This week marks the fiftieth anniversary of The Stonewall Riots. Fifty years, mark you. “Stonewall”, for those who are unfamiliar with the term, refers to The Stonewall Inn in Greenwhich Village, New York. This was a place (by all accounts run by The Mafia) which catered to the (illegal at the time) ‘gay crowd’. To preface things you need to understand this: being gay was illegal, serving gays was illegal and pretty much anything ‘gay’ was illegal. This pivotal moment, whilst not being the beginning or the end of the gay struggle, marked a point at which the gay community decided to stand up and tell the world that they ‘just wouldn’t take this anymore’. In 1969 – easily within living memory for some of us. We could explain all of the story in more detail but we are minded that this BBC link says most of what we want to say.
It was about 10 years ago that I first came across Rhode Island’s Low Anthem in a soggy field (well, garden) in Wiltshire when they played one of their famous End of the Road performances, and like most of the music I love sobbed my way through most of the set. ‘To Ohio’ with its line about every new love being basically just a shadow is a classic example of everything that’s great about the band, and those harmonies you would kill for, let alone die.
David Rawlings is best known for his work with Gillian Welch, with whom he creates achingly beautiful and melancholy music. The couple were part of the Bluegrass Class of 2000 who suddenly found that they had mainstream appeal after the huge success of the Coen Brother’s ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?‘ At that point, Rawlings and Welch had already recorded two albums with legendary producer T Bone Burnett, who also produced the ‘O Brother…’ soundtrack. They weren’t exactly flying under the radar, but the impact on the Coen brothers film cannot be understated. The follow up documentary ‘Down From the Mountain,‘ followed the various artists involved in the soundtrack, including Rawlings and Welch, culminating in a concert at the Ryman in Nashville. This was wildly popular and paved the way for bluegrass-influenced bands like Nickel Creek to enjoy massive mainstream popularity in the early 00’s. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – David Rawlings”
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?”
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””
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.
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””
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””