Broken Witt Rebels, Nell’s Jazz and Blues Club, London, 1st December 2018

Westwards, to Nell’s Jazz and Blues Club in West Kensington, which keeps the relatively underserved West side of Central London on the gigging venue roster. It’s a low-key sort of street entrance but inside the venue opens out to around 250 capacity and is encouragingly full and bustling as Broken Witt Rebels take to the stage. They have a good local following too and BWR T-shirts are peppered around the venue by the diehards. Continue reading “Broken Witt Rebels, Nell’s Jazz and Blues Club, London, 1st December 2018”

Israel Nash + Treetop Flyers + Brent Cowles, Scala, London, 22nd November 2018

Israel Nash proved tonight that not only can he rock out with the best of them, but his big musical sound also draws from the desert folklore of that part of Dripping Springs in Texas where he currently resides that’s the inspiration for so much of his muse nowadays. Opening with ‘Rolling On,’ the first track from latest album, ‘Lifted,’ its appeal is as immediate as it is on the record – the swell of pedal steel growing throughout this singalong number, its warm harmony vocals leading to a stirring climax. It’s towards the end of this song that you realise why Israel Nash has been receiving glowing praise on this tour – the band immediately locking onto a groove that demonstrates the harmony at the heart of this outfit. Continue reading “Israel Nash + Treetop Flyers + Brent Cowles, Scala, London, 22nd November 2018”

Dan Stuart + Tom Heyman, The Fallen Angels Club @ The Hug & Pint, Glasgow, Sunday 25th November 2018

It was gratifying to see a good-sized crowd gather tonight in the Stygian gloom of The Hug & Pint, a place our headliner liked to an SF dive joint from the seventies, “Probably called something like The Manhole,” he quipped as he peered from the stage trying to see the audience at the start of the show. Some might argue that a dive bar is the best place to see Stuart as he still has a sneering punk quality and anti establishment attitude which would not sit well in a well upholstered swish venue and I’d say that tonight’s show was probably the best he’s put on in his recent visits to Glasgow. Continue reading “Dan Stuart + Tom Heyman, The Fallen Angels Club @ The Hug & Pint, Glasgow, Sunday 25th November 2018”

The Decemberists, Hammersmith Odeon, London, 7th November 2018

Under a backdrop dominated by a giant mad-eyed grinning skull The Decemberists returned to the UK, still a little jet-lagged despite landing four days earlier, but determined anyway, to do their very best. This tour has the most recent album ‘I’ll Be Your Girl‘ behind it, and the set list would reflect this but we were also promised the songs that had shaped our lives. And when Colin Meloy makes you a promise you can take that to the bank. Continue reading “The Decemberists, Hammersmith Odeon, London, 7th November 2018”

Juanita Stein, Iambic Bar, London, 23rd November 2018

 

The Iambic Bar is a new “space” at the Courtyard Theatre in Hackney, consisting of a basement bar and an adjacent performance space. When the doors open there are, at first, just a handful of punters – a fact that is disguised somewhat when the smoke machine is turned on well in advance of the appearance of the support band. The dense smoke rolls out like the unclean miasmal fog rising off the imagined swamps around the decrepit motel depicted on Juanita Stein’s stage backdrop. Continue reading “Juanita Stein, Iambic Bar, London, 23rd November 2018”

Tuomo and Markus, The Borderline, London, 12th November 2018

When offered the opportunity to hear Finnish musicians Tuomo & Markus and their band in the intimate surroundings of Soho’s Borderline club it seems plain stupid not to turn up, if only out of curiosity – the phenomenon this legendary basement has long traded upon. The fact that Tuomo Prättälä and longtime collaborator Markus Nordenstreng (of Finnish band The Latebirds) are joined by Nordic jazz trumpet superstar Verneri Pohjola means it doesn’t take long before the surreality of finding yourself in this subterranean netherworld on a Monday evening begins to seem perfectly normal. And why wouldn’t it when the finely honed ‘Over the Rooftops’ immediately takes you elsewhere – a uniquely Nordic vision of Americana. Insistently repetitive guitars emulate migratory flight, a voyage across the wide-open spaces of the American continent and the forests and ice of Finland. A trajectory determined by the song writing sensibilities of Markus combined with the gentle artistry of Tuomo. Continue reading “Tuomo and Markus, The Borderline, London, 12th November 2018”

J.P. Harris and the Tough Choices + The Miss Tess Duo, Omeara, London 16th November 2018

J.P. Harris, out of Montgomery, Alabama, regards himself as a carpenter first and a singer-songwriter second. That probably speaks to the precariousness of the music business nowadays, but on the conclusion of his set at Omeara tonight what gave most pause is the realisation that he’s a true craftsman in all the best senses of the term. Continue reading “J.P. Harris and the Tough Choices + The Miss Tess Duo, Omeara, London 16th November 2018”

Trampled By Turtles + Ferris & Sylvester, London Electric Ballroom, Friday 16th November

Minnesota-based six piece Trampled By Turtles may be best known in the US, but their quirky take on bluegrass is spreading further afield, and spreading fast. At least, they’ve filled the not inconsiderable space of the Electric Ballroom for this show as part of the London Roots Festival with apparent ease. Appearing on stage at the unusually early hour of 8:15pm, it’s immediately clear that they’re already a finely honed machine, as well rehearsed as a Special Forces unit about going into battle.  Set up side by side at the very front of the stage, the sound of mandolin, violin, banjo, guitar, acoustic bass and double bass all blend into one seamless, momentum-filled force of nature. Continue reading “Trampled By Turtles + Ferris & Sylvester, London Electric Ballroom, Friday 16th November”

Cam Penner and Jon Wood, The Green Note, London, 14th November 2018

Cam Penner and Jon Wood have been making music together for 13 years and over that time they’ve honed that most important of things – a distinctive sound. And a friendship – that’s important too. Cam Penner is the alternatively gruff voiced and high note hitting songwriter, switching between a variety of guitars and a concert ukulele whilst also adding drums and atmospheric samples. And Jon Wood is the quiet guitar maestro sitting throughout the gig and playing with a steely intensity of his own – occasionally switching things up with lap steel which he plays with a precision that makes for a haunting sound when given a subtle echo effect. Together they are unstoppable. Continue reading “Cam Penner and Jon Wood, The Green Note, London, 14th November 2018”

AmericanaFest UK 2019 Launch Event, The Borderline, London, 7th November 2018

It was almost like being at the Oscars as The Americana Music Association UK (AMAUK) unveiled their list of nominees for the forthcoming UK Americana Awards 2019 which will unfold at January’s AmericanFest UK. Stevie Freeman, CEO of AMA-UK, kicked the evening off with a short speech which was essentially optimistic regarding the state of Americana music here in the UK. Membership of AMAUK has risen and, due to the success of the previous festivals, the 2019 AmericanaFest UK will run for three days in its fourth year instead of the previous two-day format. There will be the two-day conference with a keynote speech from Rhiannon Giddens along with shows featuring 48 artists at various venues (up from 10 in the first year),  culminating in the prestigious UK Americana Awards at Hackney Empire. Stevie’s passion for the music, musicians and supporters shone through during her presentation. Continue reading “AmericanaFest UK 2019 Launch Event, The Borderline, London, 7th November 2018”