VERSIONS – “1952 Vincent Black Lightning”

Following a conversation between our writers we’ve come up with this new occasional feature which we hope you will enjoy. The question posed is “What is the best or definitive version of any given tune. Is it the original, the first version that you heard or the one that got recommended by a friend?” It’s a tricky one, right? Over the course of this series we will be looking at individual songs and how different artists have interpreted them. This could be different artists covering the same tune or indeed the same artist interpreting their own tune in different ways. First into the fray is my chief collaborator on this feature Rick Bayles who gives us an in-depth analysis of the song ‘1952 Black Lightning’ for all you motorcycle enthusiasts. Continue reading “VERSIONS – “1952 Vincent Black Lightning””

Classic Americana Albums: The Louvin Brothers “Satan Is Real” (Capitol Records, 1959)

What is it about an album by a god-fearing, religiously obsessed duo born nearly a century ago that appeals so much to a militant atheist? The answer: it’s all about the harmonies – so good at times they appear to be otherworldly. For roots music and all its different sub-genres, the Louvin Brothers date so far back they meet the classic Americana tag line probably better than most records to appear so far in this feature, but the ultra-clean production is quite extraordinary for an album cut in 1959 – and one which sounds almost futuristic at times. You could put the best microphones in the most expensive studios today and you’d still struggle to get a sound as good as the vocals here. Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: The Louvin Brothers “Satan Is Real” (Capitol Records, 1959)”

Forgotten Artists – Kieran Kane

There was a time, in the late ‘90s and early 2000s when Kieran Kane seemed to be Mr. Americana. He released four excellent solo albums over a seven-year period and built a strong following, particularly in Europe, through regular touring around small, intimate venues that allowed audiences to appreciate his wit and story-telling, along with his great songs, in a way that really connected with people. I remember travelling right across London to see him play at a small arts centre in Brentford and thinking it was one of the best gigs I’d seen in a very long time, well worth the lengthy schlepp there and back from my North London flat. Continue reading “Forgotten Artists – Kieran Kane”

AmericanA to Z: Golden Smog

Golden Smog is a loose and occasional association of musicians centring around various members of The Jayhawks, Wilco and Soul Asylum. On occasion they have also been joined by members of The Replacements, Big Star and The Honeydogs. The only members to play on all their recordings are guitarist Kraig Johnson from the lesser-known Run Westy Run, Gary Louris and Marc Perlman from The Jayhawks and Soul Asylum’s Dan Murphy. To all intents and purposes, they are what we might have referred to in the past as a ‘supergroup’. But we would not use such crude terminology today, would we? Continue reading “AmericanA to Z: Golden Smog”

Ten americana songs of protest

An infamous Mancunian once thought that if you played the acoustic guitar, it meant you were a protest singer. Whilst the playing of that instrument may not earn you the right to musical protestation, the artists featured below would in most part be likely to agree that the six-stringed instrument helps with the cause. Protest songs with an Americana flavour throughout the 20th & 21st Century have used as their topic matter such issues as civil rights, women’s rights, economic injustice, politics and war; though prior these many negro spirituals from the 19th century are seen as protests against slavery and oppression. Continue reading “Ten americana songs of protest”

Exclusive AUK Mini-Gig: Danny Schmidt

Life in lockdown has been strange and challenging in all sorts of ways.  For music lovers and musicians, the absence of live shows has been particularly hard.  We have been publishing regular mini-gigs to sustain that connection and today’s instalment comes from the Texan singer-songwriter, Danny Schmidt. Since his 1999 debut album, ‘Live at the Prism Coffee House’, Schmidt has been prolific. His tenth studio album, ‘Standard Deviation’, was released last year to critical acclaim. Continue reading “Exclusive AUK Mini-Gig: Danny Schmidt”

AUK’s Chain Gang: Mark Lanegan “Man in the Long Black Coat”

Last week’s Chain Gang piece explored a Bob Dylan song that was later covered on ‘I’m Not There’ OST  (Columbia, 2007) by The White Stripes. Naturally, I revisited this gem of a soundtrack and then had the hard task of picking just one track from it to show and tell. Mark Lanegan’s cover of ‘Man in the Long Black Coat‘ is such flawless Americana that even Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and The Black Keys covers have to wait their turn. Continue reading “AUK’s Chain Gang: Mark Lanegan “Man in the Long Black Coat””

Exclusive AUK Mini-Gig: Jack Marion

For the latest in our mini-gig series to help keep us sane in lockdown, we bring you a solo offering from Jack Marion of the titular Jack Marion and the Pearl Snap Prophets. The North Carolina based group’s debut album ‘When the Well Run Dry’ was warmly embraced here receiving an 8/10 earlier in the year. Today we present you with two songs from that album, ‘Old House’ and ‘Family Funeral’. Continue reading “Exclusive AUK Mini-Gig: Jack Marion”

Ten covers of Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe”

‘Ode to Billie Joe’ is a dark southern story, cinematic in its lyrics but remaining enigmatic. The story, tells of the preacher, Brother Talyor saying how he saw the song’s narrator up on Choctaw Ridge with Billy Joe, “Throwing something off the Tallahatchie Bridge”. The mystery remains of what that something might have been but in the words of, Bobbie Gentry: “The song is sort of a study in unconscious cruelty. But everybody seems more concerned with what was thrown off the bridge than they are with the thoughtlessness of the people expressed in the song. What was thrown off the bridge really isn’t that important”. Continue reading “Ten covers of Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe””

Pick of the Political Pops: Iron and Wine “Love Vigilantes”

Down here in The People’s Republic of Liverpudlia we are a fairly peaceful lot. At Americana-UK Towers we employ our own security staff but down in the village and the surrounding hamlets matters of policing the populace fall to the local constable handily named… err… Bob. Continue reading “Pick of the Political Pops: Iron and Wine “Love Vigilantes””