Alela Diane + Olivia Chaney, Union Chapel, Islington, London, 12 April 2018

Alela Diane’s set on her UK tour’s opening night draws largely from her latest piano-based album ‘Cusp’ along with songs from her 2009 gem, ‘To Be Still’.  The Union Chapel, a functioning church in the heart of Islington, is a perfect setting for the quality of her work performed tonight in a trio format with Diane accompanied by gifted and polished multi instrumentation from Mirabei Peart and Heather Woods Broderick. They cover piano, flute and oboe, percussion and particularly violin and upright bass. They also provide wonderfully haunting echoic background vocals to counterpoise Diane’s dazzling singing. Continue reading “Alela Diane + Olivia Chaney, Union Chapel, Islington, London, 12 April 2018”

The Sheepdogs, The Lexington, London, 11th April 2018

A place of which it was once said: “Saskatoon’s got nothing but hookers and hockey players,” the northern Canadian outpost of only around 300,000 denizens is now shaking off any past negative associations with a seemingly unstoppable array of creative musical talent emerging from the city, whether that be The Deep Dark Woods, Colter Wall, One Band Son, Kacy and Clayton, or tonight’s headline act, The Sheepdogs. The only unsigned band to ever feature on the front cover of Rolling Stone magazine, The Sheepdogs were also Battle of The Band winners back in 2011 as self-described specialists in “melody, harmony, guitar solos and general feel-goodery.” Continue reading “The Sheepdogs, The Lexington, London, 11th April 2018”

Tom Paxton and The Don Juans, The Stables, Wavendon 15th April 2018

Tom Paxton turned eighty last October, and he has toured the UK for more than fifty of those years. This latest tour see’s him supported by The DonJuans (Don Henry and Jon Vezner) who both warm up the show with a few songs of their own and then play along with Tom throughout two excellent sets, adding a musical depth to the evening with additional guitars and uke’s as well as keyboards and harmonised vocals. They may be dressed like a pair of Steampunk Live Role Players, but The DonJuans’ four song opening set rarely strayed from the wistful and melodic, very much with a Seventies folk-country feel to them – not unlike a quieter Seals & Crofts. Continue reading “Tom Paxton and The Don Juans, The Stables, Wavendon 15th April 2018”

Oka Vanga, Green Note, London, 26th March 2018

The Green Note in Camden Town is always a pleasure to step inside. It’s one of those venues where the acts are chosen on the grounds of their pedigree and the atmosphere is always friendly. Tonight was no exception and while the audience settled in with bottled porter and locally made carrot cake, up stepped Oka Vanga to the stage. They were returning to familiar territory in a venue which helped launch their career and to where they find themselves drawn back like moths to the flame. Continue reading “Oka Vanga, Green Note, London, 26th March 2018”

Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats + Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, 02 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 12th April 2018

Nathaniel Rateliff managed a remarkable feat for an artist whose name is not part of the musical mainstream. He sold out 3 nights at Shepherd’s Bush, which means 6000 people turned up to watch what surely must have been one of the best run of gigs held there for a long time. Rateliff was supported by long term Gospel Americana band Slim Cessna’s Auto Club who enthusiastically warmed up the crowd with a lively set which featured seven band members including pedal steel guitar, saxophone, bass and drums as well as three guitarists.  Slim himself was a tall and rangy figure sporting a full 10 gallon hat and was very comfortable on stage.  He knew just what to do to get everyone into a party mood and it was lovely to see Rateliff himself join them for their invigorating finale. Continue reading “Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats + Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, 02 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 12th April 2018”

The Lowest Pair + John Alexander, The Fallen Angels Club @ The Admiral Bar, Glasgow, 5th April 2018

It was Greil Marcus who coined the phrase, “old weird America” in his book, Invisible Republic, when discussing Dylan’s touchstone, the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk music, describing the songs therein as, “palavers with a community of ghosts”. There was an element of this musical version of a séance when The Lowest Pair (Kendl Winter from Washington State and Palmer T. Lee from Minneapolis) descended on the Fallen Angels Club for a banjo infused evening (although acoustic guitars were also brandished). The pair both have string band backgrounds but as a duo have concentrated on the banjo studying clawhammer and three finger techniques while also delving into American roots music. The band name is a nod to a John Hartford song, Hartford being one of their banjo heroes and like him they inject their old time music with a great deal of their own personalities. Continue reading “The Lowest Pair + John Alexander, The Fallen Angels Club @ The Admiral Bar, Glasgow, 5th April 2018”

Dean Owens, The Betsey Trotwood, Clerkenwell, 3rd April 2018

Originally launched at the Celtic Connections music festival in Glasgow back in February, Dean Owens’ new album, ‘Southern Wind’ has been described as “blowing up a storm” ever since. Unlike the launch night at Celtic Connections where Owens was backed by the Whisky Hearts, tonight’s performance at the Betsey Trotwood in London’s Clerkenwell is a more sedate and intimate affair, Dean more than ably accompanied by Jim Maving on guitar. Continue reading “Dean Owens, The Betsey Trotwood, Clerkenwell, 3rd April 2018”

South By Southwest Festival 2018, Austin, Texas

The annual jamboree that is Austin’s South by Southwest Festival plows on with over two thousand artists descending on the town for a week long binge and that’s just the music. With film, gaming and politics all well served alongside a bewildering variety of showcases from well known acts to those just starting out on the ladder to possible success it’s  entirely possible to be overwhelmed by the almost endless choices on offer. However duty calls and here’s the results of our search for those highlights which sit comfortably in the AUK canon. Continue reading “South By Southwest Festival 2018, Austin, Texas”

Jonathan Wilson, Omeara, London, 19th March 2018

Omeara is a fairly new venue south of the river, not very far south, and in quite a hip area with a sizeable presence of pubs and cafes close by. Inside the performance space is bijou, with a capacity of around 350, and it’s well laid out with several slightly different levels ensuring pretty good sightlines. The decor is tastefully distressed – with the fresh paint work carefully replicating paintwork that has been scuffed up by the years of punters that have yet to pass through the doors. Continue reading “Jonathan Wilson, Omeara, London, 19th March 2018”

Bennett Wilson Poole, Betsey Trotwood, London, 22nd March 2018

Much has been written about “the power of three.” Apparently it’s something to do with the evolution of the brain and how much easier it is for humans to grasp the concept of ‘threes.’  This notion certainly endures in storytelling, whether it’s in The Three Musketeers, The Three Amigos, or The Three Stooges. Whilst there’s nothing slapstick about the Americana supergroup, Bennett Wilson Poole, there’s still plenty of between song humour and bonhomie with this trio,who are debuting their eponymous album over three nights (coincidence?) at the Betsey Trotwood. Indeed, there are times during the evening when the band appear to be having the time of their lives, riffing off each in humorous as well as musical ways. This magical collaboration have all made significant individual contributions to the UK Americana scene for a long time now – Danny Wilson in Grand Drive and the Champions of the World, Robin Bennett in the Dreaming Spires, Goldrush, and St. Etienne, while Tony Poole, producer supremo, used to play in the critically acclaimed but short-lived band, Starry Eyed & Laughing. Continue reading “Bennett Wilson Poole, Betsey Trotwood, London, 22nd March 2018”