Cambridge Folk Festival, Cherry Hinton Hall, Cambridge, 2nd-5th August 2018

While there are several “specialist” Americana festivals like Maverick and Ramblin’ Roots, for the Americana fan Cambridge Folk Festival has for many years always had much to offer.  It rightly prides itself on its eclecticism – both Joe Strummer and Nick Cave have played there in the past – and interpreting “folk” very broadly and this year was no different with Patti Smith, Songhoy Blues and St Paul & The Broken Bones all performing. Continue reading “Cambridge Folk Festival, Cherry Hinton Hall, Cambridge, 2nd-5th August 2018”

Anna Tivel & Jefferey Martin, The Green Note, London, 4th July 2018

Either one of these artists would be worth turning out for, even worth dragging into a heat soaked and sticky London evening, and wandering down the dust-blown streets of Camden Town. Yeah, even worth fighting with the recalcitrant and sauna like Northern Line. The first on stage, Anna Tivel, has been steadily building a reputation as simply one of the finest songwriters – her powerful songs, delicate of lyric, breathless of delivery are each perfect creations that can pull the listener up sharp. There are musings on the briefly observed lives of strangers, there are stories of broken hopeless loves, there’s self-destructive anger, there’s the final whispery tendrils of breath that close a life. Anna Tivel is not your everyday singer of boy meets girl under the silvery moon. Continue reading “Anna Tivel & Jefferey Martin, The Green Note, London, 4th July 2018”

Eileen Jewell + Michelle Stodart, The Lexington, London, 6th August 2018

The Lexington near Kings Cross in North London has great appeal in the current heat wave as it has one of the best air conditioning systems on the London gig circuit and it proved its worth tonight as we were treated to an expansive set from Eileen Jewell and her slick band delivering some 25 songs during an almost two hour set. A Boise, Idaho native Jewell has absorbed and interpreted a wide range of influences and she darted across various styles tonight with a mid-set blues-focussed section to promote her latest album ‘Down Hearted Blues’ with her well established and highly accomplished soulful crew of Jerry Miller on electric guitar, Shawn Supra on upright bass and bass guitar and drummer Jason Beek. Continue reading “Eileen Jewell + Michelle Stodart, The Lexington, London, 6th August 2018”

Steve Earle and the Dukes, The Mastersons, The Barbican, London, 29th July 2018

Steve Earle has, as two of the Dukes, lead guitarist Chris Masterson and multi-instrumentalist Eleanor Whitmore. Husband and wife, they record and perform as a duo as The Mastersons and they are the opening act on this evening at The Barbican. Their music is predominantly made up of crystal clear vocals, Chris Masterson’s exemplary guitar and the achingly beautiful violin playing of Eleanor Whitmore. They also have a new album – ‘Transient Lullaby’ – out, a follow up to their debut ‘Birds Fly South‘, the title song of both make up parts of the set. Continue reading “Steve Earle and the Dukes, The Mastersons, The Barbican, London, 29th July 2018”

John Moreland + John Calvin Abney, Jazz Cafe London, 31st July 2018

Weighty is a good word for John Moreland and that’s no sly childish quip on a guy carrying more than quite a few pounds. Such is his vocal delivery, gritty song writing and overall demeanour that everything on tonight’s Jazz Cafe stage came with a sorrowful and hefty gravitas. Perhaps the only piece of comedy of the night was the board outside advertising him as ‘Blues Guitarist John Moreland’. Well, he does play guitar and he certainly has the inner blues, so then again. Continue reading “John Moreland + John Calvin Abney, Jazz Cafe London, 31st July 2018”

Southern Fried Festival, Perth, Scotland, 26-29th July 2018

Eleven years old this year Southern Fried continues to occupy its position as the best Americana and roots music festival in Scotland and perhaps the best of its kind in the UK (although there are three contenders who might challenge that assumption). The festival doesn’t rest on its laurels however and this year saw its headline shows expanded to include the Thursday night while there was the welcome return of the renovated Perth Theatre to the roster of venues as it hosted ticketed and free events. What doesn’t change however is the mixture of world famous acts, the cream of international and UK roots music and a generous helping of more local musicians all adding up to four days of joyous music concentrated within the centre of one of Scotland’s most beautiful cities. Continue reading “Southern Fried Festival, Perth, Scotland, 26-29th July 2018”

Ethan Johns and The Black Eyed Dogs, Servant Jazz Quarters, London, 30th July 2018

“I hate name droppers,” Ethan Johns announces early in his set before recounting a session in which he got to record with some of the most famous names in rock music. It’s a conceit for which it’s easy to forgive him though. As record producer, mixer, engineer and session musician he’s played with them all – Emmylou Harris, Ryan Adams, Paul McCartney, Tom Jones…. the list goes on. So I guess it’s hard not to mention a superstar or two if you’re enquiring as to how his week was. Tonight, however, he’s mostly performing his own compositions with his band, The Black Eyed Dogs, on the last of a three night residency at the Servant Jazz Quarters in a side road just off the main Dalston strip. Continue reading “Ethan Johns and The Black Eyed Dogs, Servant Jazz Quarters, London, 30th July 2018”

Jason McNiff + Toni Montserrat, The Harrison, London, 27th July 2018

To the very compact basement bar of The Harrison in Kings Cross for the official launch gig of Jason McNiff’s latest album ‘Joy and Independence’. He’s now on the splendidly-rostered At The Helm records and so we have a Bradford man living in London with his label management in Brighton so who needs Nashville? Hailed as “a superior singer/songwriter” by  the erudite and well-respected USA magazine No Depression and 4-starred by the UK’s Mojo, McNiff states with some pride that this, his sixth album, is the first time he’s had the confidence to work with just an acoustic guitar and his voice. He says he framed the songs as “a homage to a golden era of the coffee house Troubadour”,  albeit on this sultry Friday night we had replaced coffee with craft ale.  Continue reading “Jason McNiff + Toni Montserrat, The Harrison, London, 27th July 2018”

Charley Crockett, The Borderline, London, 24th July 2018

“What’s going on London? It’s time to boogie woogie.” And we’re off and running. Charley Crockett and his band The Blue Drifters are currently undertaking their first headline tour of the UK, and very much surfing on the wave of a live TV performance on the Andrew Marr show the previous Sunday. A  native of South Texas, Charley Crockett performs music which has its roots in the lone star state and Louisiana – what he describes as, “Gulf Coast Boogie Woogie.” Without wanting to further confuse the issue, he promises us, tongue in cheek, to deliver two other kinds of music tonight: “the honk and the tonk.” Continue reading “Charley Crockett, The Borderline, London, 24th July 2018”

Hannah Aldridge + Guests, The Lexington, London, 23rd July 2018

 

Hannah Aldridge has certainly put in the spade work where touring Europe in the recent past is concerned. She finished her current UK tour in London with a live album recording before heading for two nights in Sweden prior to returning home so she can focus on playing shows in the US and take a much needed step back from the music industry. Tonight she curated an event in which some of her favourite musical friends were encouraged to perform and record alongside her. Continue reading “Hannah Aldridge + Guests, The Lexington, London, 23rd July 2018”