BIG BIG COUNTRY
Various venues, Glasgow, Wed 5-Sat 15 May Who better to preview Scotland’s top festival of Americana than the Scots musician who has grown along with Big Big Country?
When Dean Owens played the first notes of the Big Big Country festival in 1996 he was a one- time pop singer converted to the true path by a borrowed Gram Parsons album, and opening for Jim Lauderdale with his band the Felsons. When he takes the stage at the Ramshorn Theatre on 13 May (with the specially reconvened Felsons) it will be as the headline act, with a finely-crafted new album featuring the lap-steel guitar of AI Perkins, who played with Gram Parsons in the Flying Burrito Brothers.
‘I don’t think Will Young or Robbie Williams will be losing any sleep,’ says Owens. ‘But it’s a building thing. Country is becoming more cool now, and it’s a total thrill to have people like Al on my record.’
Big Big Country isn’t just a chance to catch some of the best fringe and rising music stars, but also a great opportunity for musicians to make fruitful connections — something Owens seems to excel at. His gig with Jim Lauderdale led him to a cabin in the Californian desert, while his friendship with Suzy Bogguss’ husband after the Felsons supported her in Glasgow resulted in a gig in Nashville (‘There was a pick-up truck outside the place with “The Felsons Are Fabl’”, Owens recalls.)
Among the acts Owens will be looking out for in Glasgow this year are Nashville gothic rock and rollers the Legendary Shack Shakers: ‘A friend of
mine manages them, and I’ve heard they’re brilliant,’ he says. ‘l’m told the singer is like Johnny Rotten, so I’m not going to miss that.’
At the other end of the seismograph, Owens is a fan of Eliza Gilkyson, whose gently melodic Land of Milk and Honey album has been winning acclaim, and of the less familiar Texan singer- songwriter Tish Hinojosa: ‘Really nice songs, sort of in the vein of Lucy Kaplansky or Alison Krauss.’
Dean Owens, Tish Hinojosa and Los Straightjackets
Other artists featuring at the tenth Big Big Country include Texan blue-collar rocker Pat Green, New Englander Slaid Cleaves and instrumental guitar band Los Straitjackets. Owens’ pick of the festival, though, is former Blaster Dave Alvin: ‘He’s the one for me this year. King of California is one of my favourite albums. Great band, and a great guitar player as well — just fantastic.’ (Ninian Dunnett)
Does Nicola Benedetti have what it takes?
BBC YOUNG MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR
Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Sunday 2 May
Since it started 26 years ago. the BBC's Young MuSician of the Year competition has delivered compelling TV viewrng With some unbelievable talent brought into our living rooms. This year's final. the first to take place in Edinburgh. can be experienced live at the Usher Hall. Five finalists. one from each category of strings. wrnd. brass. percussion and piano. play a concerto for their instrument. Accompanying them is the BBC 880 With chief conductor. llan Volkov. Young as conductors go. Volkov is almost anCient compared with the event's youngest competitor. A mere 1 1 years old. BGRJBITHH Grosvenor from Westcliﬁe-on-Sea. who is taught piano by his mum. is bound to up the wow quotient
52 THE LIST 29 Apr—lit May 2004
even if his Ravel concerto doesn't win. Although the maXimum age allowed is 19. the other finalists are Just 17 and 16. one of the latter being the Scottish Violinist Nicola Benedetti playing Szymanowski.
Jessica Brennan. artistic administrator. says the main aims are ‘to give the yoiing classical musicrans a platform and to bring them to the attention of the whole of the country '. 'l he adjudicating panel has a strong Scottish COre this year -- .lolin SeSSIons is chair. John Wallace. trumpeter RSAMD principal is brass specialist and the percussion expert is Edinburgh born 1994 finalist Colin Currie. 'They look for the basic technical aspects of playing being totain scrted and then what the musicians offer in terms of what they bring to the pieces.' says Brennan. 'Then. of course. there's star quality. that intangible X-factor.‘ (Carol Main)
PUNK BAD RELIGION Academy, Glasgow, Thu 13 May
Old punks don't die; they Just. well. keep on being punks. Forever. seemingly. At least that's the case With California punk veterans Bad Religion. Now well over 20 years old. the band. based on singer Greg Graffin's polemical and political songwriting. have had a recent resurgence thanks to a spanking return to form two years ago With their Process of Belief album.
Now. With their entire back catalogue remastered and re-released and a new album. l/re imp/re Strikes first. out this month. Bad Religion are back and as outspoken as ever. There's that new album title for a kick off.
'lhe title was particularly appropriate for our current right wrng administration in this country and the destabilising effects it's had on the global political climate.’ says Graflin. ‘I imagine America now is a lot like what it must have felt like as Home was crumbling. lhe government basically scares the ignorant into behaving a certain wayf
lhe singer clearly isn't happy with George Dubya and his ll()ll(:llll‘.()ll but of course a right Wing government gives a left wrng spokesman like him plenty to bang on about.
‘I suppose our government also invites social cntrcrsm.‘ says (Sratfrn. ‘So if you happen to be a citi/en more interested in social criticism it's actually a good climate right now. Plenty to rage against."
And rage “le most certainly do. In an age when Green Day can make millions by moaning about girls. Bad Religions original socially conscious punk ethic is more vital than ever. (Doug Johnstoner