Cambridge Folk Festival, Cherry Hinton Hall, Cambridge, 1st-4th August 2019

Now in its 55th year, an impressive achievement in itself, Cambridge Folk Festival continues to go from strength to strength and this year’s event was one of the best. At the top of the bill there were a lot of heavy hitters and they all delivered. Lucinda Williams wiped away memories of her dreadful appearance a few years ago with an outstanding set that, while it wasn’t the complete airing of ‘Car Wheels On A Gravel Road’ that she’s been touring was nevertheless full-on, committed, and contained a lot of fan-pleasers.  Her backing trio Buick 6 was also outstanding, particularly Stuart Mathis on guitar.  Continue reading “Cambridge Folk Festival, Cherry Hinton Hall, Cambridge, 1st-4th August 2019”

The Rails, The Lexington, London, 31 July 2019

When folk royalty such as Richard Thompson venture into the adjoining pub before this sold out show, it tends to ramp up the pressure somewhat. It’s a challenge that his daughter, the prodigiously talented Kami Thompson and her husband,  James Walbourne, seem more than ready to meet, however, as they perform an excellent show, showcasing no fewer than eight of the ten songs from their forthcoming release, ‘Cancel the Sun’. Continue reading “The Rails, The Lexington, London, 31 July 2019”

Josh Ritter + Ida Mae, Union Chapel, London, 23rd July 2019

It was another warm evening for this second night of a two-night stand at London’s famed Union Chapel – the record-breaking temperatures of the day trailing off with a long tail. Under the stage lights, Josh Ritter, with his full band backing him, was showing the effect of the heat but held nothing back on a set which revisited some of his back catalogue but was also a great opportunity to hear the really strong new songs from his latest album ‘Fever Breaks’ live. It was a setlist with two themes – respecting the venue, there seemed to be many of Ritter’s songs which make use of religious, and specifically Christian, imagery with a second strand of concern for American democracy. Continue reading “Josh Ritter + Ida Mae, Union Chapel, London, 23rd July 2019”

Lucinda Williams, the Barbican, London, 27th July 2019

From today’s perspective it’s hard to underestimate the importance of Lucinda Williams’ ‘Car Wheels On A Gravel Road’ to the Americana genre. While its impact on release in 1998 wasn’t particularly apparent (it only reached 65 on the Billboard 200 chart), it was given a major boost through countless positive reviews which culminated in it winning a Grammy award for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Since then, it’s been understandably referred to as a seminal work, kickstarting the Americana movement, and is rightly considered as one of the best albums of the 1990s. On the 20th anniversary of its release Williams has been playing the album in its entirety and tonight it was London’s turn. Continue reading “Lucinda Williams, the Barbican, London, 27th July 2019”

Whitney Rose and Ags Connolly, The Lexington, London, 23rd July 2019

Ags Connolly and Whitney Rose may hail from Oxford and Canada, respectively, but they both share a spiritual home in Austin. For Ags it’s the place he relates most to musically, while for Whitney Rose it now represents home following her move from her native Prince Edward Island. While Ags Connolly and Whitney Rose may be at opposite ends of the musical alphabet they are both ruggedly independent acts who demonstrate tonight that they should be filed under the letter ‘C’ for classic country. Continue reading “Whitney Rose and Ags Connolly, The Lexington, London, 23rd July 2019”

The Local Honeys + Rachel Harrington, Sage 2, Gateshead, 20th July 2019

The Local Honeys are from Kentucky, and they make sure their audience know it, repeatedly. They are not just proud, they are bursting with it, and a gig with them is both a history and geography lesson as much as a musical event. The music itself is sublime, old-time Appalachian from a very thoughtful, traditional base. Linda Jean Stokley and Montana Hobbs are the duo that form The Local Honeys, tonight joined by Megan Gregory playing as a trio of banjo, acoustic and fiddle. Stokley and Hobbs were the first two women to graduate with bachelor’s degrees in traditional music from Morehead State University, Kentucky which perhaps explains the tuition nature of their act, but certainly establishes their exemplary musicianship. Continue reading “The Local Honeys + Rachel Harrington, Sage 2, Gateshead, 20th July 2019”

SummerTyne Americana Festival , Sage Gateshead, 19th – 21st July, 2019

Returning for its fourteenth year, one of the pioneers of the Americana festival scene continues its very relaxed mix of fun and music. When it started, the question was, “What is Americana?” but nowadays it is more,  “What isn’t Americana?” and certainly SummerTyne with its eclectic lineup suggests that if you have a vague connection to the U.S.A. and/or a stringed instrument, you are in. Indeed, the only form of Americana not found here is the more insurgent type, so you don’t expect the likes of Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson – SummerTyne does not go for edge. Continue reading “SummerTyne Americana Festival , Sage Gateshead, 19th – 21st July, 2019”

Static Roots Festival, Zentrum Altenberg, Oberhausen, Germany, 12-13th July 2019

It’s festival season for sure as hordes of music fans pack both wellies and sun cream as they head off for a weekend of unbridled fun. Be it the massive set up at Glastonbury or the rootsier confines of Maverick there’s plenty to choose from but for sheer unadulterated Americana joy then one need look no further than this unassuming spot in Germany’s Ruhr district, the small, post industrial town of Oberhausen, home to Static Roots. Now in its fourth year, Static Roots has grown from an initial invite only event to being sold out for the first time with several hundred fans gathered together in a converted zinc factory to see and hear 13 acts, most of them surely familiar to readers of AUK. There’s no corporate funding, no kowtowing to fashion, the line up purely a reflection of the festival’s director’s musical tastes  which are somewhat impeccable. Continue reading “Static Roots Festival, Zentrum Altenberg, Oberhausen, Germany, 12-13th July 2019”

Rock Island Line 65th Anniversary, Cadogan Hall, London, 13th July 2019

There’s no real reason why in the mid-1950s a form of music already more or less forgotten in its homeland should have got a revival in the UK. Yet the short-lived Skiffle craze – a wild blend of Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, country blues and folk – has a lot to answer for: out went the jazz bands and the piano-led ballads, the light music of a previous generation and in came a wild form of guitar-based folk music. And recycled American folk music at that. And it was Lonnie Donegan who kick-started it all with his recording of Rock Island Line on the 13th of July 1954 – exactly 65 years prior to this portmanteau concert. Continue reading “Rock Island Line 65th Anniversary, Cadogan Hall, London, 13th July 2019”

Cowboy Junkies, Trinity Centre, Bristol, 16th July 2019

Surprisingly, this was Cowboy Junkies first visit to Bristol. The Trinity Centre is a converted church with a capacity of 600 and was pretty much full on a warm evening. The Junkies music has toughened up in recent years, particularly live. This means that some older songs now have a harder edge. Opening with a set mostly taken from the new album ‘All That Reckoning’, the standout songs were ‘The Things We Do to Each Other’ and ‘Sing Me a Song’. Continue reading “Cowboy Junkies, Trinity Centre, Bristol, 16th July 2019”