AmericanaFest UK 2020 Conference Showcase preview – part one

The AMAUK conference is now into its fifth year can you believe it. When it started, Brexit hadn’t happened, Ed Miliband looked like he was about to win the next election and you could still pop into BHS for a pair of socks. 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. 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 first part.

Alica Toner. A child of the East Coast, Alicia Toner writes songs that tell the truth. Each one is a shimmering reflection of the fearless honesty she employs in its crafting. Her Americana blend of folk, pop and country-rock offers a unique melody-driven sound built around her eloquently emotive voice. 

Amelia White. If there were an East Nashville music hall of fame, Amelia White would already be in it. The now-famous scene was in its formative days when white arrived from Boston in the early 2000s and became a fixture at the family wash. She’s been a leading light in America’s most musical zip code ever since.

Amy LaVere. Amy LaVere is an American singer, songwriter, upright bass player and actress based in Memphis, Tennessee. Her music is classified as Americana, but combines a blend of classic country, gypsy jazz, and southern soul. She has released three albums on Memphis label Archer Records, and has acting credits in motion pictures.

Amy Speace. A modern folksinger whose music nods to the genre’s 1970s glory days, Amy Speace has spent two decades chronicling the high marks, heartbreaks, and hard roads of a life logged on the road. She’s been a tireless traveler, chasing the dream from the coffeehouses of New York City to larger stages across the globe. Along the way, she’s built an international audience without the help of a major label, relying instead upon a touring schedule whose milestones include the Glastonbury Festival, NPR’s Mountain Stage, and a yearly average of 150 shows

Blair Dunlop. Blair Dunlop, the award-winning British singer, songwriter and guitarist, has now released 3 albums 2 ep’s and toured widely around the globe.  He has cemented his place as one of Britain’s most exciting talents to come from the folk scene. The Guardian stated that the ‘House Of Jacks’ proves Blair is ‘an increasingly adventurous songwriter’, Uncut reviewed it as ‘thoughtful and exploratory’, The Independent on Sunday described it as ‘fluent, lamentory and accomplished’ while Q Magazine wrote that House of Jacks is ‘an exciting glimpse of where traditional folk might go’.

Blue Rose Code. Edinburgh born Ross Wilson spent his creative formative years in East London, then moved to South England “to be by the sea’s energy” but it is in his homecoming that he has found where his heart is. Life wasn’t always simple for Wilson. “I have swapped one type of chaos for another” says Wilson. A nomad both geographically and musically, Ross writes from the heart eschewing any specific genre and the twelve songs on new album The Water Of Leith, addressing themes of love, loss, travel, home, accepting the past and embracing the future, are painted with colours of folk, jazz, soul and pop; an eclecticism that has become a hallmark of Blue Rose Code and has seen him compared to John Martyn, Van Morrison and Tom Waits.

Brand New Zeros. According to the Irish Post, “Brand New Zeros is a four-piece featuring MacManus, guitarist and songwriter Luke Dolan, and fellow BibleCode Sundays members Enda Mulloy (bass) and Carlton Hunt (drums). Chief songwriter for the popular London Irish band, MacManus shares the duties here with Dolan, focusing mainly on the lyrics and melody lines. That diversity and a shared love of other musical genres makes for a different style than BibleCode fans will be used to, with influences ranging from grunge to blues, and without a distinct Irish sound and theme.”

Callum Pitt. Combining folk-influenced riffs with a stunning falsetto voice, and a love of vocal harmonies, Callum Pitt writes songs with themes of high social significance. Callum’s 2017 debut, “You’d Better Sell It While You Can”, brought immediate industry attention, piqued further by widespread coverage of subsequent releases in blogs like DIY, Dork and Crack In The Road. His releases consistently landed on Spotify’s coveted ‘New Music Friday’ playlists across Europe and Asia, amassing almost 3 million streams, and received radio play from BBC Radio 1 and BBC 6Music. Callum’s highly anticipated debut EP ‘Poisoned Reveries’ was released in 2019 to critical acclaim, and coincided with an appearance at The Great Escape and a sold out hometown headline show.

Catherine MacLellan. The past four years have been a busy and important time for Catherine MacLellan, as she set aside her own songwriting to celebrate the life and legacy of her late legendary father, Gene MacLellan. During this time, she recorded and released the album, If It’s Alright With You: The Songs of Gene MacLellan; produced a stage show by the same name; and an award winning documentary, The Song and the Sorrow – all in tribute to him. Gene MacLellan is recognized as one of Canada’s most celebrated songwriters with worldwide hits including, Snowbird made famous by Anne Murray, and Put Your Hand in the Hand by Ocean.

Chatham County Line. Come 2020, Chatham County Line will have been a staple of the North Carolina music scene for two decades. Embracing an all acoustic instrumentation and the modern songwriting of leader Dave Wilson the band has graced stages all across the U.S. as well as mainland Europe, Scandinavia, Ireland and the United Kingdom. With seven studio albums of original material to pull from, CCL has a sound all their own and a stage show to match. Songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Dave Wilson pulls tunes out of an ether that is inspired by a shelf bending collection of vinyl records from the 20’s to the 20’s. One listen to their all covers release “Sharing the Covers” [Yep Roc Records 2019] will give you an idea of those inspirations, with songs from the likes of Wilco and Beck shared with those of John Lennon, Tom Petty and John Hartford.

Chloe Foy.  Chloe Foy is a British singer-songwriter from Gloucestershire. She writes a brand of melodic, homegrown music, bursting with colourful lyrical and textural inflections evocative of much of the music she loves. Taking inspiration from classical music as much as wider transatlantic trends in folk and indie, Chloe’s songs comprise of carefully constructed arrangements that delicately compliment her cryptic lyrics.With her  emotionally direct songwriting, Chloe has captured the attention of global audiences, her music has accumulating over 12 million plays on Spotify and earnt praise from NPR’s Bob Boilen.

Daddy Long Legs. New York City’s most beloved blues bashers have been huffing and puffing and blowing houses down on a nightly basis on their infinite world tour and always bring an elevated level of rough and ready intensity to contemporary lo-fi blues with their explosive fire ceremony. According to AltDaily “A Daddy Long Legs show is equal parts roots rock, blues and guttural soul, stripping down old standards and making them shiny and new again. Some of the originals are like an all-out spiritual revival, while others are hauntingly beautiful.”


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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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