Introducing the Americana Music Association UK 2022 Nominations and Awards at a well-attended Omeara in London, Stevie Smith, AMA-UK’s CEO, reminded her audience that a year ago she had opened the proceedings from a shed in her garden. Stevie and her AMA-UK team had put immense effort into such an inventive online Awards ceremony earlier this year but from the stage to the very back of this fine venue there was no substitute for the sheer joy at being back together in person. This was like a long awaited, and overdue party. Already, January’s UK Americana Music Week with its conferences, showcase evenings and awards ceremony are shaping up very well with a diverse array of talent from the UK including Simeon Hammond Dallas and Lady Nade and from the US Miko Marks and Trè Burt. Performances from James Riley and Mom & The Rebels should underline how this thing we call Americana is constantly evolving. Already AMA-UK have signed up more than 70 showcase artists from across the UK, Canada, America and Europe, including guest host showcases from Canada House, Loose Music, Jansen Records and Die With Your Boots On Records from Norway. Unsurprisingly, ticket sales are brisk.
Sadly, Baylen Leonard who had been due to make the nomination announcements had just tested positive for Covid on returning from the US. No problem, Diana Jones and Emma Swift stepped in and proved to be an entertaining nomination double act. Audience reaction to the nominations for each category was consistently enthusiastic, the cheers rising for the awards announced. Then came the music. Omeara is an intimate venue with a raised level a few steps behind the standing space that bonded audience and performers even tighter.
Diana Jones was first up with ‘We Believe You’ from her ‘Song to a Refugee’ album released last year. Without the studio accompaniment of Peggy Seeger, Steve and Richard Thompson, she took her listeners single-handed into this song of tragedy and hope. If you feel the weight of the cynicism and hopelessness that pervades so much today then this plea for kindness may help. Another album released last year was ‘Blonde On The Tracks’, Emma Swift’s imaginative interpretation of Bob Dylan covers. Though not from the record she stuck with Dylan to perform a warm ‘Visions Of Johanna’. Acoustic guitarist Dan Parkinson showed that he is a lot more than “that session guy” to create a perfect texture around Swift’s vocals.
Danny George Wilson and his fellow Champion of the World Paul Lush, took the show into more electric Americana territory with ‘Lost Future’ from Wilson’s recently released ‘Another Place’ album. Even down to two, these Campeones recreated their band’s straight up style. Staying with his new album for his second song Wilson was joined by Emma Swift to duet on Frank Sinatra’s ‘I Would Be in Love (Anyway)’. As they did in the studio Swift’s smooth voice complemented Wilson’s gravelly tones in beautiful harmonies. Both will return under the AMA-UK banner in the January showcase events.
Lastly came the just announced winner of the ‘Bob Harris Emerging Artist Award 2022’, Lauren Housley. Taking a break from her UK tour, with husband and guitarist Thomas Dibb, bassist Mark Lewis and guitarist and tour support act Robbie Cavanagh, they beamed ‘Guaranteed Sunshine’ on Southwark. Housley looked elated yet relaxed, ideal for this piece of psychedelic folk from her ‘Girl From the North’ record. Also from the album came a very moody, soulful ‘Stay Awake to Dream’ and funky ‘This Ain’t the Life’ that gave full range to Housley’s sumptuous voice. She closed with one from the tour set, a magnificent version of Lowell George’s ‘Willin’ complete with a fiery solo from Dibb. Housley was buzzing, “Thank you so much, I love this community”. Her short set was adequate proof why she richly deserves her award. There could be more as Dibb and Lewis are both contenders for UK instrumentalist of the year. Housley and band will be back in January’s showcase.
Though a taster, these short sets definitely set the juices flowing for the events in January. After that folks, it was back to the bar for a lot of catching up. See you in Hackney.
For a full list of award winners and nominations see here.