Over on Rhubarb Radio.com, two Americana-loving reprobates have begun a show about the music they love. They call it 50 Miles of Elbow Room, after an old song known best through a version by the Reverend FW McGee, but performed by several earlier Americana artists, including the Carter Family. The early days of Americana recordings form an important part of the show, but more important to it is the through-line from those days to these (and, indeed, the ones before them) – everything gets on the show, from 40s blues to alt.country, indie folk to 20s jazz.
One of the two reprobates, of course, is me. The other is Amit of Mellow Peaches, though we go under our Brave Sons of Elijah Perry pseudonyms for reasons of in-jokery best kept to ourselves and our listener. One of the recurring themes on the show so far has been the tension between innovation and generic repetition, and the play which goes on in-between. One of the dubious pleasures of genre, of course, is its familiarity – and country and blues have been as guilty as any other musical genre of wallowing in that nostalgic warmth – perhaps moreso. But there are, of course, innovative pleasures to be had, too – our first show started with Iron & Wine, hardly a honky tonk revival act. What’s interesting to us is where one mode starts and the other ends.
We keep playing a lot of West African music, too, with several tips of the hat towards Ned Sublette’s written work. The show coming up this Sunday (we air every week at 12-2pm, though each show is archived as it goes out – alas, not the pilot) features a discussion about the possible connections between the banjo and the ngoni, via the work of two musicians – John Smith and Bassekou Konyate – who aren’t even American. We also have tunes from Thomas Dybdahl and Kathleen Edwards, as well as the usual American suspects you might expect – Gram Parsons, Robert Johnson. In between songs, we chat rubbish about what Nigella Lawson might call farfalle, and this naturally casts fascinating light on work by artists as diverse as the Washboard Serenaders, Son of Dave and kd lang.
Put another way – Sunday afternoon is for warm nostalgia, right? Tune in.