The AMAUK conference is now into its fourth year and one of the highlights is the two nights of showcases which take place before the awards ceremony featuring the best of americana talent, both homegrown and from around the world. At five venues across Hackney, all within walking distance and for the price of one wristband, plus you get to go back to a nice comfy bed each night. Over the course of this week we’ll be introducing you to all the showcase acts playing, ten at a time. Here’s part four.
The Hanging Stars. Blending folk pastoralism with swampy 60s Americana, The Hanging Stars sound like the missing link between the California desert sun and the grey skies of London Town. Their latest album was recorded between LA, Nashville and Walthamstow, with each of these vastly different places leaving an indelible mark on the songs. The band place themselves firmly as part of a long folk tradition encompassing European and North American influences – as a continuation rather than a pastiche of these styles.
Neilson Hubbard. Neilson Hubbard got his start as a singer/songwriter in the mid-’90s, releasing six solo albums on labels such as E Pluribus Unun (owned by Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz), Parasol, and Media Creature. Since that time, Hubbard has produced albums for many top-tiered and critically acclaimed artists including Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet Sprocket), Kim Richey, the Farewell Drifters, the Apache Relay, and Ryan Culwell. His collaborations with Nashville-based artist Matthew Perryman Jones have found their way into the soundtracks of TV shows such as Private Practice, One Tree Hill, Bones, and Grey’s Anatomy, as well as several major motion pictures.
The Southern Companion. Fronted by singer/songwriter and guitarist Darren Hodson, The Southern Companion are made up of some of the UK’s finest session musicians, some of whom first met in the music room at school. Their CVs list artists such as Tom Jones, Take That, Mel C, Lulu, Rumer, James Morrison, Pete Townsend and Dire Straits but don’t let some of them put you off! Maverick described their sound as an “Americana blend that delivers a lot of impressive moments”.
Bennett Wilson Poole. Pulling on influences from the ’60s pop of The Byrds, The Beatles and The Beach Boys, through to the harmonies of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, with dashes of Petty and Springsteen thrown in for good measure, the new band from Danny George Wilson (from the Champs and Grand Drive), Robin Bennett and Tony Poole takes its name from the three members and have recorded a debut album that’s had one of the most seismic impacts on the UK americana scene as any album in years. They even played Andrew Marr!
Beth Rowley. Beth Rowley is an English singer-songwriter who was influenced by her family’s love for many different musical styles, particularly blues, country, folk, gospel and Latin American music. At age 17, she was spotted at an open mic night in the London entertainment club, Ginglik, in Shepherd’s Bush, and since then she has supported various artists on tour including David Gray, Tom Baxter and Duke Special.
Smith & Brewer. Ben Smith and Jimmy Brewer met when Joan Armatrading launched her ‘local talent’ search for acts to support her on tour in 2012 when she was looking for original artists from all over the UK to showcase their work. The duo were two of the acts chosen, and in 2015 she called them back to support her again on her first ever solo tour. Jimmy’s inspiration for his song-writing career came from his desire to move beyond his rural upbringing and follow in the footsteps of the musicians who shaped his interest in playing as a young child, including The Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley and The Everley Brothers. Ben has also been writing and playing from an early age, and despite his original desire to learn the banjo being thwarted, he threw himself into the guitar in an effort to emulate his musical heroes: BB King, John Martyn, Jerry Reed and the Grateful Dead.
Amber Rubarth. Amber Rubarth has performed her music far and wide, touring solo across South Africa, Europe, Japan, and all throughout America with her “unique gift of knocking down walls with songs so strong they sound like classics from another era” according to Acoustic Guitar Magazine. She was recently cast alongside Joe Purdy to star in the feature film ‘American Folk’ which won numerous festival awards, with the Hollywood Reporter calling it “Superb… A heartfelt homage to American folk music,” and Rolling Stone premiering the first single as “Enchanting… beautifully recalls several of the duets that John Prine has sung so effectively with frequent partner Iris DeMent, yet it offers the added bonus of discovering two wondrous new voices.”
Sam Morrow. With his career-defining third record, Sam Morrow should cement his place as a member of Los Angeles’ country elite. His new album, rooted in Texas twang, southern stomp, and old-school funky-tonk, was recorded largely live in the studio on a vintage Neve 8068 console with producer/engineer Eric Corne at the helm. At 27 years old, Morrow’s found his footing as an artist and appears poised to join the ranks of West Coast heavyweights like Sam Outlaw, Jade Jackson, and Morrow’s friend and label mate, Jaime Wyatt.
Treetop Flyers. London soulful country-rock outfit Treetop Flyers’ eponymous third album weaves blissful ’60s tinged West Coast Americana with a British rock’n’roll swagger. Feeling more comfortable in themselves than they have in a long time, they’re a band with a new lease of life and a new groove in their step. The soulful melancholy is still bubbling under the surface but this album feels altogether more triumphant, looking to the future with hope and optimism. There’s also a sense of exploration on this record, where things they had experimented with in their live show have crossed over to the tape machine, catapulting their sound to another level.
You can pre-book a wristband from the AMAUK’s official site here. Early bird rates start at £22 (or £17 if you’re a member of the AMAUK). Join us tomorrow for our final part.