It is nearly June now, and I have been through storms and perfect sunny days, often back to back. It has been so rainy that we have set meterological records for May this year, but the grass and trees have gone from new chartreuse green to summer green so quickly – overnight in some cases. My new radio co-host, Oakley Scot as we call him around WNKU, has done an enormous pile of work, learning to work the board, switch the discs and keep the playlist very smoothly, but it has been intense. The first week we went back to work I was so nervous I very nearly couldn't bring myself to remember my on-air sign-in. I'd like to say that I picked up the pace and returned to my usual competent self after 15 or 20 minutes, but it wouldn't be true. The show has gotten better, inch by inch, little by little, week by week. We have added Appalachian poetry as a regular part of the program, and with Oakley Scot's input I have branched out from my old favorites and have programmed some music that might formerly been a little risky for me. With Oak's guidance I have experimented with new bands and new sounds, at the same time throwing in a Stanley Brothers song every now and then, or something lovely from the Blue Sky Boys:
It’s G-L-O-R-Y to know
That I’m S-A-V-E-D.
I’m H-A-P-P-Y because
I’m F-R double-E.
I once was B-O-U-N-D
With the chains of S-I-N,
But it’s V-I-C-T-O-R-Y
To know I’ve Christ within.
I can't remember all the words exactly, but how innocent that little song is, and performed in their brother harmony, it sounds absolutely G R E A T!!
At the same time, Oakley and I have started to weed out old records: ones I never played, some that have lost their lustre or should have been filed in punk rock. Altogether we have disposed of about 100 CD's, and we still have several nights' work to go. “This isn't just spring cleaning,” I said to Scot this past Tuesday night, topping off a crate of CD's and sneezing from the dust in the air. “I think the show is morphing into another animal, and I can hear the sound in my head, but I can't name it or list the elements it will have.” One of the biggest requests I get is to podcast the show. I'd like to see that happen, and though the costs to re-broadcast the music are high, I'd like to explore the possibilities of original programming.
The possibilities ahead shimmer with promise, yet after 25 years on the air, I'm fully aware of the downsides ahead of us as well. I may not always be the driving force of our time slot, but secretly I hope the show will go on, even without me. Music from the Hills of Home has outlasted a half-dozen station managers, almost as many formats, even several episodes of the rise and fall of acoustic music. Last Sunday my friend Becky, who lives in San Francisco and listens on her computer, wrote me an e-mail saying she was glad that I was back on the air, that she was back on the couch listening to me, and that for a little while all was right with the world. I smiled at that and reminded myself to take baby steps every day. Oakley Scot and I are putting down new roots in what we hope is hospitable soil.