This is a link to an online TV interview from a couple of gigs back – Purdue University in Indiana – but I will post it now, even though we are two states further on, because I didn’t have it when we were actually in Indiana. Does that make sense?

I did a 15 minute interview and yet the 15 seconds they broadcast here have me spluttering and mumbling and not saying anything very interesting. Oh well: Aileen’s costumes do look very nice.


Suite Home Chicago

Excuse the terrible pun…that is actually the name of the apartment block that the band and the rest of the NTS team are staying in. The comfort of the rooms and the stunning high-rise views (I’m on the 28th floor…) are appropriately mind-blowing. After 24 hours in Chicago we are still reeling from the scale and verve of architecture, the bustle of the streets, and the proliferation of neon-signed bars, diners and restaurants.

We came to love Lafayette, Indiana, during our time there at Purdue University – but that was a small town, not not much bigger than Kirkwall or Lerwick. Suddenly we are at the heart of a huge metropolis – and we’re already loving it here too.

What would Thomas have made of it? Hard to say, but Karl, Thomas’s grandson, who has come over to see the show in three of the five US venues, might be able to give us some notion when we next catch up with him: he has been researching the life of a close relation of Thomas’s, who left Shetland before Wold War Two and lived here for several decades. Supposedly she lived and worked in close proximity to some of Chicago’s more notorious characters…but I will let Karl that tale. When she returned to Shetland in her old age, she cut a colourful figure by all accounts, with salty language, fur coats, and pearl handled revolvers.

Thomas would undoubtedly have been knocked sideways by this town – the crowds, the buildings blocking out the sky, the constant sirens – but I’m equally sure he would have revelled in the music here: blues, jazz and country seem to be the thing, in that order. If we can find them, we aim to visit Chess Records studios later in the week. Today we checked out a fantastic hub called the Old Town School of Folk Music ( (like the Wrigley Sisters’ Reel, but ten times the size.) Last night we went to a gig at our venue, the Hideout Club by one of my all time favourite songwriters, Robbie Fulks ( He did a varied and virtuosic set – I hadn’t realised what a stunning guitarist he is, as well as writing all those fine, fierce, funny songs – and also had the audience in stitches with his sardonic patter. His mix of yarns and music was actually only about two steps away from Long Gone Lonesome…

Which would be a fine place to stop, but I can’t resist including this link to a local magazine, which names us as the ‘No 1 thing to Do in Chicago in February’

The good press is working: all four shows are already sold out… I’ll let you know how we get on.


Farewell Purdue

Suddenly it’s our last day in Purdue… It seems like just a few hours since we arrived, but our six days in Indiana are almost over.

Thursday we had an open dress rehearsal for a crowd of students, Friday and Saturday we did 8pm shows and got very warm receptions. Today, Sunday, we did a 3pm matinee and gave what was for me one of our best shows ever… Everything flowed smoothly, the story went across really clearly, and the music sounded good too. Hey, I’m hard to please but even I was happy this afternoon.

Every show has also featured a chance to dance, and the Strip the Willow in particular in particular has always gone down well! I hope someone else has photos of that, because of course I was playing the guitar when all the dancing was going on. Very touching how quickly people leap at the chance to do a Scottish dance. Guess it’s a rarity around here.

Apparently we were pioneering in other ways as well that we didn’t realise before we got here. Purdue Convocations, an events promoter responsible for bringing us here, collaborated with the university drama faculty to put the shows on – apparently something that’s never been done before here. We also did workshops with a selection of students – technical, directing and acting – which was new too.

Well, it was also new for me to teach post-graduate acting students how to act!

These new experiences are what it’s all about…well, doing the show is what it’s really all about, but these extra contacts are stimulating for the tour-fatigued brain, great fun, and educational for us as well as the students.

So I’ll leave you with three pics of Purdue University, which you will see is built on a grand scale. 20,000 odd students, and enormous buildings to house and teach them in. Not like Stenness, Orkney at all. But we have been made very welcome and got to know some fine individuals. So thanks Purdue, and farewell…