I read a few weeks ago in a year-old interview with Jerry Douglas that a new series of Transatlantic Sessions was to be recorded in October of last year, so I’m hoping that did happen and that a new series will appear this year.
In the six BBC Scotland series to date – released irregularly in 1995, 1998, 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2013 – there are twenty-one hours of some of the finest music I’ve heard and seen. It’s by far the best-produced live music series of the many I’ve watched. Jerry Douglas and Aly Bain are the musical directors for all six series; their names guarantee the quality of the finished product.
All six series of Transatlantic Sessions are available on DVD, often for around US$20 a series on eBay – cheap at twice that price if you ask me. Make sure it says region 1 or 0 if you’re in the US. You won’t be able to play UK-produced region 2 discs unless you have an all-region player like me. I would avoid the PBS-released version because it’s a short compilation.
If I included all my favourites below, you’d be scrolling through to the day after tomorrow, so I’ll show just a handful. Okay, a baker’s dozen. These tunes are all from series 3, 4, and 5 – in my opinion, the best of the six series.
Considering the fact that most of the musicians in the series work together infrequently if at all, and that most tunes took just three or four attempts before they captured the version released, the comments below by Bain and Douglas in the “making of” documentary included in the series 3 DVDs are a bit boggling, but not really surprising given the extreme level of professionalism that permeates everyone involved.
Aly Bain: “We don’t know lots of the music that’s being played, so in actual fact, we’re doing, sometimes, five recordings in a day and we don’t know any of them.”
Jerry Douglas: “And that’s with everybody learning – cameramen learning, sound people, musicians, everybody. We’re a little rehearsed; we’re not completely unrehearsed, but we’d like to leave some of the bark on the tree. We don’t want it to be so rehearsed that it sounds like a record you can go buy and hear anywhere else.”
Bain: “No, we’re only about ten percent rehearsed on a lot if it.”
(Yes, it is Tyminski’s voice when Clooney sings this in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”)