Music Archive

Tunes to take you away

The writer Laura Barton, denied the open road in 2020, has been reliving some of her best trips through a playlist of 10 songs she has shared on Guardian Travel. As I’ve mentioned before, her journeys for radio are well worth seeking out.

In the many-storied South

The Bitter Southerner magazine, which I’ve just come across thanks to the Twitter feed of the estimable Rocky Mountain Land Library, has a fine tribute to Bill Ferris, who has spent his lifetime collecting the stories and songs of the American South. This Friday, the Georgia-based record label Dust to Digital will release Voices of Mississippi, a four-disc set that includes Ferris’s field recordings and films of blues singers, gospel singers and storytellers. If that whets your appetite for Southern stories, you will also enjoy Pamela Petro’s Sitting Up with the Dead, which was reissued in the United States earlier this year.

A street summoned in song

Listening to Crooked Calypso, the new album from Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, has reminded me how powerful song can be in summoning a place and what it means, or what it used to mean. “Market Street” is a nine-minute mini rock opera about one corner of Manchester (“We travelled in from Wigan, and we journeyed in from Leigh,/And we headed straight for Poundland, in our hands just 50p.”). And I used to think shopping was boring…

Rosanne Cash’s Tennessee

RosanneCashalbumcoverRosanne Cash’s The River & The Thread, one of my favourite albums of 2014, won her three awards this month in the “American roots” category of the Grammys: the song A Feather’s Not A Bird won for best performance and song, and the album was best Americana album. It would make the perfect soundtrack, too, for a tour of the South.

A couple of years ago in The Oxford American, which proudly bills itself as “the Southern magazine of good writing”, Cash wrote an article (including lyrics from The River & The Thread) on how Tennessee “got imprinted on my soul”. Here’s a sample:

“I’ve been a New Yorker for more than twenty years, but my memories of the South are potent. Some are truly mine, and some I have borrowed. Tutwiler Street and Nakomis Avenue, the corner candy store and the tired shoulder of a big man. The shining dark-blond wood of the trolley buses, the big silver ribbon microphones in Sun Studios, the marquee of radio station WDIA. The dollar bills that floated over Old Hickory Lake, the old country psychic who scared me because she saw my real life, the whispered voices in the movie line, and the dark green fence on Franklin Road. These are what I have, along with the unchanging verdant landscape, sprinkled with lightning bugs. These memories form a backdrop to a stand-up bass and an acoustic guitar, an image that evokes both the past and the future.”

You can still read the whole piece on The Oxford American website.