Country in the city
Kenny Mathieson sizes up Big Big Country, Glasgow’s latest celebration of country music.
When Billy Kelly parted company with Mayfest last year. he left with the echoes of a great country prograrntne still ringing in his ears. Vince Gill. Asleep At The Wheel. Don MacAlister. Alison Brown and half a dozen more had all done their stuff. and attracted the kind of audiences which — in combination with the sold-out signs at the Concert Hall for the likes of Dwight Yoakam. Nanci Griffith. Kris Kristofferson or Mary Chapin Carpenter — convinced Kelly that there was room for further development now that he was out on his own.
He took his notions to Bob Palmer at Glasgow District Council's Department for Performing Arts. and the first Big Big Country festival was born. The event will take place over a weekend in the Old Fruitmarket. where the nightly concerts will be augmented by Saturday afternoon workshops and the suitably ambient Tex-Mex Cafe.
The event will stand or fall by the quality of its music. though. and in that regard Kelly has come up trumps. lmportantly. he has taken the decision to try
Although now resident in Nashville, Woodruff has not fallen prey to the current fashion for radio-friendly, middle of the road material.
to give it a distinct flavour of its own by avoiding the kind of names we might expect to hear in Glasgow anyway. and has come up with a nicely balanced programme ofexcellent music.
‘I looked at one or two really well-known names. but in the end I decided to go for something a bit different. Billy Joe Shaver represents the Texas stream of country music. and Bob Woodruff is contemporary Nashville. but with a twist of his own. Sarah Jory has been winning lots of awards recently, and l was also anxious to ﬁnd space for Scottish artists like Dirtwater Fox and Radio Sweethearts. as well as Madeleine Taylor.‘
IfBilly Joe Shaver is the must-see concert of the festival. Bob Woodruff is close on his heels. A New Yorker who came late to country music, he has a distinctly grittier. more roots feel than a lot of the production-line hat acts coming out of Nashville these days. His excellent debut album. Dreams And Saturday Nights (Asylum). reveals a real talent for writing hard-hitting songs in the classic country hneage.
‘I like songs that hit you right smack in the centre and lift you up two feet when you hear the chorus.' Woodruff says. ‘1 was about twenty when I began to realise how great the songwriting was in country music. and how direct and honest peOple like Merle Haggard or George Jones were. They hit me real hard. eSpecially the sad ballads. Everybody is
scrambling for upbeat material these days. but it was the sad songs that got me into country in the first place.’
Although now resident in Nashville. Woodruff has not fallen prey to the current fashion for radio- friendly. middle ofthe road material. His songs still retain that real-life feel ofthe great country masters. and his album has not fallen victim to the over- production endemic arnongst the Nashville majors.
‘A lot ofcountry music is packaged so tight that it all begins to sound the same. I guess my music is going to sound different because nobody has fucked with it. Asylum has let me be myself because that’s what they wanted when they signed me. I‘m real happy with the record. and if! never made another one. at least I know that this one is everything I could've hoped for.‘
If the men dominate the opening two nights. the women get their own back on the last, with Scottish
Bob Woodruff: New York country boy makes good
actress and singer Madeleine Taylor's one-woman play on the life of Patsy Cline. and a concert from English country starlet Sarah Jory, the recipient of the Best Female Artist award at the inaugural British Country Music Awards earlier this year. Throw in a couple ofboisterous late-night gigs from Scottish bands Boogalusa and The Hurnpff Family. and you have the makings of a splendid weekend. For Kelly. though. it’s only the beginning.
‘I would like to look at maybe expanding the event to a week next year. and I would like to see this event at the same size as the Glasgow Jazz Festival, which is in ten days or so, in three years time and with the same kind of high quality line-up. There are a number of big European country festivals at this time of year. and the potential for plugging in to them is hugef Big Big Country is at the Old F ruitmarket. Glasgow
front 2—4 June. See Country Listings for details.
30 The List 2-15 Jun 1995