Monday, October 6, 2008

Nashville Skyline - by Daddy J

Only two weeks into our American assignment way too much has happened to be able to assimilate properly but the highlight so far has to have been last night's impromptu audience with a country music legend. 

After an exhausting couple of days covering the VP debate in St Louis (compulsory baby souvenir shopping included), we headed South through the heartland in search of stories to illustrate what's happening in this fascinating country at this fascinating time. We were lucky enough to strike journo gold in Cairo, IL - the confluence of the Ohio and Mississipi rivers and a town which turned out to be a spellbinding microcosm of America's complicated racial history. Too much to explain in one short blog entry but all will be revealed in a piece we hope will run on the Today programme Tuesday morning. 

Suffice to say for now, when we rolled in to Nashville late yesterday evening we were ready for a boring hotel dinner and bed. Instead a call ahead to the one guy I know in Nashville - author and erstwhile music man Robert Hicks - was the cue for fabled Southern hospitality in the form of an invitation to see Willie Nelson play an intimate benefit gig in a field in Leipers Fork, Tennessee. Like many journeys in this country it was movie-perfect - a crescent moon lit the way through rolling hills past idyllic whitewashed homesteads set amid rolling hills. No wonder the hillbillies have all been displaced by the Hollywood jetset in this part of the world.

Willlie - well into his 70s and still partial to the Bob Marley cigarrettes according those in the know- had a little flu, appeared to be wearing some kind of parka against the autumn chill and rested his voice frequently. But the magical songs kept coming. He's not the best performer but there's a good case for arguing that he must be one of the greatest songwriters of all time. I never knew til last night that he wrote "Crazy" for Patsy Cline and "Always on my mind" for Elvis, both of which he sang wonderfully last night while rattling through his more rough and ready but no less brilliant hits "Whiskey River", "On the Road Again" and most poigniantly given the circumstances of this blog: "Mothers Dont Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cowboys." All in all a precious evening of Americana.  


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