In Concert, Playlist, Speciali

UK Americana Music Week in London

Pubblichiamo qui, in traduzione inglese, l’articolo di Andrea Parodi UK Americana Music Week in London, che potete trovare in italiano su Buscadero 464, del marzo 2023. Ad esso aggiungiamo una gallery fotografica, curata sempre da Andrea e una bella playlist per andare a scoprire gli artisti di cui si parla. Enjoy!

Traduzione di Irene Sparacello

Alternative country, roots music, folk-rock… for some years these genres that we have always called the “Buscadero music” have all converged on the definition of “Americana”. Definition that has acquired even more strength and awareness with the establishment of the Americana Music Association which aims to promote and enhance its identity. Among the many related initiatives, the AMA UK fest is scheduled every January in London as the European and more intimate version of the prominent Nashville Americana Festival.

With the increasing offer of very cheap flights, London is even closer, just around the corner and the Festival takes place entirely in the district of Hackney, northeast of the city center, easily accessible from the Stansted Airport. 

The showcase takes place from 6pm to 11pm in several spaces, all very close, at a walking distance to each other. 72 bands in 2 days in a row and all you need to buy to access to all the gigs is a wrist-band for 28 pounds.

While, by purchasing the much more expensive delegate pass, you can also attend the morning conferences and the final gala at the Hackney Empire Theatre where the ‘UK Americana Award’ is assigned (it’s possible to buy the access ticket for this show separately for 20 pounds).
I started my musical marathon on Tuesday, January 24th, at the Paper Dress Vintage, a second-hand clothes boutique with a small concert hall upstairs. My AMA UK fest began with the London band called One Man in the Field. A rarefied and kind sound built around the voice of their songwriter Alex Ellis and acoustic instruments: dobro, guitar, percussion and cello. The band in the 2020 released their first album, The Company of Strangers, produced by Tucker Martin at Portland Oregon. Once their performance ended, I crossed the street and went upstairs at the Oslo, very elegant venue, which I found out to be also the meeting point for all the musicians at the end of every evening where to have something to drink together and starting playing again.

I got there when Irish Louis Brennan is to finish the set accompanied by an electric band with pedal steel in evidence. Full-bodied and fun sound, definitely country oriented, that entertains but does not leave its mark. Definitely much more interesting, the performance by Miko Marks at Hackney Social. Miko comes from Michigan and has a warm and soul voice. The sound is an explosion of country and Rhythm’n’Blues. Echoes of Yola, Dixie Chicks but above all, the great music of the seventies that characterizes her latest album Feel Like Going Home. The next stop was the Moth Club, renamed “Canada House” for its program entirely dedicated to Canadian bands and songwriters. Catherine MacLellan comes from one of the most remote and evocative places in Canada: Prince Edward Island. She records with the True North Records by Bruce Cockburn and has collaborated with artists of a high caliber such as Murray McLauchlan, Barney Bentall and Stephen Fearing. She has recorded a dozen albums including a tribute to her father, the legendary songwriter Gene MacLellan, who wrote songs for Elvis, Joan Baez, Bing Crosby and Loretta Lynn. Catherine MacLellan took part into the double cd When the Wind Blows dedicated to Townes Van Zandt and published by Appaloosa Records in 2019 with a poignant version of When She Don’t Need Me

At the Moth, I met several Canadian friends starting with Luke Doucet and Melissa Mcclelland who for some years have been sharing the Whitehorse band and the girls of Six Shooters Records, Canadian cult label affiliated with Thirty Tigers that made me discover really interesting artists such as Luke Doucet himself, Justin Rutledge, Sam Outlaws, the Dead South and especially NQ Arbuckle. His first two albums Hanging the Battle-Scarred Pinata in 2002 and then The Last Supper in a Cheap Town in 2005’s were a nice mix of Shane McGowan, Tom Waits, Steve Earle, Fred Eaglesmith and the Crash Test Dumnies. 

Once left the Moth, I was back to Hackney Social for another high-level Canadian proposal, Madison Violet formed by Lisa MacIsaac and Brenley MacEachern. They presented their new album Eleven, highlighting the intertwining vocals and the melodies between pop and bluegrass that make me remember the Indigo Girls. I ended my evening at the Hackney Church Brew Company where, in addition to music, you can enjoy craft beers. On stage there was the “queen of the Finnish country Outlaws” performing, Mikaele Finne, but the real surprise was Brennen Leigh, who perfectly embodies the stereotype of the honky-tonk woman, so trendy now in the “Americana” scene. There are a great ferment of young songwriters who are inspired to the old west with Johnny Cash, Townes Van Zandt and Loretta Lynn in their heart, from Sierra Ferrell, Margo Price, Kassi Valazza, Amanda Shires, Courtney Marie Andrews, Bella White, Riddy Arman and Margo Cilker. A feminine response to Colter Wall, Tyler Childers, Corb Lund and Sturgill Simpson. Brennen Leigh is definitely one of the most interesting names in this scene and she is literally “Obsessed with the west” so much so as to title her last album produced and recorded with Asleep at the Wheels, the band she has worked with for many years. In the London brewery, Brannen came on stage without a band, highlighting all her qualities of vocalist and guitarist. A very convincing proof! I really wish to see her again live with all the band, maybe with Asleep at The Wheel!

The last show case of this electrifying premiere day was that of the young New Yorker Lizzie No. Also alone on stage, she accompanied herself on the acoustic guitar and in some songs on the harp, proposing a very intriguing show. 

Wednesday begun with a series of lectures taking place at the Hackney Cinema Picture House where the photographic exhibition of Neilson Hubbard, producer of Nashville and member of the Orphan Brigade, was presenting his wonderful photo book dedicated to the faces and landscapes of the South of the United States of America. During the festival Neilson also premiered his documentary, made together with Joshua Britt, Big Old Goofy World on John Prine’s Oh Boy Records. 

The first concert of the evening was that of Caleb Caudle, singer-songwriter of North Carolina, of by Ryan Adams, Jason Isbell and Todd Snider’s school. A beautiful storyteller style writing and a handful of very pleasant records from the last Forsythia produced by John Carter Cash with the collaboration of Jerry Douglas, Same Bush, Elizabeth Cook and Carlene Carter. I rushed then to the Moth Club for the performance of one of the most anticipated bands that I did not know and that have been recommended to me by in many friends and colleagues, obviously from Canada: The Hello Darlins. Critics define them “the roots version of Broken Social Scene”. To see them live is an extraordinary experience. They are a real force of nature, able to range between different genres and inspirations. The heart of the band Candance Lacine on vocals, Mark Little on keyboards and Murray Pulver on guitars and behind, an exceptional rhythmic section formed by bassist Bob Glaud (Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Warren Zevon) and drummer Chad Cromwell (Neil Young, Brian Wilson, Bonnie Raitt). I spent the evening mainly at the Moth where the Canadian program is definitely interesting. I had the opportunity to listen live to Julian Taylor and William Prince. The first is a an amazing songwriter from Toronto on stage for twenty-five years, also counting the debut with the band Staggered Crossing. Julian Taylor presented his latest album Beyond the Reservoir in which there are tracks like Murder 13 and Stolen Lands that really stand out; William Prince is a Native American songwriter, raised in the Peguis Reservation. In 2017 he won the Juno, the Canadian grammy, for best record of the year. At the end of the evening, I went to Hackney Social with the young band St. Catherine’s Child from Liverpool just after attending one of the (in my opinion) highlights of the festival: Del Barber, from Canada, who got me from the first song, Meantime, which opens with a nostalgic pedal steel guitar. A delicate and powerful set of songs that remain in your mind; a songwriter that I will begin to follow with passion. 

Thursday opened at lunchtime with a brunch and a hootenanny organized by the Six Shooters Records at the Hackney Picture show entitled Keep The Wildflowers Blooming. The host of the event was the legendary “Whispering Bob” Harris, historical voice of BBC Radio, who entertained between one piece and another with the musicians sitting in a circle on stage. They were all Canadians, except Elles Bailey: The Whitehorse, William Prince and the very successful Allison Russell.

I’ve known Allison since the Po’ Girl times and I got her to play in Italy about 20 years ago. I saw her again in Nashville in 2017 with the Birds of Chicago together with Joe Henry and I am following with much affection the explosion of her career that led her to be, together with Brandie Carlisle, one of the more authoritative voices of the new Americana scene thanks to her commitment to social and racial themes.

The UK Americana Awards finale was held at the Empire with the artistic director Stevie Smith greeting the audience. The show was developed in the classic formula of the nominations, the delivery of awards and subsequent speeches and thanks resulting in a long and boring sequence, but Fisherman Blues performed live by Mike Scott with the young and talented house band was worth it itself alone the whole the price of the ticket.

In the room there was also Robert Plant who received the best album of the year award for Raise The Roof produced by T Bone Burnett and realized together with Alison Krauss.

The most prestigious international artist of the year award went to Allison Russell performing together with Elles Bailey and Miko Marks in a heartfelt interpretation of Coal Miner’s Daughter paying tribute to Loretta Lynn, who was awarded with the Songwriter Legacy Award.

The performance of Nickle Creek and Judy Collins involving all the musicians on stage was the grand finale.

To mark the last night, I went to the Oslo afterparty. A band was playing Guitar Town by Steve Earle and opened the dances at the final jam as I moved into the crowded venue to reach my friends and the musicians for the last greetings and say see you next year!

by Elena Razzi

Considered one of London’s trendiest neighborhoods with typical Victorian townhouses, parks, cafes, bookstores, trendy clubs, Hackney is for us a real revelation! The proximity to the city and especially the flourishing and prosperous artistic environment makes it so fascinating that our shoes do not notice the many miles grinded on during the days of the Festival.

Trying to live like the locals is a prerogative of our every trip and also of this one, in which the choice of accommodation seems fundamental: to the two central hotels, we prefer an Airbnb renting a typical London house developed vertically on three floors with interiors and furnishings of that strong character that is part of the British taste with large windows overlooking the red double-decker busses passing underneath and the legendary telephone booths on street corners. And then my favorite part: the smells of kitchens that penetrates and climb through the staircase.

It is so exciting to wake up in a city like London and from the first day in Hackney, we fall in love with The Square, a lovely café where they serve a great coffee and a breakfast in perfect British style, as well as brunch and lunch; furniture and menu that includes a refined Vegetarian cuisine are both lovely and the smashed avocado served on a slice of sweet potato and poached eggs is absolutely not to be missed, as well as sitting by the stained glass wall is strongly recommended; the many young people who attend the cafes benefit from the free wi-fi to work and sipping the classic cup of tea observing the flow of day-to-day routine from the windows. After the full English breakfast, we decide take a walk to burn some calories. We reach Regent Canal, which must to explore (no matter if it’s a beautiful day or a usual gloomy London sky), to be amazed by nature, changes in urban architecture and moored houseboats that fill the shores with color.

Hackney is a definitely a multi-ethnic neighborhood, many of the school teachers in the neighborhood wear the hijab and the students’ facial features are a tour around the world. One of the elements that best represents the cosmopolitan spirit of London is the neighborhood life, which is also reflected in the rich culinary offer. Among the open-air market stalls you can find street food for all tastes and high quality, an eclectic liveliness in which you are overwhelmed by colors and smells never heard before; sellers offer everything from great food to vintage clothes, crafts, items of haute couture.

So, between a concert and another, we decide to visit the most interesting ethnic restaurants and fusion of the neighborhood and, in the evening lights, we are attracted by the lanterns of the My Neighbours the Dumpling, a romantic place serving fine hand-made dim sum, a cucumber salad marinated in sesame sauce recommended by the chef, crispy shrimp crackers along with a variety of sake that we do not even taste in order to remain sober in the evening concert hours.

Cult venue during the festival, in perfect London style is the Old Ship Inn near the station, which becomes a meeting place for promoters and professionals and the best address to give for a draft beer appointment; the pub also offers the possibility to stay overnight and is renowned for its chicken served whole or in the sandwich, cooked at low temperature in the marinating of the house, to enjoy with coleslaw or fried sweet potato sticks.

And just as we are planning to return to Hackney in the spring (the list of the things to do is still long and our time is running out), Ryanair decides to give us an extra day by canceling our flight. The events related to the festival are concluded and so we decide to further test our pedometer with the remaining twenty-four hours all available to us. 

London Fields, Columbia Road, Rough Trade, Shoreditch. London is immense, always new, perpetually evolving. And if Shoreditch was considered degraded until the early 2000s, today is the hipster district of London and its creativity is so driving to attract even the genius of Bansky. Still visiting on foot, you can see the stratification of time on buildings, factories and pavilions which have been completely or partially reconstructed in the proliferation of murals and graffiti.

Every form of experimentation is welcome and continuing our journey we find ourselves in Brick Lane, another of the most vibrant areas of East London, a vital center of the Bengali community. The scent of curry and spices invades the streets and stimulates the appetite, in fact you can taste in this area the best Bangla, Indian and Asian dishes in general; but the appointment we have for lunch, allow us to make only a stop and warm up a few minutes, do we enter a cafe and we treat ourselves with a Chai tea with cardamom, having a chat with the guy who works at the counter: Sharmin is Bengali, but the owners are Syrian and they import coffee blends from Arabia. The scents are heady and meant for those not afraid to dare, and Brick Lane is another little treasure chest hidden in a huge city.

PS: we thank our friend photographer Paolo Brillo who suggested us not to miss a meal at Som Saa in Spitalfields, with the most sensational and fragrant fried Thai sea bass of our lives.

Questo mese

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