Mountain Stage featuring Mavis Staples

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Mavis Staples live at Celtic Connections 2011

Richard Bull reports

Richard Bull

On Friday night, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall was the venue for episode number 735 of Mountain Stage, the radio programme which began 28 years ago in Charleston, West Virginia. Dougie MacLean was making his fifth appearance on the show, Joy Kills Sorrow their first, and Mavis Staples her third (beating her late father Pops’s two appearances). Tim O’Brien, also on the bill along with his sister Mollie, has been on the show over 28 times.

The programme’s host Larry Groce was a font of such statistics. A particularly telling one was that 77 of this year’s Celtic Connections acts have been on Mountain Stage, demonstrating the common ground shared between festival and radio show.

I spoke to Mountain Stage’s Executive Producer Andy Ridenhour after the show, and he described the programme’s musical ethos as “very eclectic, it’s roots-oriented. It’s about the song and it’s about a soulfulness.” And how did the visit to Scotland came about? “We met Dougie MacLean a long time ago, back in the ’90s, and we always half-joked about trying to bring the show over here.” Eventually, last year, a connection with the festival was made, and “within a matter of a month it all came together.” It’s the programme’s first time away from North America: “We’ve been all over the States and Canada, but we’ve never been overseas... I can’t tell you how delightful the people here in Glasgow and Scotland have been... We felt like family.”

I asked him how he felt about having Mavis Staples on this Scottish edition of the show? “I wanted to fall down on my knees. The whole show... Dougie MacLean, I really got a big kick out of Joy Kills Sorrow... Mollie O’Brien is from West Virginia, just a beautiful voice... Everything to me was very moving and it’s hard not to feel – there was something in your soul that was moved.”

I think Glasgow would agree that it was a pleasure to experience Mountain Stage first-hand. The various artists on the bill provided hours of acoustically perfect music, all without a break, other than Larry Groce’s urbane announcements and commercial messages (“Chesapeake Energy... drilling for America’s future”). Mavis Staples stirred our souls with a rocking gospel set and a big personality. “It’s always a pleasure to come to Glasgow, Scotland,” she told us, “even though we’ve never been here.” And Dougie MacLean led a rousing sing-a-long, so Glasgow will hear itself loud and clear when the programme goes out.

This edition of Mountain Stage won’t be broadcast in the States until April, when it’ll be on over 100 stations, and available for the world to hear online.


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