Big Big Country Glasgow: Various venues, Wed 24 May—Thu 4 Jun.
In just five years Big Big Country, Glasgow's festival of Americana, has grown from a weekend at the Old Fruitmarket to sixteen acts sprawling over three venues.
Artistic Director Billy Kelly explains: ’It started off as country, hence the name Big Big Country. But within country there’s so many different genres, ranging from traditional and country rock to country grunge, Cajun and bluegrass, and I wanted to incorporate all those various genres into the one festival of country.’ This year also incorporates a Cuban weekend which Kelly describes as ’a mischievous look over the shoulder at what’s happening south of the border’.
Elsewhere on the programme you’ll find classic singer/songwriters Jerry Jeff Walker and Warren Zevon, young singer/songwriters like Laura Cantrell, Neal Casal’s alternative country, Louisiana Red’s blues, Trish Murphy’s country rock, Slaid Cleaves’ old country, Eddie LeJeune’s Cajun, and British artists influenced by country like Rab Noakes. The bluegrass influence is supplied by ex-Byrd Chris Hillman.
Hillman played bluegrass prior to joining The Byrds in 1964; the rest were all from acoustic folk backgrounds. He says none of them were keen when lead singer Roger McGuinn wanted to cover Bob Dylan’s ’Tambourine Man’, which was to become their first No 1 in 1965. ’He was telling us, do songs with some substance in the lyric, something you won’t be ashamed of years later. Hence ’Tambourine Man’, which is as wonderful a song now as it was back then.’
After ’Turn, Turn, Turn’ and ’Eight Miles High’, Hillman’s songwriting talent emerged in their fourth album Younger Than Yesterday, considered by many as the first country rock album. David Crosby and Michael Clarke left The Byrds and Gram Parsons joined for the next couple of albums. The Notorious Byrd Brothers and
Country rock to country grunge, Cajun, bluegrass, Cuban and even ex-Byrds at this festival of Americana
Sweetheart Of The Rodeo both foreshadowed the country rock boom of the 705. '
Parsons and Hillman formed their own Flying Burrito Brothers and recorded one of the all-time great country records in The Gilded Palace of Sin, which was promptly ignored. ’We were caught in the void of not being able to get on a country station in the States and not being able to get on a rock station. Now the original Flying Burrito Brothers are more popular than they ever were.’
Hillman describes his Glasgow gig as a musicology lecture. 'l'm doing everything from The Byrds, through the Flying Burrito Brothers through all the phases of what I’ve done in the last 35 years, including new stuff. I enjoy what I'm doing now far more than I probably did when l was playing huge halls years ago. I love working small venues, and I always encourage the audience to ask me questions.’ So don't disappoint the guy, ask him a cracker. (Gabe Stewart)
Their sound harks back to the days before gangsta and to a raw hip hop, free of violence and misogyny
attention should be paid to the hard edge of Dilated Peoples. Their sound harks back to the days before gangsta and to a raw hip hop, free of violence and misogyny created by groups who also defined the classic creative nucleus of live performance. 'All of us were inspired by EPMD and Run DMC; two groups with MCs and a DJ,’ explains Evidence who joins Rakaa in rapping over DJ Babu's scratches and street- funk.
As ’Years in The Making’, one of the many bold, proud moments on The Platform makes clear, Dilated Peoples' tough sound has evolved from years in the wilderness with only their self belief and a few like-minded friends
The Platform (Parlophone)
Anyone who witnessed Souls Of Mischief or People Under the Stairs on their recent visit to Scotland will know a couple of things about the state of West Coast US hip hop. Firstly, they will know that over recent years an underground of independent labels has deveIOped in California which defines itself in antithesis to the commercial sound of gangsta-rappers such as Ice
Cube, Tupac and Ice T. Secondly, they will know that this underground burns with a passionate self belief.
Now with the release of their album The Platform, Dilated Peoples are set to join this expanding number of groups who have eschewed the ego and posturing of recent years and are now set to receive some deserved attention in this country.
Before we bracket them exclusively with the aforementioned laid back Californian visitors to these shores,
for company. Evidence explains in typically self-effacing terms: ’you look at 1991—92 and we had The Freestyle Fellowship, The Pharcyde, Cypress Hill and Hieroglyphics; a lot of real strong music. l think things just work in cycles and its just coming round again.’
Listen to Dilated Peoples take their turn with The Platform. Live dates are scheduled for later this year.
(Tim Abrahams) The Platform is released by Par/ophone on Mon 22 May.
preview MUSIC Personal Stereo
This issue: Tim Matthew, frontman and head fiddler of Mystery Juice. Edinburgh fiddle ’n’ beat nuts Mystery Juice have been delighting audiences from as far flung places as the former Soviet Union and Bath, with their hocus-pocus magic potion of hip hop, blues, folk and nock’n’ roll.
Name an album that's an unrecognised classic?
Anything by Sid ’Stuff’ Smith, a black French Jazz fiddler from the 60s and a pioneer in the field of amplified fiddle.
Which artist or record first made you want to make music?
Stefan Grappelli made me want to play violin.
Name a song you wish you’d written. ’Doctorin’ the TARDlS’ by the Timelords. It was brilliantly stupid and a proper hit, just what a pop record is meant to be. And it made them loads of money which they went away and burnt. Lovely.
Which song makes you cry? Recently, the chorus of 'Goddess On A Highway' by Mercury Rev.
Who was the first pop star you had a crush on?
Nena of ‘99 Red Balloons’ fame. Good leather breeks and hairy armpits.
Which instrument do you wish you could play?
The piano, sol could play the wheezing harmonium in my front room.
Ever been to a life-changing gig? The Cramps at the Barrowlands about ten years ago. They were creatures from another planet.
Who would be on your dream Top of the Pops?
The Clash, John Lee Hooker, The Pixies, The Wildebeests and us. I’d have Nat King Cole presenting and duetting with Frank Black.
Who had the best rock 'n’ roll haircut?
Probably Gene Vincent. Elvis’ was pretty good, but Gene Vincent had a seedier edge. I always liked his calipers. When I was young I always wanted calipers. I like that look.
What would you play as an aid to seduction? Francois Hardy.
What do you sing in the shower? Anything by Nat King Cole sounds good sung in a club singer style wrth bathroom acoustics.
Mystery juice play the Bongo Club on Thu 77 May
11—25 May 2000 rueusm