Billy Bragg, Islington Assembly Hall, London, 7th November 2017

A rainy night in Islington is the setting for this second appearance by Billy Bragg at the elegant Assembly Hall. This has been billed as the Bridges Not Walls Tour – and there’s a new EP of the same name with a set of commentaries on today’s political situation. It’s a delayed reaction to Brexit and the election of Trump. Delayed, as Billy Bragg ruefully acknowledges, because whilst the world was being turned upside down he was out on tour singing songs about trains with a more and more depressed Joe Henry, and thinking long and hard about skiffle for his recent book. Continue reading “Billy Bragg, Islington Assembly Hall, London, 7th November 2017”

Blue Rose Code + Roseanne Reid, The Queens Hall, Edinburgh, 3rd November 2017

When you hear another member of the audience say, “This was like Van Morrison’s Caledonia Soul Orchestra,” on the way out, and you don’t think it’s hyperbole, then you’ve been to a rather special show. Similarities with Morrison abound when one hears and sees Blue Rose Code, the band name for Ross Wilson’s endeavours. There’s the Celtic soul, the blend of folk, jazz and rock that infuses the music and then there’s Wilson’s voice. He doesn’t sound like Morrison but he has a similar way of rolling with the flow, almost scatting at times while his soft brogue has improved to the extent that he has recently been nominated Scots Singer of the Year in the Scots Trad Music Awards 2017 Continue reading “Blue Rose Code + Roseanne Reid, The Queens Hall, Edinburgh, 3rd November 2017”

Brandy Clark + Jim Lauderdale, Sage, Gateshead, 30th October 2017

Like fellow country singer-songwriters Angaleena Presley and Kacy Musgrave, Brandy Clark has a wonderful, at times sassy, sense of humour. She starts off a little serious, a little dark, but still okay, but then around the fourth song she lets her mask drop. It must be those official photographers; it wasn’t until after the first three songs allowed for stage photos had elapsed did a genuine smile truly emerge from the raven-haired Washington born act. Her humorous wit has become both a staple diet of her shows and the kind that incite her audience to voice their approval. Some no doubt able to relate all too well to her lyrics, while others, were just happy to hear someone voice a feminist viewpoint. Continue reading “Brandy Clark + Jim Lauderdale, Sage, Gateshead, 30th October 2017”

CC Smugglers + All Our Exes Live In Texas, The Cookie, Leicester, 4 November 2017

Although it was a Saturday and therefore de facto Bonfire Night a good-sized crowd piled into the basement of the Cookie and were rewarded with an outstanding evening.  Despite their name openers All Our Exes Live In Texas are from Sydney, Australia and are a delightful blend of folk and Americana.  The female four piece deliver gorgeous harmonies and some great songs while not taking themselves too seriously, happy to laugh at the odd on-stage fluffing of chords or telling of pointless stories.  They clearly enjoy themselves and the crowd respond to them.  Hopefully this won’t be their last visit to either Leicester or the UK. Continue reading “CC Smugglers + All Our Exes Live In Texas, The Cookie, Leicester, 4 November 2017”

Slaid Cleaves, Hitchin Folk Club, Hitchin, 8th October 2017

A welcome return of the American troubadour to the Hitchin Folk Club for the last night of his UK tour – although he still had several weeks in Europe and the USA to go before he finally headed for home. On this excursion Cleaves was accompanied on electric guitar by M.C. Hanson of Danish band The Sentimentals, whose list of collaborators reads like an Americana Who’s Who.  Slaid Cleaves has a new album – the excellent Ghost on the Car Radio – to promote, but he opened the first half of the gig with what amounted to a greatest hits set. Continue reading “Slaid Cleaves, Hitchin Folk Club, Hitchin, 8th October 2017”

Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit, Albert Hall, Manchester, 25th October 2017

The resplendent setting of a former Methodist hall in central Manchester was a suitable venue to welcome Jason Isbell back to these shores and an expectant congregation of devotees were not disappointed by an evening that showcased perfectly the strengths of one of America’s finest artists and his excellent band. Continue reading “Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit, Albert Hall, Manchester, 25th October 2017”

Jesse Dayton +James Edwyn & The Borrowed Band, Stereo, Glasgow, Wednesday 25th October 2017

“It might get loud in here,” Jesse Dayton’s opening words on arriving on stage for this hotly anticipated gig. He wasn’t kidding. From the moment he and his two sidekicks slammed into Daddy Was A Badass, the bass drum was thumping in my chest while Dayton’s guitar was a direct attack on the eardrums, a cracking start to one of the most energetic shows of the year so far.  Holy Ghost Rock’N’Roller followed in similar hi octane fashion, a distorted wall of sound blasting from the stage before the band paused for Jesse to say hello to the crowd, greeting some old friends and their old T-shirts. The Way We Are then lurched into sight, its outlaw country beat loping along with Dayton’s guitar squawking like a chicken at times. Continue reading “Jesse Dayton +James Edwyn & The Borrowed Band, Stereo, Glasgow, Wednesday 25th October 2017”

Dweezil Zappa, Royal Festival Hall, London, 10th October 2017

Dweezil Zappa could just be the finest current example of a chip off the old block in the world of rock and jazz. Not that there’s anything wrong in the slightest with tribute bands, but Dweezil playing his Dad’s inventive music is in a different class entirely. He seems almost to channel Frank’s guitar and yet also has a style all his own, albeit one that draws on and takes inspiration from his musical heritage. ‬ Continue reading “Dweezil Zappa, Royal Festival Hall, London, 10th October 2017”

Glasgow Americana Festival, 4th – 8th October 2017

Now in its 11th year, Glasgow Americana brightened up the dark nights coming in as we prepare for winter. Over five days the festival provided a strong set of concerts which showcased some of the brightest talents from the Scottish roots scene along with the usual complement of visiting stars. Altogether over 20 acts appeared at several venues across the city with many of the shows selling out, the venues including converted churches, a brewery, tiny pub back rooms and, according to Michael Weston King of My Darling Clementine, a squash court. As often happens when such a lot of music is squeezed into such a tight time line there were clashes meaning your correspondent had to forego some shows however online comments and actual chat with those who had gone to those shows beamed back with positive smiles and thumbs up. There was a fine mix of standard gigs featuring a headliner along with a couple of portmanteau shows offering a range of acts playing shorter sets. Continue reading “Glasgow Americana Festival, 4th – 8th October 2017”

The Glass Mountains, Folk Modern – Upstairs at the Ritzy, Brixton, 5th October 2017

“If life were a hotel, then I’d be checking out right now,” sings young frontman Owen Davies. A little extreme for a 25 year old maybe, but All kinds of Trouble, written by one of the more senior members of the band, is delivered with credible sincerity by Davies. The Glass Mountains are slightly incongruous in this folk club atop the Brixton branch of the Picturehouse boutique cinema chain. It’s Americana-UK’s first trip to the club and I imagine that the band’s Stetsons and denim shirts are not de-rigueur for this monthly showcase. Continue reading “The Glass Mountains, Folk Modern – Upstairs at the Ritzy, Brixton, 5th October 2017”