Back in 2002 when Americana UK was one years old, we held a mini-festival at the Masque venue in Liverpool which celebrated the best of UK americana. Thanks to my shambolic organisational skills, the event over-ran by so long that half the crowd ended up missing the headline act, alternative-rock band Witness from Wigan who’d just a year earlier released an album on the Island label with a distinct americana tinge. It’s fair to say we liked it rather a lot – “it’s almost impossible to describe the elation you feel on completing the first listen to ‘Under a Sun'” we beamed. And it still sounds spine-tinglingly epic today, with no better example than a track which NME called “the best single REM never wrote; chords crashing and splashing in a melancholic Californian sun.” Perhaps their kiss of death was that they weren’t quite gloomy enough for our genre.
Had it not been for The Felice Brothers headlining the Rhythm n’ Blooms festival in Knoxville, Tennessee back in 2014 , I would never have found my way to the indie-Americana goodness that is Sam Quinn. He has popped up in various guises at the festival over the years, most recently as bass guitarist, singer and songwriter for The Black Lillies, but also with bands such as King Super and the Excellents, Glass Magnet, and Sam Quinn and The Taiwan Twin. One of life’s retrospective regrets was realising I’d missed a reunion set for his band the everybodyfields at the festival in 2013. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – Sam Quinn”
Over the past two or three weeks the door to The Bunker at Americana-UK Towers has been triple locked with a sturdy scaffolding plank being pushed up against it for extra security. In what has become known as “Election Season” we have felt the need to protect ourselves from the madness inflicting the general populous whilst they busy themselves with a plebiscite or two. We are nothing. Continue reading “Pick of the Political Pops: Patsy Cline “I Fall To Pieces””
It was the ‘Sounds of the New West’ compilation CDs issued by Uncut magazine in 1998 that opened so many musical doors for me, bringing to my attention a slew of new acts, as well as forging an obsession in what we were tending to call ‘alternative country’ 20 years ago ago. One of the acts appearing on the first of those CDs, the Pernice Brothers, and their song ‘Crestfallen’ generated huge interest in the work of Joe Pernice and his various side projects, even if his musical output has somewhat dimmed in recent years. ‘Crestfallen’ featured on the 1998 album, ‘Overcome by Happiness’ and was a fine example of Byrdsian and Big Star sounding chamber pop –literate, melodic, elegantly constructed and influenced by a number of acts such as Brian Wilson, Van Dyke Parks, Burt Bacharach and Scott Walker.
Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – Joe Pernice”
If I had to choose one album that reminded me of my twenties more than any other record, I’d go for New Yorker Dar Williams’ ‘The Honesty Room’ released back in 93. It takes me back to little gigs in Telford’s, Chester with a painted lounge backdrop and Williams’ gentle played songs which as an angst-ridden twenty-something after 3 pints I struggled to get through without sobbing uncontrollably. As the song begins: “Are we the fools for being surprised that a silence could end with no sound?” Her lyrics are still exceptional.
Down here in The Bunker of AUK Towers we are champions of pointless exercises. The Editor is fond of making us do physical jerks first thing of a morning to set us up for the day’s work. Then we’ll take the landfill (we like to think of it as ‘recycling’) out, then we’ll discuss the hot news of the day whilst simultaneously patting ourselves on the back for our progressive politicality, then we’ll perhaps have a spot of lunch – generally a quinoa salad washed down with a pint or two of IPA from the local Brewing Co-Operative, then we’ll wash up (recycling the washing-up water because its better tasting than the IPA) and then we’ll begin the day’s work of writing reviews/features/news snippets/videos. It is nothing if not a picture of Elysian goodness. Continue reading “Pick of the Political Pops: Dan Hicks “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away””
Ireland’s love of American roots music is something that has long been championed and applauded. There are any number of bands an artists who take inspiration both from the giants of the genre – Zandt, Clark, etc – and those that head a little further afield trawling the old alt.country archives. The Southern Fold are one such example. Led by guitarist and vocalist Emlyn Holden the band draw as much from Son Volt and Creedence for their guitar driven sound with the band making their UK debut at Red Rooster Festival at the end of May. Americana-UK caught up with Holden at Kilkenny Roots Festival to chat about life on the road and those all important CD’s for the glovebox. Continue reading “Van Life – The Southern Fold”
‘What Rhymes with Cars and Girls’ was the first solo album by You Am I frontman Tim Rogers, and the only release featuring the backing band The Twin Set. I grew to love the album with every bone in my body from the time when I first heard it in Australia back in 1999, and so it seems did a theatre company in Melbourne, the city where the album originated, who turned the whole thing into a musical in 2015. As the Director of that musical said, the record is “somehow a conversation between lovers about the tricky business of love” and few do it as well as Tim Rogers. Just lovely.
There’s a TV in every room here at Americana-UK Towers (all fifty or so). None of them are connected, of course, but we need to be able to sell ourselves to visiting dignitaries to The People’s Republic of Liverpudlia and delegates attending the famous Americana–UK Towers ‘Phestival of Phun” – our annual event celebrating everything downbeat, miserable and featuring steel guitar. Our sister festival, the more ‘niche’ Phestivities of Phunnies, features everything downbeat, miserable and lap-steel is held every two years. This one is exclusive to musical pedants. If you haven’t yet received your invitation to either then please bear with us. There are two key reasons for any delay: (1) we phucking don’t like you or (2) we don’t give a phucking shit Continue reading “Pick of the Political Pops: Randy Newman “Short People””
Welcome back to our occasional series in which we ask the Americana UK staff writers and contributors to give us a handle on the what, whys and wherefores that got them into the genre and why they thought flares where a necessary fashion statement back in the day. This week we hear from master of brevity and king of eclectic lists Mike Elliott: Continue reading “What Is This Americana Thing Anyway…?”