AmericanaFest UK 2020 Conference Showcase preview – part two

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. At six venues across Hackney, all within walking distance and for the price of one wristband (oh the value!) 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 second part.

David Wax Museum. It’s been nearly a dozen years since David Wax and Suz Slezak played their first show together, kicking off a partnership that’s led to seven records, multiple Top 20 chart placements, performances alongside contemporaries like The Avett Brothers and heroes like Los Lobos, and — most importantly — a family of four. As that family has grown, so has the band’s sound. Filled with husband-and-wife vocal harmonies, Mexican stringed instruments, melodic hooks, and blasts of brass, David Wax Museum’s albums fly the worldly flag for a brand of Americana that reaches far beyond American borders.

Dean Maywood. Dean Maywood obviously likes to hide his light under a bushel as we can’t find lots out about him. What we can tell you from our review last year is that Maywood is an Irish born singer-songwriter, who has played extensively live in both Ireland and the US. This musical experience has influenced his musical journey with traces of bluegrass in his playing. His debut EP is heavily inspired by the so-called golden era of the 1970s and the music of his father who was also a musician in his own right.

Dean Owens & The Southerners. Award-winning Scottish singer songwriter Dean Owens is widely hailed as one of UK’s finest troubadours, with fans including Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh who says of him: “Dean Owens’ music and story feels like a tribute to the songs inside us, the tales of our lives, reaching into us to find the threads of our common humanity” – and also BBC legend Bob Harris who describes him as “One of Scotland’s best troubadours… fabulous.” And you know when Bob says fabulous he means it.

Del Barber. Del Barber is a Canadian independent folk, Americana, and alternative country singer-songwriter, musician, and record producer who has won a number of accolades including two Western Canadian Music Awards for Independent Album of the Year and Roots Solo Recording of the Year, and in 2013 the Roots Solo Recording of the Year for Headwaters at the Western Canadian Music Awards. As RS recently put it, “after Barber’s extended period of time in the literal and figurative wilderness, the 35-year-old singer-songwriter has finally found solid footing. His new album, Easy Keeper, is a concise distillation of what Barber has always done best: rich, nuanced country-folk portraits told in direct, uncomplicated language.”

Demi Marriner. Demi Marriner is a girl with many strings to her bow each as unique and strong as the last. Armed with a stack of notebooks, a head full of ideas and a collection of incredible jackets, Marriner’s passion and emotion is so contagious, it is almost impossible to not be captivated from the offset. With endorsements from Whispering Bob Harris, Under The Apple Tree, Chris Difford, The House Of Songs and AMA UK, Demi is now preparing to release her debut record, ‘The Things We Didn’t Say’ in 2020.

Dennis Ellsworth. Dennis Ellsworth is a songwriter, performer and producer from Charlottetown, PE. In 2017, Ellsworth needed to make a new album. And it was an emergency. So, who better to call for assistance than Joel Plaskett, who assumed production duties and enlisted his friends, Charles Austin and Dave Marsh, to fully participate. The result is Ellsworth’s fifth solo LP, ‘Things Change’, a brilliant convergence of his irresistible power pop songwriting chops with Plaskett and co.’s trademark vintage guitar-driven sound.

Dylan Earl. Dylan Earl was born in Lake Charles, La., and made his way up to Arkansas after being displaced by hurricanes in 2005. Since then, he’s been naturalized by the natural state and prefers the quiet of the Ozarks over the big city music scenes like Austin and Nashville. You can often find Dylan and his boys out on the road anywhere between honky-tonks to opera houses to dingy basements. There is no improper place for his music. In fact, the closer he can get to the outer rim of normality the better. He always appreciates hospitality and a warm meal goes farther than most would expect. He prefers sleeping outside, Hamm’s beer, Thin Lizzy, the company of his peers and good attitudes.

Dylan Menzie. With a sprawling vocal range and compelling approach to composition, Menzie made an indelible mark in the talent-rich Atlantic Canadian music market with his debut EP, Heather Avenue, in 2013. The release – which earned Music PEI Award nominations and acclaim from industry influencers – led to high-profile performances throughout the Maritimes, including opening slots for City & Colour and Ron Sexsmith. Drawing clear influence from the likes of My Morning Jacket, Led Zeppelin, Radiohead, and Joel Plaskett without being derivative of any one, the quality of Menzie’s songs heavily belies the young artist’s age.

Elliot Brood. Elliott Brood is a three-piece, folk-rock/alt-country band based in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, consisting of Mark Sasso, Casey Laforet and Stephen Pitkin Their brand of fuzzed-up roots music makes for a captivating and frenetic live performance. That energy has always translates to the band’s five acclaimed records. Their style has been called everything from ‘blackgrass’ to ‘death country,’ but those descriptions don’t capture the transcendent heights of their unique approach to roots music.

Falls. Australian duo Falls (Melinda Kirwin and Simon Rudston-Brown) are making inroads stateside with their intimate yet catchy Indie Folk/Americana and sweet vocal harmonies. The connection between these two musicians onstage is palpable, with their emotionally fueled live performances drawing rave reviews, the Sydney Morning Herald noting “their voices sit next to each other like they’ve been pouring from the same pot of tea for years”. They are fast developing an impressive live resume, growing their sizable and loyal fanbase here in the United States and their native country Australia.

Ferris & Sylvester. Ferris & Sylvester are a force to be reckoned with. They are honest and unashamed, bold and unapologetic. With clear references in their catchy setup to the mid-60s sounds of Greenwich Village combined with their meatier blues tones, the British duo sit somewhere between Jack White and First Aid Kit. The pair met three years ago in London’s best-kept-secret blues joint, Spiritual Bar and have since won over audiences across Europe and the US with their ever-growing live presence and songwriting. Obsessed with getting their music out there, the duo released their ‘Made In Streatham’ EP, which they recorded and self-produced in their South London flat. The duo have since released a collection of more expansive singles including ‘Sickness’ and ‘Flying Visit’ which range from the most intimate to the most enraged declarations of the human condition. Their timeless songwriting is impossible to ignore.

Flats & Sharps. Flats and sharps are a four-piece bluegrass outfit from Penzance, Cornwall. Delivering energetic, enthusiastic and spirited bluegrass to audiences all around the world, they have been performing their unique take on this music for over eight years. Their shows include a wide variety of influences, from a fresh and modern outlook on foot-stomping bluegrass material through to their powerful and well-crafted original songs, with beautiful moments everywhere in between. Their music perfectly blends strong harmonies and stonking solos, their incredible stage presence and energy create an evening that’ll have you dancing, laughing and singing along in no time.

Gill Landry. Gill Landry is a Louisiana-born singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Prior to releasing his first solo album, Landry and singer Woody Pines formed an old-time jug band called The Kitchen Syncopators in New Orleans, LA. Starting in 1998, the group toured, busked, and issued a number of self-released albums before calling it quits in 2004. When Old Crow Medicine Show’s founding member, Chris Fuqua, went on hiatus that same year Landry was offered the job as his replacement and remained a full-time member and contributing songwriter even after Fuqua’s return. His fifth album ‘Skeleton At The Banquet’ is out next week.

Hollie Rogers. Hollie Rogers’ live performances consistently receive outstanding reviews, with regular reference to the level of candour in her lyrics and power in her voice. She has opened for the likes of Suzanne Vega, Midge Ure and Ben Howard, and is a regular performer at high profile festivals such as Glastonbury, Black Deer and Cornbury. Backed by BBC Introducing, Hollie’s music receives regular airplay across the BBC. Hollie is currently a mentee on The English Folk Expo’s Artist Mentorship Programme. With their support, 2020 will see the release of a run of singles followed by a new album later in the year. Her previous release, The Body To Ground EP, was produced by 4-time Grammy-nominated James McMillan; funded entirely through Kickstarter. It’s available now, on all streaming platforms.

Ilse DeLange. ‘Gravel & Dust’, the latest album by Dutch musician Ilse Delange is a step forward, and at the same time a return to its source. She collaborated with the man who plays a leading role in the music that inspired her debut 21 years ago. At her request, producer Patrick Leonard, with whom she worked on ‘The Great Escape’, introduced her to T-Bone Burnett, one of the most striking, recognizable and completely authentic producers in the world. Not a word too much, not a note for the note, nowhere virtuosity for the bravado: every chord and sentence is subservient to the southern US atmosphere of subdued melancholy.


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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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