Bone Burnett, Rodney Crowell, the Gougers, Laura Cantrell and Beth Nielsen Chapman joining me on the show.
Beth is a particularly close friend of Trudie and me. She was fantastic helping me through my cancer experience last year and it felt very good to be able to introduce her to Robert Plant and his assistant Nicola, with whom we shared a wonderful, quiet dinner on Friday night before Robert set off for the next leg of the ‘Raising Sand’ tour.
The success of the album has been nothing short of phenomenal. T Bone was saying on the programme on Saturday night that they only expected to do 15 concerts maximum in support of the CD...this week will see them pass the fifty-mark. They then plan to record the basic tracks for the follow up at the end of the tour, for release in probably September/October next year.
Our final evening was spent at the Mercy Lounge with my great friend, photographer Alan Messer, watching Buddy Miller, Gary Louris & Mark Olson and then Raul Malo (who really rocked)...a fantastic way to round off the week. Photographs of the whole Nashville experience are in the gallery.
You can hear last Saturdays programme on listen again. Bob Harris Country will be broadcasting the Americana Awards highlights at 7pm this Thursday on Radio 2 and all the extras (interviews etc) from the night will be posted on the Radio 2 website. Then look out for the Nashville sessions, which will be going out on BHC over the next few weeks!
The only thing missing now is a Margarita.