AmericanaFest UK 2020 Conference Showcase preview – part four

The AMAUK conference is now into its fifth year and one of the highlights of the conference is the two nights of showcases which take place before the awards ceremony on 28th/29th January featuring the best of americana talent, both homegrown and from around the world. It takes place at six venues across Hackney, all within walking distance and for the price of one wristband which you can buy here, plus you hopefully 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, in a kind of alphabetical order, if you’re not very good at the alphabet. You know us and the alphabet. Here’s the fourth part.

Lucy Grubb. Lucy Grubb is a singer/songwriter from Norwich blending modern Americana with Country undertones. Inspired by the likes of Johnny Cash, Grubb’s understated guitar rhythms and country trilled vocal melodies hark back to tried and tested traditional Country songwriting, expressing grief, sorrow and heartbreak. Although lacking life experience, Lucy takes her own emotional turmoil and communicates it through gripping lyrical content and storytelling. As Richard Shashamane put it “One cannot help but wonder where some of those lyrics are coming from – she’s obviously another ‘old soul’ with a huge talent for expressive songwriting.”

Malin Pettersen. In 2018 Malin Pettersen released her first solo album, and since then her debut has won her a Spellemannpris (Norwegian Grammy), placed her on the bill of some of Norway’s largest festivals and brought her to Nashville for more recording. She was recently coined a Norwegian Country sensation by Paste Magazine and Rolling Stone featured ‘Pause’ from her upcoming mini album “as one of 10 Country and Americana songs you needed to hear.

Mapache.  Mapache consists of Clay Finch and Sam Blasucci. Born and raised in Glendale, California, the duo’s harmonies and heartfelt sound verges on cosmic West Coast Pop Americana, and just months after releasing their critically acclaimed self-titled debut, the duo is back touring with a beguiling new EP titled ‘Lonesome LA Cowboy.’ “We make music that’s reflective of the landscape we grew up with in southern California,” says Finch. “It’s a big sweep of all the really rich influences you encounter around here: folk and psychedelic and country and Latin and rock and cowboy and Hawaiian. We’re drawing from a really deep well.”

Martin Harley Band. In 2019 British guitarist and songwriter Martin Harley is making a change. Having created a deep impression on the acoustic blues roots and Americana scene with his last two Nashville recorded albums, his highly anticipated new record finds a new and exciting sound. An Intimate and gritty analogue album, recorded in a remote chapel deep in the wilds of Pembrokeshire. Taking county blues riffs to the electric bottleneck slide guitar, served with sweet vocal harmonies over the driving rhythms of co producer and drummer Harry Harding (Yola Carter/William the Conquerer) Award winning Australian bassist Rex Horan finalises the line up. He has recorded and performed with Eric Clapton, Van Morrison and Laura Marling.

Megan Nash. On her latest album ‘Seeker’, Saskatchewan singer/songwriter Megan Nash collaborates with ambient/alt-rock unit Bears In Hazenmore with some impressive results. In sharp contrast to the starkness of her previous acclaimed album ‘Song Harvest Volume One’, Seeker takes Nash’s roots-based songwriting into bold new sonic territory, displaying the undeniable chemistry she has forged with the group over the past year.

Michaela Anne. Full of lush, sweeping arrangements and honest self-examination, ‘Desert Dove’ marks a bold new chapter for Michaela Anne, both artistically and professionally. While the songwriting is still very much rooted in the classic country she’s come to be known for, the record (her first for Yep Roc) represents something of a sonic shift, incorporating more modern production elements than ever before in pursuit of a sound that owes as much influence to indie rock as honky tonk. Despite the bolder, more adventurous arrangements, Michaela’s crystalline voice remains front and centre on the album, a pure, airy beam of light shining bravely into the dark corners of loneliness, pain, and desire that we all so often to try to hide.

Native Harrow. Native Harrow’s Devin Tuel may consider herself to be an artist meant for a different time, but she now finds herself inhabiting her own true place. The singer-songwriter is at home in Upstate NY reflecting on her third album ‘Happier Now’ released under her nom de plume as well as the difficult sojourn the former ballerina and classically trained singer has had to traverse to become the writer and performer she was meant to be. As she says: “This record is about becoming your own advocate. Realizing that maybe you are different in several or a myriad of ways and that that is okay. And further, it is about me becoming a grown woman.”

Our Man In The Field. Entirely original but with hints of something from the past, you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve heard Our Man The Field before. Amongst the many influences; folk revival, 70’s singer songwriters, southern rock, 90’s guitar bands and modern day folk, his own sound is undefinable but familiar, sitting somewhere in the space between Dylan and Van Morrison and has been compared to modern day artists such as Ray LaMontagne, Foy Vance and Joe Purdy.

O & O. With the release of their first three singles and debut EP ‘Truth Comes Out’, American-Israeli duo O&O have garnered the attention of BBC London, Chris Country Radio, UK Country Radio, notable Country music blogs in the UK and across the pond. The two met while studying at Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts where they had the unique opportunity of a one-on-one songwriting session with McCartney himself. After select shows in NYC and Nashville, O&O relocated to London in 2017.  Their live show features the duo’s distinctive, close-harmony sound with an Americana flare – Fleetwood Mac meets The Civil Wars.

Pete Gow & The Siren Strings. Clubhouse Records recently released ‘Here There’s No Sirens’ the debut solo album from Case Hardin frontman and ex-AUK writer Pete Gow. Long regarded as one of the UK’s finest americana songwriters, Gow delivers music rich in songwriting prowess and full of evocative imagery. A storyteller at heart, he conjures up modern day classics, awash with strings and piano.

Peter Bruntnell. “If we lived in a just world, Peter Bruntnell would by now be in the middle of his third or fourth global arena tour, his biggest worry working out how to courier his latest armful of Grammy awards back to the UK so his butler could have them installed in the west wing of mansion by the time he got home.” So says the Guardian of one of the UK’s finest and longest standing americana stars. And hey, he played our first festival back in 2002!

Goat Roper Rodeo Band. With just an upright bass, two old guitars and a bucketful of aching harmony, the Goat Roapers are preaching ‘Country Blues’ like you never heard… It’s up, it’s down, it’s soft and loud, it’s dark and lonesome too, there’s hurt and shame and some mean old pain but there’s love in what they do! There’s a hint of Gram, a sniff of Dylan and a twist of Waylon’s blues … Simply put, it’s exactly what it says on the tin. And we can’t recommend you see them enough.


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Author: Mark Whitfield

Mark Whitfield has been the Editor of Americana UK for the last 19 years and still feels like this is his pretend job, mainly because it is.

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