2023 – Americana and me… There really is gold on the horizon

Photo: Alex Ellis

Looking back at my review of 2022 this year’s theme is much the same. Lots of great music but an ongoing concern about the future, especially that of live music.

Moles Club in Bath closed the other day. While it’s not particularly associated with Americana, but it was a big enough story to make the national news. It opened in 1977, and I was a regular there from 1981 for several years. It survived as a live music venue until last week. Along with many others, I have fond memories of gigs attended. I even appear on the cover of King Crimson’s live album recorded there, standing next to a slightly scared-looking Curt Smith of Tears for Fears. I stood on its stage a few times, and had people push past me to the toilets which were behind the stage. And now it joins Bristol’s Granary, London’s Borderline, and many others as a legend.

But just down the road in Westgate Street Matt Owens and his Delusional Vanity Project pack into one corner of The Grapes monthly to play storming sets, and to record my pick for single of the year ‘One for the Grapes.’ His last album got a mention in 2022’s review, and I’m sure the next one will be in 2024’s.

Last year I was mildly underwhelmed” by a Hannah White support gig. I hoped it was an off night, and it clearly was. Her album ‘Sweet Revolution’ was one of a few 9 out of 10 reviews this year, and it only improves with more listening. I’m looking forward to catching up with her live next year. I also gave my first 10 out of 10 review in five years writing here. Reg Meuross’ ‘Stolen from God’ is an important piece in the narrative of coming to terms with the legacy of slavery in the South West of England. The music that is more than equal to the task of illustrating his songs and was as good live as on record.

Other highlights? The astonishing Allison Russell Album, ‘The Returner‘, and Alex Ellis, Our Man in the Field. Someone we have championed at AUK since his first album in 2020. I saw him and his band twice this year in various obscure corners of Wiltshire, and ‘Gold On the Horizon’ is the outstanding album we always hoped it would be. No one deserves success more than Alex.

I saw another favourite, Lady Nade, join Mike Scott on stage at the Bath Forum to sing Gillian Welch’s ‘Everything is Free’, from her covers EP, and turn the Waterboys into a soul band. Her Nina Simone tribute shows look set to be another 2024 highlight. Polly Paulusma and Kathryn Williams played in a small pub in Newport, and were so good we went again the next night to a cafe in Weston Super Mare.

The business of music continues to be a troubled place. Songtradr, bought Bandcamp, but the only fallout so far has been to the employees, which is possibly inevitable when 2 similar businesses merge. Spotify plan to stop paying royalties on any song getting less than 1,00 streams in a year. But overall, there is lots of positivity for next year, new albums, new shows, have you noticed how many local Bristol and Bath acts I’ve mentioned? There’s your New Year’s resolution. Find the vibrant, active music community that I bet exists in your area as much as it does in mine.

About Tim Martin 247 Articles
Sat in my shed listening to music, and writing about some of it. Occasionally allowed out to attend gigs.
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