Q&A June 2013, Part IV
7/5/2013 (updated 7/5/2013)

What is your arrangement with Bobby to provide you with new electric guitars? I'm thinking of your red "Bobbycaster." Was doing a red guitar Bobby's idea or yours?

Bobby assembles really great Fender-ish guitars, and sometimes I get in early and get to choose before anyone else. He already had the red strat body, and I felt I had to have an intimate relationship with it.  

Where on earth that you haven't been would you most like to go on holiday?

I'm planning a trip to Ecuador in the next couple of years - mostly for the wildlife. And something straddling the Wallace Line would be nice.

Considering how many diverse projects you are involved with - touring solo and with the RT3, CoS, 1000 Years of Popular Music, plus writing new material - how far in advance do you plan your creative calendar? Two years? Three years? Longer? It has been a while since you, Judith and Deborah last toured with 1000 Years. Thanks, Richard. Cheers, Doug

We make plans about a year and a quarter ahead, but these often change beyond recognition, and more and more things pop up at the last minute. It's a combination of careful forethought and seat-of-the-pants recklessness. I'm very aware that we haven't toured 1,000 Years for a while, and I miss the fun Judith, Debra and I have doing it.

Re: "missing links" in musical evolution
Some time ago you pointed out that the song that became both 'St. James Infirmary' and 'Streets Of Laredo' was something of a "missing link", connecting the traditional music of the British isles with both the Blues and American Country music.  I wonder if you'd care to repeat and/ or elaborate on your original comments.

This is a long answer that might not fit here. It will probably be a class in an upcoming Frets and Refrains guitar and songwriting camp - why don't you come along?

Also, I'd like to know what you think of 'House Of The Rising Sun' in light of that. The modal melody connects it to the European tradition (I've even read one description of it as "a variant of 'Little Musgrave'") but there's no mistaking the "Bluesy" quality of the tune. Also, even His Bobness cites The Animals' version as one of the records that convinced him that Folk and Rock worked well together. Thanks, John Foley

I don't think anyone has definitively figured out the sources of HOTRS. It appears to be in the tradition of songs like The Unfortunate Rake, which go back many hundreds of years to Britain and Ireland. There were several Houses of the Rising Sun in New Orleans, none surviving, and it's not clear if the song is about any of them, or is a piece of fiction.  

A while ago I went to a Mollie O'Brien gig where she sang a fine version of "The Ghost of You Walks" (It's on her Saints and Sinners" album" I've always really liked this song, but I've never heard it being performed live; any chance of it being revived? (Did you ever tour You? Me? Us? there quite a few good songs on it that seem to have gone AWOL - I'm not sure the album did them justice)

I do sing it at solo shows from time to time. It was in heavy rotation for a long time, and I dropped it for a while, but I enjoy playing it.


In your entertaining Mastertapes interview you said that there are some songs of yours that you like, but since the audience don't seem to care for them you only sing them in the bath. I'm intrigued to know which songs these are; could you give some examples of your bathtime repertoire?

They are songs you've never heard of, so the titles would be meaningless.

Are you familiar with the songs of the Dundee songwriter Michael Marra who sadly passed away last year? If not, a couple of songs that you might find of interest are "Monkey Hair" and "Happed in Mist", both inspired by the work of Lewis Grassic Gibbon. He wrote in a variety of styles from "Schenectady calling Peerie Willie Johnson" to the wonderfully surreal "Frida Kahlo's visit to the Tay Bridge Bar".

I thought Michael was extraordinary, a true original, and a very moving writer and performer. He was too parochial to have a wide appreciation, I think, but that doesn't diminish his importance.

I see from your schedule that you won't be in the UK this summer, so how will you be following the Ashes series? I presume that getting scores in the US in easy enough via the internet, but can you get any live coverage or highlights. How do you rate England's chances? Thanks, Graham

I can't get good live coverage of the cricket. I can get various internet feeds that are low quality and plagued with ads. It's easier to listen to Test Match Special. Happily, I will see some of it from the UK this year.

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