AmericanaFest UK 2019 Conference Showcase preview – part one

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 one.

Austin Lucas. It’s been over two decades since Austin Lucas packed his bags and left Bloomington, Indiana, the Midwestern town where he was born and spent his formative years. He returns to that place, both creatively and physically, with his seventh studio album, ‘Immortal Americans’ which we reviewed recently on AUK. Written after a tumultuous period that found Lucas getting sober, supporting his partner through a battle with cancer, and breaking up with his longtime record label, the album is a clear-eyed manifesto for murkier times, rooted in stripped-down songs that find the artist reflecting upon the changes in both his hometown and himself.

CoCo and the Butterfields. Developing an enviable reputation for their exhilarating live shows, CoCo and the Butterfields’ inclusive, acoustic-based sound has ripened to maturity. During the ride, they’ve played to enthusiastic audiences all over the UK and Europe, selling out thousand capacity venues, touring the UK’s O2 Academy’s and appearing at music festivals such as Glastonbury, Isle of Wight and Bestival! On top of this, the band have played numerous support shows for the likes of Bastille, the Fratellis, Scouting For Girls and Wheatus to name a few.

Days Are Done. According to Building Our Own Nashville, Days are Done have become one of our favourite UK duo’s – “their breathtaking vocals and sweet harmonies captivated us from the moment we heard them. Emmy and Adam who make up the duo are the perfect match vocally and their last EP ‘Closer’ which was full of original material is beautiful and a great blend of genres such as folk and country.”

Martin Harley. Martin Harley is a talented acoustic roots and blues guitarist, singer and songwriter with a burgeoning global reputation. His latest studio album ‘Static In The Wires’ was released in February 2017, produced by Martin & Daniel Kimbro and recorded in Nashville. Recently he has headlined Music City Roots in Nashville, performed on the Cayamo Cruise with Chris Stapleton, toured coast to coast with ZZ Ward, Delta Rae and opened for Iron & Wine, Bruce Hornsby, Five for Fighting, World Party, Beth Hart, Joe Bonamassa amongst many others.

The Luck. London-born brother and sister duo of Max & Esmay Luck whose music is influenced by childhood heroes Fleetwood Mac, The Cranberries, Tom Petty and The Eagles. The band began touring the U.K. and Europe before setting off for the US to develop their sound in California, playing venues such as The Troubadour in LA. Paul Broucek, President of Music at Warner Brothers Pictures, was in the audience at one of their shows and shortly after approached them to produce their debut album. Together in LA the album was recorded, collaborating with three-time Grammy Award-winning engineer/mixer Ed Cherney (The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt) and three-time Grammy Award winning musician/engineer/mixer Paul Hicks to mix the tracks.

Sam Lewis. While it bears the sonic landmarks of roots music’s most fertile ground, the songwriting of Sam Lewis’s music is native to the infinite expanse that is exposed when human attention is full, and focused inward. Sam’s songs are rooted in the energy that defines this harmonious frontier, the space that unifies the human experience in each of us. It’s the anchored spirit in this incubated territory of soul for which Sam Lewis works to celebrate and elevate with the tones of rock & roll, rhythm & blues and a country-folk muse.

Gangstagrass. Bluegrass and Hip-Hop may sound like an odd combination, but don’t tell that to Producer Rench, who birthed the fusion in 2006, with Gangstagrass.  “There are a lot more people out there with Jay-Z and Johnny Cash on their iPod playlists than you think” says Rench, who had previously made a name for himself as an in-demand Brooklyn country and hip-hop producer and singer/songwriter.  He should know – he’s toured the country with a band of bluegrass pickers and hip-hop emcees to the delight of standing room crowds everywhere.

Birds of Chicago. Birds of Chicago have been riding a swell of good mojo in the Americana scene since their inception in late 2012. Their latest album, ‘Love in Wartime’ was recorded in Chicago against a backdrop of bewilderment, deep divide and dread, ‘Love in Wartime’ is a rock and roll suite with a cinematic sweep. Co-produced with Luther Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars), it evokes epic efforts of the ’60s and ’70s, with love as the undeniable through-line.

Lucas & King. Southampton-based duo Lucas & King recently crowned winners of Fender’s Undiscovered Artist of the Year Award released their eponymous debut album last year. With influences including Peggy Lee, Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly, The Kinks and Dolly Parton, the album features beautifully complex lyrics, sung by the sultry stand-out vocals of lead singer Bo Lucas, made all the brighter by Hayleigh King’s sympathetic and tasteful guitar accompaniment which in turn creates the cinematic backdrop of their sound. The album features elements of sixties pop, surf, garage and blues.

Asleep at the Wheel. It all started when Ray Benson, Floyd Domino, and Lucky Oceans, along with a Vermont farm boy named Leroy Preston; Virginian Chris O’Connell; and Gene Dobkin, a bass player and fellow classmate of Benson’s from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, joined forces. They began with a simple goal: to play and help revive American roots music. Plus they have very nice hats.

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 part two.

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Author: Mark Whitfield

Mark Whitfield has been the Editor of Americana UK for the last 17 years and still feels like this is his pretend job, mainly because it is.

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