So here we go again – the last day of term and it’s prize day at Americana UK Towers. It was a classic year for americana in the UK, a year in which you actually had a choice of festivals to go to rather than a niche tent at the back of a field, and they weren’t small affairs either. Americana UK readers remain in the main a liberal progressive bunch who love the best of the genre but aren’t afraid to experiment. Basically we’re all still teenagers at heart. Thanks to all of you who took part in this year’s poll, and a special congratulations to David Provost who wins some nice promos which will be winging their way to you soon. So without further much ado about nothing, here are the winners…
Best Band of 2018: Bennett Wilson Poole
Runners-up: 3hattrio, Curse of Lono, Darlingside, Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit. Well it’s been a tradition over the years that Danny & the Champs feature in the best band category in our end of year poll – one of the great certainties in life along with the sun rising, toast falling buttered side down and the size of a pack of Jaffa Cakes shrinking, but look! There’s no sign of them this year. Has the world finally gone mad? Rest easy dear reader, for the latest band to include Danny George Wilson has taken the top spot, featuring our man himself along with comrades in music Robin Bennett and Tony Poole. It’s a record which it’s fair to say has had a huge impact on the UK americana scene – it was chosen by two of our writers as their album of the year. Danny told us: “A huge thanks to the Americana UK community for this…. a real thrill and an honour. It’s been an amazing and wholly unexpected year… that the album and the shows have been taken into the hearts and homes of folks is something that we’re humbled by… love and thanks to all of you and to everyone who’s made this all happen.”
Best Male Artist of 2018: Jason Isbell
Runners-up: Nathan Bell, JP Harris, John Prine, Luke Tuchscherer. Alabama born Jason Isbell has been outspoken of late and being called “anodyne” by Jeremy “rhymes with” Hunt only made us love him even more. He’s become as much a part of the americana scene for the UK as Ryan Adams when this whole thing started in earnest. There wasn’t a new studio album in the past 12 months but he did release a cracking live set ‘Live From the Ryman’ and that was enough to keep our interest piqued, and so he takes our Male Artist of 2018 gong. There are even bigger things around the next corner we suspect. Please come back and annoy Jeremy Hunt again.
Best Female Artist of 2018: Courtney Marie Andrews
Runners-up: Amanda Shires, Gretchen Peters, Caroline Spence, Sarah Shook. For the second year running Phoenix born Courtney Marie Andrews has walked this category with almost as many votes as everyone else combined – crazy to think she’s been around for near on a decade and it all began covering Wilco with Jimmy Eats World. She’s signed of course to the lovely Loose label over here which is basically a guarantee of something good. You could raid their offices blindfolded and know you’re going to come out with something special (unless you accidentally pick up their stapler). She told us: “Oh! I’m so grateful for all the support in the UK and really happy to know that these songs resonated with y’all.”
Best Live Act of 2018: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
Runners-up: Bennett Wilson Poole, Courtney Marie Andrews, Alejandro Escovedo, Laura Cortese & The Dance Cards. And as if to illustrate our point about the impact of Isbell and co in the flesh, he and his band walk away this year with our best live act. He’s reached the stage of course where to see him live you need to set your alarm clock and go in late to work, but every show throws up new surprises and genuinely feels like something special – Rolling Stone describes his live performances as “spine-tingling” and we can’t argue with that. Prepare to have your spine tingled.
Best Album of 2018: Courtney Marie Andrews ‘May Your Kindness Remain’ (Loose)
Runners-up: Gretchen Peters ‘Dancing With the Beast’ (Proper), Dean Owens ‘Southern Wind’ (At The Helm), Brandi Carlile ‘By The Way I Forgive You’ (Elektra), Bennett Wilson Poole ‘Bennett Wilson Poole’ (Aurora). The PM is probably outraged that our album of the year has got the words “May” and “Remain” in it – watch out Courtney, she’ll sue. Andrews’ sixth album, the follow up to last year’s winner ‘Honest Life’ was recorded over eight days at a rented house-turned-studio in LA and manages to sound completely original while at the same time bathing you in its lovely fuzzy warmth – and in the process being acclaimed by everyone from Rolling Stone to The Telegraph – to us! And hey, there’s not enough kindness in the world right now.
Best TV show of 2018: Killing Eve (BBC 1)
Runners-up: The Bodyguard, Better Call Saul, Later.. with Jools Holland, The Sinner. ‘Killing Eve’ rather like ‘The Bodyguard’ was one of those shows literally everyone seemed to be talking about when it was on, and well deserved it was, with an amazing cast including probably the best two leads on TV for the year, a thrilling storyline and some great laughs too. The bit right at the beginning when Eve falls asleep on her arms could have come out of any great comedy, and there were plenty of other amazing television moments contained within. The second season hits UK screens in Spring next year. If only the BBC did its news like its drama, we would be tipping them with their license fee.
Best Radio Show of 2018: Bob Harris Country (BBC Radio 2)
Runners-up: Mike Ritchie on Sunday (Celtic Music Radio), Another Country with Ricky Ross (BBC Radio Scotland), Hillbilly Boogie (Blues & Roots Radio), Leader’s American Pie (Meridian FM). The real Saint Bob has clocked up more wins in our AUK readers poll over the past few years than Ninja playing Fortnite (ask the kids), but this year for the first time his country show has taken our top spot. The show is the only place on a UK national radio station to hear americana in a dedicated place, and the sessions you won’t find anywhere else – they’re a real weekly treat. Bob told AUK: ‘Bob Harris Country celebrates its 20th anniversary this Spring and there could be no better birthday present than this. The programme is a team effort. Thank you to Al Booth and my producer Mark Hagen for their fantastic support and thank you to everyone who voted for the show. It really means a lot’.
Best Movie of 2018: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Runners-up: A Star is Born, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Avengers: Infinity War, Bohemian Rhapsody. How can someone like Jason Isbell and Queen at the same time? What is the world coming to? Anyway the darkly comical portrait of disenfranchised USA made the top spot in our movie category for this year, in which Frances McDormand gave what some thought was her best performance since Fargo as a vigilante dealing with her daughter’s death by erecting roadside monuments to her grief and anger. It set off real world copycat billboards, a social phenomenon in its own right.
Hero of 2018: Jeremy Corbyn
Runners-up: NHS Staff, John Prine, David Attenborough, Jason Isbell. Despite the daily barrage of abuse the man gets and most recently Stupidgate, Jeremy Corbyn is an admittedly divisive but still hugely popular figure in the UK. He reads Willy Vlautin, advocates for the dispossessed in society and (probably) hates the X Factor, all things any self-respecting AUK reader can relate to. Just think – if you don’t like him, he probably still likes you.
Villain of 2018: Donald Trump
Runners-up: Theresa May, Jacob Rees Mogg, Boris Johnson, Brexit. As opposed to… We’re thinking of renaming this category next year to “Villian other than Donald Trump” in which case from the evidence of the results it’s probably going to be somebody from the Conservative Party In fact everyone else in the list above could probably be categorised as Brexit fanatics (apart from Brexit itself, which has no feelings). Maybe by this time next year we’ll have worked out what we want to do. Maybe Trump will have had a change of heart and be volunteering in soup kitchens. Christmas is about hope after all. Thanks again for your votes everyone.
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>>> It's that time of year again, the AUK 2020 Readers Poll. Vote for your favourite americana from the last year here and win some nice shiny new promos!