Songs for the apocalypse: Bernard Fanning “Songbird”

16 years ago I returned to Sydney for a holiday, a place where I lived as a child for a short time, and was dismayed to find that all the artists I loved first time around – Paul Kelly, Midnight Oil, Painters and Dockers – were shunted back to the dark corners of the HMV on Pitt Street, but one record caught my ears on a listening post and it’s stayed wedged in my brain ever since. Bernard Fanning was the lead vocalist of Queensland alternative rock band Powderfinger but his debut solo album ‘Tea and Sympathy’ was his first foray into a more americana/folky bent. As my colleague Paul Villers attested to in his column last month, the whole album is superb but this stands out as my personal highlight and actually won an Australia recording industry award for Most Performed Blues & Roots Work. Just listen to that fiddle at 1.30 and tell me there’s a better break than that in a 3-minute pop song.

Classic Americana Albums: Gene Clark “No Other” (Asylum, 1974)

Missouri born Gene Clark’s epitaph beautifully reads: ‘No Other’, the title of his 1974 magnum opus. It would be fair to say that fortune was not kind to Clark, his early demise at the age of 46 hastened by alcohol and drug dependency. In his few short years as a member of the legendary Byrds he wrote the glorious, ‘I’ll Feel A Whole Better’ and co-wrote the proto-psychedelic, ‘Eight Miles High’. Much has been made of the fact that it was a fear of flying that influenced him to leave the group at the height of their fame, though it is also true that Clark was a restless soul wanting to explore new directions through his own unique voice and vision.  Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Gene Clark “No Other” (Asylum, 1974)”

AmericanA to Z: Steve Earle

Steve Earle was a tough choice for this slot. On the one hand, what can you write about him that has not already been well documented? On the other hand, how can you omit one of its prime movers from an A-Z of Americana? To try and get a different perspective on the man, I’ve decided to write from a  personal perspective; me and Steve Earle if you like. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z: Steve Earle”

Exclusive AUK Mini-Gig: Emma Stevens

As we tentatively approach the slow lifting of lockdown and bringing a refreshing glimmer of hope and an abundance of heart and positivity, British singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Emma Stevens’ music breathes life and honesty. Continue reading “Exclusive AUK Mini-Gig: Emma Stevens”

Classic Americana Albums: Gregg Allman “Laid Back” (Capricorn/Polydor, 1973)

A friend once offered me the thought that music, as with all art, could and should offer the listener the opportunity to experience the depths as well as the heights of feeling. He suggested two examples, ‘Berlin’, by Lou Reed, and, ‘Laid Back’, by Gregg Allman. I’m not intending to review, ‘Berlin’The thing about perceived emotional content is that one man’s meat is almost bound to be another’s poison. Often it seems to relate to nothing more than the faces that are pulled or the amount of sweat generated. But then why do we swear that A is all soulful connection and intent whilst B is lightweight and lacking any emotional depth, based solely on the sound that comes out of their mouths? Why are we seduced into thinking that guitarists that play at one end of the neck are more ‘emotional’ and ‘heartfelt’ than someone at the other? Any answers are very welcome.    Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Gregg Allman “Laid Back” (Capricorn/Polydor, 1973)”

AUK’s Chain Gang: Guy Clark “Instant Coffee Blues”

Last week’s Chain Gang entry ‘Such Great Heights‘ by Iron and Wine leads me to a song featuring, alongside coffee to deal with its after-effects, the aforementioned wine. Guy Clark’s ‘Instant Coffee Blues‘ features on his 1975 album ‘Old No. 1‘, and is a classic song in the storytelling realm, as it takes us through a casual one night encounter, Clark singing in the first verse “And she took him home for reasons that she did not understand/And him, he had the answers but did not play his hand/For him he knew the taste of this wine very well/It all goes down so easily but the next day is hell.” Continue reading “AUK’s Chain Gang: Guy Clark “Instant Coffee Blues””

“What Is This Americana Thing Anyway…?” – Jonathan Aird

Our popular feature in which the your humble writers spill the beans on their influences, musical roots and record buying habits is back. This week Deputy Editor and man who is averse to foppish hair and synthesisers  Jonathan Aird tells us what he does like instead: Continue reading ““What Is This Americana Thing Anyway…?” – Jonathan Aird”

Pick of the Political Pops: Robbie Robertson “Breaking The Rules”

We are all good at Americana-UK Towers. The weather has been nice, none of the writers have (recently) slaughtered each other during the night in our communal dormitory and we discovered that our favourite chi-chi little delicatessen is resuming doorstep delivery of our go-to late-night snack of jalapeno flavoured houmous (with a special offer of a free sun-dried tomato side dish drenched in toad urine and tossed in a bag of hand sanitiser). For a very reasonable twenty quid extra Stefanatiti, the Ukrainian-Columbian delivery driver, will even wear full PPE when he drops it off. Continue reading “Pick of the Political Pops: Robbie Robertson “Breaking The Rules””

AUK’s top 10 Americana albums ever: Martin Johnson

At AUK we are on a quest to find the ‘Top 10 Americana Albums Ever’. Over the coming weeks and months each AUK writer will in turn, present their own personal selections. When each writer has had their say, a shortlist of the most frequently chosen albums will be drawn up and voted on, in order to generate the definitive AUK writers top ten. Continue reading “AUK’s top 10 Americana albums ever: Martin Johnson”

Home Life: Michael Weston King

For nigh on thirty years UK singer-songwriter Michael Weston King has been forging himself a well-respected lofty position on the roots scene with his solo work, the now defunct country rockers The Good Sons, and most recently alongside his musical and life partner Lou Dalgleish in My Darling Clementine. Drawing inspiration from the classic Texan songwriters of the 70’s alongside the honky-tonk bravado of the likes of  George and Tammy, King has managed to fuse a love of country music, both idealogical and conceptual, with a deep sense of political angst to produce albums that always deserve full attention. Most recently My Darling Clementine have teamed up with Steve Nieve to produce  a number of four-track EP’s dedicated to the work of Elvis Costello called ‘Country Darkness‘ the second of which is released on June 5th.  Americana-UK spoke to the midlands based songwriter and asked how things are panning out right now for usually noticeably active performer. Continue reading “Home Life: Michael Weston King”