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”

Seasick Steve, Cambridge Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 9th November 2018

It’s a packed out Corn Exchange for the first night of Seasick Steve’s first UK tour since 2015. Much has changed since his famous Hootenanny breakthrough moment, not least that the audience is now predominantly middle-aged and male. The accrual of this particular loyal army of fans is, perhaps, one of the stranger parts of the Seasick Steve experience – especially considering that he first sailed into town on the same wave that had brought us the White Stripes and the whole Jack White (with whom Seasick Steve has recorded) ethos of back to musical basics. It is what it is though, and perhaps not so surprising as tales of the hoboing life have given way to songs about cars, women in the sunshine and…tractors. Continue reading “Seasick Steve, Cambridge Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 9th November 2018”

Darlingside + Wildwood Kin, Shepherds Bush Empire, 1st November 2018

Only the occasional faint clanging of the bar can be overheard whilst Darlingside play. The audience are fittingly pin drop silent to embrace all the intricacies the band offer. Huddled up shoulder tight to harmonize around a single vintage condenser microphone, the result is quite magnificent. Over the course of the evening, banjos, fiddles and upright bass are swapped by this multi instrumentalist Boston four piece and whilst that all may sound – so far – so bluegrass – this they are not. As evidence there’s the second song of the night, ‘Eschalton’, aided by loops and notes via a small keyboard sequencer plus some Peter Hook like Rickenbacker bass riffs. There’s more than a sprinkling in the set of their 2018 LP ‘Extralife’. A perhaps more brooding affair than previous releases which they explain as some of the album being written whilst on recent UK visits as they were looking back toward their homeland. “It’s over now, the flag is sunk, the world has flattened out” they sing on ‘Extralife’. Then there’s “Tomorrow’s beginning to take, an equal and opposite shape” from ‘Orion,’ performed whilst a simple spinning mirror ball works a perfect sky gazing ambience. For the stillness of ‘Hold Your Head Up High’ even the dry ice appears to hang onstage without movement. Continue reading “Darlingside + Wildwood Kin, Shepherds Bush Empire, 1st November 2018”

The Sheepdogs, The Borderline, London, November 5th 2018

When The Borderline is full, you really know it and it’s full tonight and even in its new and shiny configuration it’s as hot and sweaty as it ever was.  Even the support, the psych-rock three piece The Good Water, had a good crowd as they rattled through a set of cryptically worded songs and extended jams – powerhouse drumming, lively keyboards and blistering guitar through a thousand pedals and boxes.  Ear shatteringly loud they were an excellent opener for The Sheepdogs. Continue reading “The Sheepdogs, The Borderline, London, November 5th 2018”

American Aquarium + Anthony D’Amato, The Louisiana, Bristol, 30th October 2018

Last time Anthony D’Amato toured he was supporting Ziggy Marley as a last minute addition. Winning over a crowd cheering “Ziggy, Ziggy” and expecting the dreadlocked man to walk on stage was not easy. Tonight, however, it’s a whole different ballgame. D’Amato was on the bill this time to open for American Aquarium, so the small Bristol crowd that has shown up early and gathered in the stuffy upstairs room of the Louisiana is here to listen to him. Straight from the first note, D’Amato gets the audience on his side. It’s with full energy and enthusiasm – contrasting with his pessimistic lyrics – that he performs his songs, accompanied by dynamic guitar strums and frenetic harmonica solos. Continue reading “American Aquarium + Anthony D’Amato, The Louisiana, Bristol, 30th October 2018”

Starry Skies, Bungalow Bar Paisley, 25th October 2018

On a recent Thursday night a couple sat on two stools directly in front of a stage. They looked at each other and hugged. Moments before Warren McIntyre, singer and songwriter with Starry Skies, had suggested that everyone in the audience turn and say, “I love you,” to their neighbour – a kind of rock’n’roll kiss of peace. And it proved infectious as the audience at this low-key gig in Paisley became more engaged as the set bounced at pace from one cheerful number to another. Continue reading “Starry Skies, Bungalow Bar Paisley, 25th October 2018”

Steve Forbert + Molly Armstrong, The Robinson Theatre, Cambridge, 24th October 2018

Some forty years after being labelled as the “new Dylan”with his debut album, ‘Alive on Arrival’, Steve Forbert remains a respected, much-loved troubadour. Although that early commercial success is long ago, Forbert has developed a cult following through consistently releasing high-quality albums, regular touring and engaging warmly with his fans. This is the last of three UK gigs before Forbert returns next year for a full tour. Each of these performances, in Oxford, London and Cambridge, is a one-off, with a different song selection and Forbert taking requests from the audience. Forbert has a huge back-catalogue to draw upon and, along with his great experience and confidence, this allows him to fashion a unique event for his audience. Continue reading “Steve Forbert + Molly Armstrong, The Robinson Theatre, Cambridge, 24th October 2018”