(1(4’J'JJ“ / BIG BIG COUNTRY Various venues, Glasgow. Mon 28 Apr-Sat 17 May

Man, it's tough being a music fan. There only ever really were two certainties: Elvis is dead, and country music is crap. And even then, you never could be quite sure about Elvis . . .

But today it's the turn of a pioneer band of Scottish promoters to have the latest laugh; shaking off its stetson and tassles, country has come out of the closet as one of the most fertile, popular and frankly cool musical genres on the block. Big Big Country has been a cornerstone of this resurgence in Glasgow since 1995, and the festival returns with an adventurous programme that brings together a number of established stars and a gaggle of promising newcomers.

Few travellers on country roads come starrier than Chris Hillman who plays on 7 May. As a founder member of the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers with Gram Parsons in the 19605, he’s no stranger to the hazards of the country music tag.

‘40 years ago you had rock and roll, R&B and some folk things all on the same FM radio stations, and country was a whole other realm.’ he says. At the time, country fans barracked Hillman’s bands for being too rocky, and rock fans hated them for being too country, but the American himself has never found it difficult to sit different styles comfortably together. He returns with veteran country sidekick Herb Pedersen, he promises some Byrds songs as well as plenty of mandolin, guitar and harmony voices in the bluegrass style of old timers like the Louvin Brothers.

‘There's a big acoustic music comeback in the States now, from bluegrass on,’ he says. ‘lt's a different world but there's some substance in the old stuff, there's real soul there, and young people

-siraw?“ "' risks. Chris Hillman leads the country stroll

Other hot tickets in this year's festival include gigs by the brilliant guitarist Buddy Miller and the locally-loved Jayhawks, playing in an acoustic format. And among the less familiar names, Hillman singles out Eliza Gilkyson, whose father Terry was around in the US folk music scene of the early 60$: ‘She's pretty good; she‘s got a lot of experience, and I think she‘ll do well over there.’

Look out too for a brace of hotly-tipped young singer-songwriters in Nashville's Cindy Kalmenson and Ottowa native Kathleen Edwards, both of whom have been causing a stir on the other side of the Atlantic. And finally, if you still find the genre thing troubling, be assured that Big Big Country director Billy Kelly is not a man to let labels get in the way of talent the festival‘s closing concert is by the idiosyncratic and wonderful English folkie,

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