Smoke Fairies + John J Presley, Hoxton Hall, London, 6th February 2020

After a four year absence Smoke Fairies (Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies) have returned with a new album, the wonderfully drone heavy ‘Darkness Brings The Wonders Home’, and a smattering of gigs with more promised for later in the year. The new album takes their  sound further into the rock realm although they never really leave their roots as macabrely dark folkies behind: it’s the same sound but with the waves of unease carried on a more powerful medium. And here they were at Hoxton Hall – as near perfect a venue for their augmented band as one could imagine. Continue reading “Smoke Fairies + John J Presley, Hoxton Hall, London, 6th February 2020”

Amy LaVere ft. Will Sexton + Between The Vines, The Rose and Monkey, Manchester, 11th February 2020

Amy LaVere and Will Sexton travelled down to Manchester from their previous night’s show in Glasgow, via Newcastle. The reason for this lengthy detour, they informed us, was to retrieve Will’s jacket which he had left behind following their gig in that city. This “what the hell – let’s do it” attitude was also symptomatic of their approach to the final night of their UK tour which had begun with an appearance at AmericanaFest UK in London. Drawing upon a wide repertoire of songs but with no formal set list, the pair delivered a hugely entertaining night of music and chat that captivated all that had turned out on an indubitably wet and windy Manchester evening. Continue reading “Amy LaVere ft. Will Sexton + Between The Vines, The Rose and Monkey, Manchester, 11th February 2020”

Ian Noe, Omeara, London, 3rd February 2020

There must be something in the water in Kentucky given the proliferation of independent americana music performers from there in recent years. As proof, there’s not just well established acts such as Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Angaleena Presley and Tyler Childers, but also up and coming artists such as Kelsey Waldon, Eric Bolander, Korey Rose, Jeremy Pinnell, The Local Honeys and Dillon Carmichael. To this impressive list,  Ian Noe deserves to move towards the head of the queue as he was responsible for one of the best debut albums released in 2019, or any other year for that matter.  Continue reading “Ian Noe, Omeara, London, 3rd February 2020”

Americana Music Fest, 28th – 29th January, Various Venues, Hackney

Americana Music Fest, organised by the Americana Music Association UK, is two glorious nights of artist showcases that take place from about 6PM until almost midnight in a half dozen venues.  That’s a lot of acts to catch, with a lot of choices to be made – here’s what David Chalfin selected. Continue reading “Americana Music Fest, 28th – 29th January, Various Venues, Hackney”

Transatlantic Sessions, Royal Festival Hall, London, 6th February 2020

In its 17th year with little change to the formula, how do the Transatlantic Sessions keep packing out some of the larger venues up and down the country? Quite simple; hosts and musical directors, respectively, the dobro and fiddle aces Jerry Douglas and Aly Bain, have pulled together a formidable “house band” of musicians from both sides of the Atlantic around whom they invite new guests each year. Douglas and Bain’s good humour and light touch is infectious. With minimal rehearsals they put on shows of such cohesion that all these musicians sound as if they’ve been together for years. Continue reading “Transatlantic Sessions, Royal Festival Hall, London, 6th February 2020”

The Felice Brothers + Carson McHone, The Old Market, Hove, 31st January 2020

My brother moved to Hove many years ago. More sedate than its brash next-door cousin, Brighton, he often told me about this independent venue that was walking distance from his flat and whose previous incarnation had been a BBC music theatre. The gig-goers of Brighton/Hove were different too, he said. “How do you mean?” I asked. “Give it five minutes,” he replied as we walked into the building. Five minutes in, a middle-aged middle class couple stood dead centre making-out all through the pin-drop moments in Carson McHone’s support set. Continue reading “The Felice Brothers + Carson McHone, The Old Market, Hove, 31st January 2020”

Daddy Long Legs + Thee Windom Earles, The Lantern, Halifax, 2nd February 2020

Halifax has come up in the world don’t ya know, such that it has reached the giddy heights of (almost) favourable comparison to a minor neighbourhood in the eastern fringes of London; having been dubbed ‘Shoreditch of the North’ by Northerners who ought to know better. This moniker seems to rest on the availability of significant quantities of eye wateringly expensive DDH NEIPA and Imperial tonka bean, vanilla, chocolate and hazelnut Russian breakfast stout, together with a growing live music scene that is well stocked with both local and touring acts. One benefit of this seems to be that whilst independent venues may well be facing significant challenges across the country, in the Calder Valley we seem to get a new one each month. Continue reading “Daddy Long Legs + Thee Windom Earles, The Lantern, Halifax, 2nd February 2020”

UK Americana Awards: The Troxy, London, 30th January 2020

This year’s event was in the heart of London’s East End, representing how the epicentre of the city’s music venues is shifting eastwards. Host Bob Harris has had almost half a century to practice but he still did a wonderfully balanced job of pitching the enthusiasm on the right side of gushing and his breadth of knowledge always applied to make a broader point. He jests, “I’m glad to be here. I’m glad to be anywhere” – with reference to his well-publicised health scare last summer and quickly acknowledges Keith Richards as the source of this apercu. Continue reading “UK Americana Awards: The Troxy, London, 30th January 2020”

Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn, The Barbican, London, 25th January 2020

A rare visit to these shores for Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn saw the pair on stage at The Barbican – it was the simplest of stage setups, a couple of chairs, a few microphones and a couple of banjo stands for each player. Bela Fleck is, of course, the master of all things three fingered Scruggs style, and so much more. Having exhausted what Bluegrass offered by way of a challenge he expanded into jazz – for example his collaborations with Chick Corea – and with the Flecktones into the world of experimental electric jazz-funk. Abigail Washburn’s own banjo prowess is in the realm of clawhammer – and of course she also sings. Bela does not sing. Their combined talents have been exhibited on a series of duo albums which take a more traditional folk tack, albeit traditional folk embellished by the finest of banjo playing. Material from their recent album ‘Echo in the Valley’ has been played in the UK for the first time on their brief tour, and made up a good part of the concert. Continue reading “Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn, The Barbican, London, 25th January 2020”

Bonny Light Horseman + Sam Airey, The Lexington, London, 1st February 2020

 Remember when Mary Travers told Peter and Paul, “To hell with this, I’m through with this crap. Jerry gave me a call and I’m going to go sing with the Grateful Dead“?  Bonny Light Horseman surely do, and they brought that alternate reality to fruition in The Lexington for their first ever headlining gig in London. They are a side project band for Anais Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson (of Fruit Bats) and Josh Kaufman, supported by JT Bates on drums and Michael Libramento on bass. Their recently released album has been garnering rave reviews – deservedly – making this sold out gig in the intimate Lexington an unmissable prospect. Continue reading “Bonny Light Horseman + Sam Airey, The Lexington, London, 1st February 2020”