“Where are they from?” asks a friend, when I announce that I’m going to see a band called The Americans. Not such a surprising question especially when so many Scottish acts name check former colonial places – Idlewild, Texas and the rest. These Americans, from, er, California are on their first visit to Scotland, on a rainy Sunday night , playing Celtic Connections in the old church crypt at Oran Mor in Glasgow’s West End. They are promoting their 2017 album I’ll Be Yours and 2016 EP First Recordings on the Loose label.
Gospel Roads was the first song that the band wrote, a tale of a travelling preacher and his son. They play it midway through the set, Jake Faulkner on banjo and singer Patrick Ferris on electric guitar both finger picking hypnotically. It seems that everyone in the band can play banjo and the instrument is also used to great effect on the title track of the album, I’ll be Yours, an evocative and unconventional piece that defies contemporary pop formats. Some of the band’s songs, like Foreign Land, were originally written by bassist Zak Sokolow as fiddle tunes and there are still remnants of this in the catchy, looping melody lines
Now and then Ferris’ voice evokes Bob Seger. In particular, in the yearning of the soulful break-up ballad Last Chance and the jangly Harbor Lane. But then in the rockabilly workings of Long Way Home and Hooky there is more of a snarling rebellious streak. The set is rounded off with the driving riffs of The Right Stuff, surely a festival pleaser waiting to happen but there is better to come in the encore with the rendition of the haunting Bronze Star. “Out on the front porch rocking/we watched the stars/chase the daylight away/it’s a cold war/for us at home/she wore a Bronze Star/for heroism” sings Ferris earnestly as the guitars chime in unison to a climax.
Jack White, T Bone Burnett and Nick Cave are all fans. The Americans had quiffs, played vintage guitars and wore Levi’s with big turn-ups. Catch them if you want some authentic vintage flavoured Americana played with passion and a knowledge of the genre.