AUK Features Editor Clint West reflects on his personal americana year.
While it was nice to get back to regular gig-going in 2022 it was also frustrating that it was often slow to get going again. Many gigs that I attended in the first half of the year were under-subscribed. Even those that were ‘sold-out’ were often clearly not full. Many of those tickets had been rescheduled, some more than once, so some drop-off might have been expected, but it also seemed clear there was some reluctance or at least nervousness about returning. Had people just got out of the habit? or were americana’s core audience, which tends to be older than many other musical forms, just a bit more cautious than others?
Fortunately, as the year progressed things seemed to pick up and there were clear signs that americana was reaching a wider and often younger audience. I first noticed this at a pre-pandemic Tyler Childers gig as my review at that time observed. This year I witnessed this again. Excellent sold-out gigs by the likes of Sierra Ferrell in June and Charley Crockett in October were both attended by a more diverse audience than the usual americana crowd. In a comment in response to my enthusiastic Charley Crockett review, one reader said that I was sounding like the old guard were no longer welcome at the party. Nothing could be more removed from the truth. I am one of the supposed ‘old guard’ and I’m not getting pushed aside by anybody. However, that is not incompatible with being enthusiastic about a new younger audience discovering this music and breathing new life into the genre.
Further evidence of the growing audience for ‘our’ music was evident in the latter part of the year as Jason Isbell played Manchester’s 3500 capacity Apollo followed a few short weeks later by Billy Strings’ long sold-out show at the O2 Ritz, capacity 1500. Both played stunning shows to richly appreciative audience. I was fortunate enough to review these shows for AUK and was. I confess, almost as excited about them as events, as I was the brilliant performances.
Despite the growing appeal of certain artists, most live americana music is still consumed in smaller venues. In such venues I was able to witness excellent performances by the likes of Callum Spencer. Danny George Wilson, Jake Xerxes Fussell, Tre Burt, Charlie Parr, Hannah Aldridge, Sarah Shook, Whitney Rose, Jeffrey Foucault and my favourite small venue gig of the year Margo Cilker in the tiny backroom of the Castle Hotel.
Perennial favourites also did the business with Ron Sexsmith, Ryley Walker, Drive-By Truckers, Bill Kirchen and the evergreen Mavericks all putting on great shows. However, it was the indomitable Nick Lowe that stole all the plaudits with a quite magnificent solo show at the Royal Northern College of Music. The Sheepdogs, Rose City Band, and Kevin Morby also provided some more rock leaning moments this year and just to show that there is other stuff out there, I also enjoyed shows this year from Matthew E White, Curtis Harding, The Monophonics and GA-20.
I haven’t even mentioned this year’s Black Deer Festival which for me was stolen by Willi Carlisle, with wonderful performances, in no particular order, from Israel Nash, Wilco, Courtney-Marie Andrews, Drive-By Truckers, Hiss Golden Messenger, Caroline Spence, Dylan Earl, William Prince and Native Harrow also catching my eyes and ears.
Quickly moving on to americana albums of the year, here’s my Top 10:
- Willi Carlisle – Peculiar, Missouri
- The Deslondes – Ways & Means
- Wilco – Cruel Country
- S G Goodman – Teeth Marks
- Joan Shelley – The Spur
- 49 Winchester – Fortune Favors the Bold
- Ian Noe – River Fools & Mountain Saints
- Emily Nenni – On the Ranch
- Town Mountain– Lines in the Levee
- Sylvie – Sylvie
Boy that was hard – especially not finding a place for Drive-By Truckers, Molly Tuttle, Kelsey Waldon or Caitlin Rose. Whoops, I think I just did.
Looking forward to 2023, given three wishes I’d go for for a further strengthening of the live music circuit, particularly small venues, the end of the Tories and promotion for Ipswich Town FC.
Happy Christmas readers and may all your own wishes come true too.