A Hazy Legend

17 Nov 2008
Written by: 
Douglas Eadie

For those who saw the original Transatlantic Sessions on BBC or RTE and for whom it has become a hazy legend this DVD release will, we hope, come as something of a relief -proof that memory hasn't been playing tricks- as well as a delight.

Also, the series was made in 1995 -by the usual reckoning, half a generation ago- so there will be those for whom its range and conjunction of artists -Emmylou Harris with Dick Gaughan? Karen Matheson with Guy Clark? John Martyn with Kathy Mattea- will be an eye-and-ear-opening astonishment.

Back in the Eighties, director Mike Alexander and I had gone round North America with Aly Bain from Kentucky to Texas and from Nashville to Cape Breton for a Channel Four series (now even more legendary than the original Transatlantic Sessions) called Down Home. We'd been to Louisiana for Aly Meets The Cajuns, a C4 New Year special commission, and then crossed over to BBC with The Shetland Sessions in which Aly went home to Lerwick for the 1990 Shetland Folk Festival and had himself a ball. After all that lot, what next became a bit of a headscratcher.

The answer, as I recall, came to all three of us at the same moment and pretty well fully fledged and ordered: why not simply bring the best from North America over here to get together with the best from Ireland and Scotland? To make that work, we knew we'd have to be at all times up close to the music so and that meant no audience, just singers, instrumentalists and the Pelicula A-team. It was going to be hard work -56 numbers in ten days!- so everybody would have to feel at home and well looked after. Back-porch. That's what it was going to be. Back-porch deluxe. (The staff of Mountgreenan Mansion House Hotel in Ayrshire didn't yet know what was about to hit them.)

A few weeks later Aly had chosen fiddle-player Jay Ungar as his American music co-director and the three of us were in Nashville meeting up with Jerry Douglas and Russ Barenberg. Transatlantic Sessions here we come...

The rest, as they say, is history. I remember star fiddle player Mark O'Connor telling us - that at Nashville Airport at the start of his trip to Scotland he had met Emmylou Harris on her way back. When she found out where he was going, a huge smile had come over her face: "Mark," she'd said, "Transatlantic Sessions - you're in for something very special indeed!"

Aly, Mike and I hope that you in turn will find this DVD of the original Transatlantic Sessions something very special indeed.

Douglas Eadie, Producer