How did bluegrass become the new sound of political protest across the US?

The Guardian ran a superb article over the weekend on a genre we don’t cover enough here on AUK –  bluegrass – partly because it appears to be the marmite of americana. The article focused on the genre’s recent gravitation towards activism: “Bluegrass has no history of protest music. Or rather, its protest has always been a passive, melancholic one, the sound of displaced workers longing for their home in the Blue Ridge Mountains far away. It is a music whose roots are bedded so deep in its nostalgic view of America that it can seem estranged from the modern world – and vice versa.” Continue reading “How did bluegrass become the new sound of political protest across the US?”

Pick of the Political Pops: Guided By Voices “Vote For Me Dummy”

Here at Americana-UK Towers we are nothing if not democrats (that’s a small ‘d’ for our American friends). Every year we hold an election to vote in our glorious leader and every year The Editor wins. We have no issue with this because (a) we have gone through the motions and (b) everybody gets to live – so that’s a winner for us. Continue reading “Pick of the Political Pops: Guided By Voices “Vote For Me Dummy””

Songs for the apocalypse: The Maureens “Caroline”

Forget everything you know about anyone called Maureen. Namely that woman from Driving School. ‘Bang the Drum’ is the name of the second album by Utrecht quartet The Maureens, and also what I’ve been doing since I heard this record back in 2015 which has in it echoes of everything you could want from a good album – they have a kind of very melodic jangle pop sound with hints of The Byrds or Teenage Fanclub, and in this track ‘Caroline’ the Beatles too (who are still obviously bigger than Jesus here in Liverpool, Ringo’s best efforts notwithstanding). The harmonies, the chord changes, the birdsong at the end – it’s three minutes and five seconds of perfection. If I ever have a daughter I will call her Caroline because of this song.

Pick of the Political Pops: Todd Rundgren “Fade Away”

There was a big political event this week but our mums always told us that if you ignore something – like an angry wasp or an embarrassing rash – it will go away eventually. So that’s what we’ve done. On the other hand we do have a column to submit so I can tell you that we guffawed heartily down in The Bunker on hearing the news that The TIGS or The CHUCKups or whatever they are calling themselves this week have splintered, fractured and likewise fallen apart. Continue reading “Pick of the Political Pops: Todd Rundgren “Fade Away””

Songs for the apocalypse: Witness “My Time Alone”

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.

AmericanA to Z – Sam Quinn

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”

Pick of the Political Pops: Patsy Cline “I Fall To Pieces”

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””

AmericanA to Z – Joe Pernice

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”

Songs for the apocalypse: Dar Williams “When Sal’s Burned Down”

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.

Pick of the Political Pops: Dan Hicks “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away”

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””