Sean McConnell + Garrison Starr, St Pancras Old Church, London, 13th February 2020

The venue is, as ever, inspirational to both tonight’s acts, who were raised in varied Christian settings in the USA. The gig is sold out and the performers really thrive in this supportive atmosphere. Massachusetts’ native McConnell is now a well-seasoned UK visitor from his Nashville home. His latest album ‘Secondhand Smoke’ was widely lauded, even landing an elusive 10/10 on this website. He is currently darting across a dense array of European gigs crossing borders like a Euro MP who has just learned of the expenses allowance. Continue reading “Sean McConnell + Garrison Starr, St Pancras Old Church, London, 13th February 2020”

Americana Music Fest, 28th – 29th January, Various Venues, Hackney

Americana Music Fest, organised by the Americana Music Association UK, is two glorious nights of artist showcases that take place from about 6PM until almost midnight in a half dozen venues.  That’s a lot of acts to catch, with a lot of choices to be made – here’s what David Chalfin selected. Continue reading “Americana Music Fest, 28th – 29th January, Various Venues, Hackney”

UK Americana Awards: The Troxy, London, 30th January 2020

This year’s event was in the heart of London’s East End, representing how the epicentre of the city’s music venues is shifting eastwards. Host Bob Harris has had almost half a century to practice but he still did a wonderfully balanced job of pitching the enthusiasm on the right side of gushing and his breadth of knowledge always applied to make a broader point. He jests, “I’m glad to be here. I’m glad to be anywhere” – with reference to his well-publicised health scare last summer and quickly acknowledges Keith Richards as the source of this apercu. Continue reading “UK Americana Awards: The Troxy, London, 30th January 2020”

Noble Jacks + Jake Morrell, The Black Heart, Camden, London, 29th November 2019

The penultimate night of an extensive UK tour has Sussex-based band Noble Jacks headlining at a bustling, sold out and very enthusiastic Black Heart. If there’s a niche for ‘power folk’ then the band seem prime candidates for that category. They have also thrown ‘BrAmericana’ into the descriptive mix. If we mention that their recent album ‘Stay Awake’ was recorded at The Levellers’ studio, that’s a big hint of one major influence on their sound. As, to this reviewer’s ears, is Seth Lakeman. It’s a beefy rumbustious vibe in the main – indeed they self-assess it as “ something of an antidote to unhappiness” –   and it’s not a surprise to see that their career thus far is peppered with many well received festival slots, and foot stomping is pretty much instinctive when they get rolling. Continue reading “Noble Jacks + Jake Morrell, The Black Heart, Camden, London, 29th November 2019”

Sunny Ozell, The Islington, London, 4th September 2019

After various forays to the UK, Ms. Ozell is currently undertaking a short tour, this time as the headliner, with a full band in tow, ahead of the launch of her new album, ‘Overnight Lows’, due for release this winter. She is a real extrovert; feisty and outspoken, and has a varied life passage to draw on, from performing as a teenager at low key dives in Boulder, Colorado when she doctored her driving licence data to meet the ID requirements, to life amidst British thespians as she is the wife of Patrick Stewart. Hailing originally from Reno, Nevada, she is classically trained but it is primarily blues influences that are foremost in much of her set tonight, with elements of jazz and some tinges of 1970s pop. It is not too far from a Woodstock hotch potch, fittingly as that influential touchstone has just marked its 50th anniversary. Continue reading “Sunny Ozell, The Islington, London, 4th September 2019”

Danny Vaughn, The Black Heart, London, 22nd August 2019

If it isn’t a reinvention it is at least a repositioning. Given that Danny Vaughn’s extensive CV  includes melodic rock band Tyketto and a stint with Waysted led by UFO axe man Pete Way, his heritage isn’t obviously grist to the AUK mill, nor necessarily are rave notices in Midland Metalheads (due respect of course). But bear with us on this….. the content and style has shifted notably in his impressive recent album ‘Myths, Legends & Lies‘. His other role with The Ultimate Eagles shows his softer side has always been there so it’s no coincidence that the new material calls to mind recent solo work by real Eagle Timothy B Schmidt. It’s like The Eagles but with a bigger belt buckle and more studs on the jacket or, alternatively, the harder end of the Black Crowes repertoire. Continue reading “Danny Vaughn, The Black Heart, London, 22nd August 2019”

Ida Mae, Kings Head, Dalston, London, 11th July 2019

Tonight’s gig marks the launch of Ida Mae’s debut full-length album, ‘Chasing Lights’, produced by UK West Country-based guru Ethan Johns. The Norwich husband and wife pair,  Christopher Turpin and Stephanie Jean Ward, now live in Nashville but have penned the album’s material while split between Holloway, North London and touring in Mississippi. Indeed, North American touring has dominated their recent time with the duo racking up an epic 30,000 miles epic across the USA and Canada. Continue reading “Ida Mae, Kings Head, Dalston, London, 11th July 2019”

Maverick Festival – Day One, Easton Farm Park, Suffolk, 5th July 2019

Now in its 12th year, Maverick Festival continues to be one of the premier festivals of the summer for lovers of Americana and roots music, the culmination of founder and director Paul Spencer’s working year. Festival goers with ages spanning, at a pinch, three generations were up for entertainment over a whole weekend but your intrepid AUK reporter could only attend the first day and that didn’t get off to a great start as seemingly the entire population of East Anglia chose to drive their juggernauts up the A12 that afternoon in order to prevent our timely arrival. However, arrive we did. The sun was warm but not searing and the music was as stimulating as ever. Continue reading “Maverick Festival – Day One, Easton Farm Park, Suffolk, 5th July 2019”

Her Crooked Heart, Green Note, London, 23rd June 2019

No stranger to London’s Green Note, having played several solo shows there in the past, Rachel Ries was back on the stage for this London show by her recently configured band, Her Crooked Heart. Their tour is showcasing their current album, ‘To Love To Leave To Live’ and indeed a theme based on just that cycle of life’s experience works across the set as a whole and within many individual tracks. Ries is a lively and candid raconteur and comes across as quite the Bohemian thinker. Media coverage has been very positive and the full band set up comprises the talented array of Siri Undlin, Adelyn Strei, and Hillary James across guitars, piano, synths, cellos, woodwinds, chopping and changing instruments across the set, with all providing harmonised backing vocals along the way. Continue reading “Her Crooked Heart, Green Note, London, 23rd June 2019”

William Crighton, Aces and Eights, London, 20th June 2019

Aces and Eights is a new patch in the North London demesne of Green Note, just a little north of its Camden Town HQ. There’s space for 50 people and tonight is a sell out – there are probably AUK readers with lounges as big as this room – so it’s undeniably intimate, a great setting for a solo singer with just an acoustic guitar. William Crighton is one of the relatively few artists to capture the sound and images of the Australian bush – a kind of midpoint between the cities and the outback – and perform it internationally. Any fan of The Triffids would appreciate the sound, style and lyrics, and there’s some clear common ground between the sparser regions of Australia and those of the USA or indeed Canada. Anyone who’s caught fellow Aussie ruralists Lachlan Bryan and the Wildes on this very website or on stage will also be on happy ground here. Continue reading “William Crighton, Aces and Eights, London, 20th June 2019”