Sunday, 2 June 2019

Weekly Blog Post 2nd June 2019: Americana v Ameripolitan

Americana v Ameripolitan; of course there is no contest, but two gigs attended this week showcased contrasting artists at the core of the genre/organisation set up to at least form some framework for like minded music. 2019 is seeing Yola make the great strides predicted of her when embarking on a solo journey to cash in on her undoubted talent. That long awaited debut album has more than justified the belief thrust upon her to the extent of not just rising to eminence in her own UK but to garner two nominations in Nashville for September's Americana Music Association awards. The one for WALK THROUGH FIRE is thoroughly deserved, while the AMA have previous for nominating artists in the Emerging category with more than a few miles on the clock. To continue the promotion of the album on home soil, Yola (surname Carter ceremoniously ditched in true showbiz style) has been on tour and it was a privilege for the Hare and Hounds in Birmingham play host.

For me, it was critical that Yola had that full debut solo album release under her belt. There was also an opinion that early material didn't really lend an ear to do justice to her voice. All doubts were cast aside as the new songs had a beautiful live execution to reinforce the seamless journey from studio to stage.The backing band, turned into a five piece outfit with the joint addition of Manchester duo Mark Lewis (bass) and CJ Hillman (pedal steel), gave an exemplary performance alongside Yola's pitch and tone perfect extraordinary vocals.

Opening for Yola on her tour is Bristol-based artist Lady Nade, a colleague, friend and integral part of the touring troupe. She is currently in the midst of promoting her own solo album with SAFE PLACE getting its premiere a couple of weeks ago. In contrast to the polished state of the studio record, this support slot saw Lady Nade armed with only an acoustic guitar and occasional switch to electric. The stripped back format shed a new light on the songs, perhaps to the extent of winning over more fans with a greater heartfelt delivery. This segue into Yola's fuller format provided the structure to make this a highly successful and enjoyable evening.

The week's second gig saw a trip down to Oxford to take in a show from Ameripoltan founder Dale Watson. To some, this genre structure created deep in the heart of Texas represents the true home of country music alongside its brethren honky tonk, rockabilly and roots rock 'n' roll. Dale Watson had played an amazing gig at The Bullingdon in the city of the dreaming spires back in 2013 that lasted long in the memory. This return in tandem with a new album (hailed as release #32) rolled back the years and showed why Dale Watson is a standard bearer for a movement rooted in absolute integrity. Backed by a sensational three-piece band pushing the boundaries of what pedal steel, upright bass and drums can do, this gig shot straight to pinnacle of the year's listings to date. One that would subsequently require a managed come down in its aftermath.

Leading the total sum of two May 31st releases from the Directory is a superb album from Americana artist Doug Seegers. He came very much to the fore here in 2015 when going down a storm at that year's Southern Fried Festival in Perth. His latest release titled A STORY I GOT TO TELL is an extremely strong effort building on the impact this seasoned musician made and proving that great music is made away from usual highways of country music.

The other new album out on Friday from the pile is TO LOVE TO LEAVE TO LIVE by Her Crooked Heart, a band fronted by previously solo singer songwriter Rachel Reis. Maybe an album possessing one or two demands to unlocking its riches, but one with the potential to reward a degree of patience.

On the submission front, it was a case of the familiar and the new with the latter standing out most in the guise of LA act Lasers Lasers Birmingham. The merit of having such an intriguing name will long be debated but it only took one listen to WARNING to realise a record right up my street had arrived. In a similar vein, Karen Jonas (a previous recipient of a blog review) makes music that resonates and it will be interesting to assess how she has re-interpreted some of earlier material on a new record due out in July.

The final act of the week was to attend a concert by Californian Rick Shea at Thimblemill Library in Smethwick on Saturday evening. Following incredible gigs by Yola and Dale Watson was a tough task in my book, but this experienced operator shrugged off such a hypothetical scenario to turn in a fine performance of observational singer-songwriter staple. Rich in storytelling and subtly crafted in delivery, you don't travel several thousand miles without pedigree and plenty of that was on display to round off another rewarding week on the gig circuit.

Americana (more country soul in this instance) v Ameripolitan (definitely country music in this instance). I'll call it a diplomatic draw.

More in seven days...

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