Friday, 16 August 2019

ALBUM REVIEW: Rod Picott - Tell The Truth & Shame The Devil : Welding Rod Records

From a partially hidden gaze on the front cover, Rod Picott is in a mean mood as he slips out yet another album of self-reflective industrial grit. Even by his own substantive standards, this latest record sinks into the depths of a mind — troubled, pensive and ultimately grasping at faint shafts of light. To get TELL THE TRUTH & SHAME THE DEVIL out from the inner vaults to the ears of a somewhat tuned-in listener, Picott engaged no more than his guitar, harmonica, gruff vocals, fertile mind and a living room-style setting appropriate to disseminate such candid thoughts. There was an extra helping hand from Neilson Hubbard to mould the recordings into a more palatable state, but this takes the term ‘stripped back’ into new territories and it wouldn’t be amiss to stamp some sort of ‘content warning’ on the cover.

This album challenges the notion of a third way when engaging with a record. If you get to the end of the forty-seven minute playing time, you are likely to be a fully paid up member of the Rod Picott Appreciation Society. All other entrants will likely fall at the first hurdle, with newbies probably requiring a dose of Picott’s greater produced back catalogue to ease themselves into the work of one of the most intense songwriters you are likely to encounter on the contemporary Americana scene. 

On a record where a personal health scare supplied the canvas to see these songs flow, mortality features prominently whether reflecting on the suicidal demise of one real life character in ‘Mark’ or the deeply personal outpouring in ‘A 38 Special & a Hermes Purse’. The latter sinks to its knees with the line ‘I’m a train wreck turning Beaujolais to piss’, but the good news is the parting track, ‘Folds of Your Dress’, shares a touch of hope and Rod Picott is still alive and kicking to tour the album in the UK in the autumn. 

Alongside mortality, nostalgia plays a strong part, although you could say the two concepts go hand in hand. When staring back at past events, ‘Mama’s Boy' considers masculinity, ‘Spartan Hotel’ recalls live music in its most basic form and ‘Sunday Best’ takes a twisted look at the mundane. To get the best out of the twelve songs, reading the liner notes is an essential companion. Context is key to how these songs played out and the subsequent importance of the vehicle adopted to share with a fanbase, one likely to be hardened to the stern stuff. 

Rawness and complexity melt into the listening experience of TELL THE TRUTH & SHAME THE DEVIL. Although a fan of Rod Picott’s music for over a decade, this was still a tough album to grasp, suggesting a contradiction to the earlier point that a third way doesn’t exist ie you’re either in or out. The jury is still out as to whether this record in its primal format reaches out past a core, but it is probably the most important album of Rod Picott’s career and may clear the way for a prosperous future where recognition of his stellar song writing skills sail above any facet of self doubt. You cannot deny this guy makes interesting albums and surfacing on the other side is an invigorating experience. 

TELL THE TRUTH & SHAME THE DEVIL is out in the US and available for listening on overseas platforms. It is scheduled for a formal UK release on September 6th and sure to be available at most Rod Picott gigs subject to the inevitable sold out sign.

Monday, 12 August 2019

FESTIVAL PREVIEW: Over The Hill - Witney, Oxfordshire Monday 26th August 2019

Is there room for another festival in an apparent crowded field? Definitely when it's a quality roots event within 80 miles of the West Midlands conurbation on a quiet Bank Holiday Monday. So let's embrace the birth of Over The Hill and wish it a prosperous existence. Plenty of top acts lined up for this inaugural staging including a somewhat rare appearance these days from Danny and the Champions of the World (for the right reasons though and we know they ain't going far away). For further details, check out the official press release below and look out for future coverage from the day's activities down Cogges Farm.

The beautiful Oxfordshire countryside is destined to become immersed in the world of Americana this Summer at the first-ever Over the Hill Festival. Proudly presented by Glovebox Live, Over the Hill takes place on Bank Holiday Monday 26th August at the picturesque Cogges Manor Farm.
With plenty of opportunities to delve into the Americana experience with authentic American food and bars, Over the Hill will also feature intimate performances from some of the finest live Americana and roots acts in the UK today, on two stages housed in beautiful tithe barns.
Local, award-winning brewer Wychwood Brewery will be providing the thirst-quenching beverages notably the refreshing American ale Shipyard IPA and To The Moon will be running a Gin & Prosecco Bar. In addition, Over the Hill will feature authentic American food from vendors such as The Burn Out BBQ and Fat Lil’s providing a selection of Mexican and vegetarian cuisine.  You’ll also have the chance to discover the whole of the Cogges Museum site : the 17th century Manor House and it’s “Downton” links, the orchard and courtyard.
  • Venue is access friendly.
  • A limited number of 12 and under tickets are online priced £5 + booking fee.
  • PLEASE NOTE that both Stages are STANDING only – no seating inside the Barns.
  • The Courtyard will have some seating and you are welcome to bring your own camping chairs.
  • You can find details about the venue, and travel options here
  • There is plenty of FREE parking.
  • No dogs on site apart from Guide Dogs which must be on a lead at all times.
  • The site is totally NON SMOKING but you can vape.
  • PLEASE NOTE your own food and drink are not permitted on the festival site.
  • If you are looking to stay over we can recommend The Premier Inn and Oxford Witney Hotel both of which are walkable to the venue.
  • Enquiries and box office 0845 2574938
26th, August 2019
 doors @ 12noon
On the Door Price: £30
Advance Ticket Price: £30
Book Tickets: Click here

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Weekly Blog Post 11th August 2019 : OK Monthly

Fair enough there hasn't been a weekly blog post since July 14th, but a couple of album reviews returned, a comprehensive look back at SummerTyne was published and the full gig coverage resumed albeit during a quiet period on that front. Meanwhile the steady stream of album releases flowed continuously and news of upcoming records gathered pace. So in the little world of this blog, here is a round up of activity covering the period July 14th to August 11th including the sharing of a couple of September tours.


All reviewed and accessed via links

Don Gallardo at the Kitchen Garden in Birmingham

SummerTyne Festival at the Sage in Gateshead

Baskery at the Kitchen Garden in Birmingham

Lucinda Williams at Birmingham Town Hall

Album Releases

Click on the links for clips/further detail

Carly Dow - Comet (July 15th)

Alice Howe - Visions (July 15th)

Karen Jonas - Lucky, Revisited (July 19th)

Annie Bacon & Her OSHEN - Nothing Stays the Same (July 19th)

Lasers Lasers Birmingham - Warning (July 26th)

Will Bennett and the Tells - All Your Favourite Songs (July 26th)

Beth Bombara - Evergreen (August 9th)

The HawtThorns - Morning Sun (August 9th)

Upcoming Album Releases Added Since July 14th 

Amy Speace - Me and the Ghost of Charlemagne (out September 6th)
Ellis Paul - The Storyteller's Suitcase (out September 6th)
Ana Egge - Is it the Kiss (out September 6th)
The Achievers - The Lost Arc (out September 6th)
Jeremy Ivey - The Dream and the Dreamer (out September 13th)
Jared Deck - Bully Pulpit (out September 13th)
Hoth Brothers - Workin' and Dreamin' (out September 16th)
Catfish Keith - Catfish Crawl (out September 16th)
Darrin Bradbury - Talking Dogs and Atom Bombs (out September 20th)
Shane Alexander - A Life Like Ours (out September 20th)
Bob Bradshaw - Queen of the West (out September 27h)
Daniel Meade - Rust (out October 4th)
Mean Mary - Cold (out October 4th)
Silver Lake 66 - Ragged Heart (out October 4th)
Hannah James and the Jigdoll Ensemble - The Woman and Her Words (out October 4th)
Tim Grimm - Heart Land Again (out October 11th)
Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors - Dragons (out October 11th)
Bradford Loomis - Where the Light Ends (out October 11th)

Tours of Interest

Native Harrow

Frankie Lee

Sunday, 4 August 2019

ALBUM REVIEW: Beth Bombara - Evergreen : Self-released

Beth Bombara is explicit proof of how taking your music out on the road in front of new fans can be a game changer. Back in 2017 her most recent record MAP AND NO DIRECTION was given an international promotional opportunity. The danger in new markets is the extent of the competition and whether your record is going to fight through the crowded room to find sufficient listening time. Twelve months later she had the opportunity to leave her US home (Missouri to be more precise) and play a series of UK dates with Jamie Wyatt. Listening to her music in a different zone unlocked the door and a back catalogue, which stretches back a further four albums in addition to the latest release at the time, was duly explored. With connections in place, the chances of her brand new album EVERGREEN slipping through the highway cracks had all but eradicated and with little hesitation a whole hearted recommendation is forthwith. 

Of course, such a process is hugely personal and the next potential batch of Beth Bombara fans may not get the luxury of seeing her play live. Therefore it’s left to those in the loop to advise those outside that this album is rather good and you should take a punt on adding Beth Bombara to your listening repertoire. 

Once again, the Americana community, one that stretches far from the land implied in the name, is the likely landing point for the music of Beth Bombara, or those with rock or more precisely folk-rock leanings. EVERGREEN is a neatly rounded compound package of ten songs all smartly layered with a rich texture of guitar infused rock. This is the sort pioneered in the heartland by the usual suspects and more of a mid-west nature than downright southern. Melding into the guitar strewn pot is the poignant self-reflecting thoughts of a songwriter driven by sensibilities and one striving to find oxygen for her lyrical musings. The result is an album driving hard into your psyche and building a momentum to secure a listening spot in a multiple of settings. 

The impact of an ear bending opener cannot be over stressed in this day and age where new releases shower down like wedding confetti refusing to recognise borders or boundaries. In the guise of ‘I Only Cry When I’m Alone’, Beth Bombara not only safely reaches first base but seeks extra hit territory to bring in an analogy with America’s favourite pastime. To the uninitiated, it’s basically a super song. Not too far behind is the title track, with ‘Evergreen’ benefitting from a cool melody underpinning the strength of the album’s second half. 

From a strong start the record powers forward, taking a couple of rejuvenating pitstops to toss elements of flexibility into the mix. This includes a touch of twang injected into the excellent Tenderhearted’ and the slightly tempered beginning to Does It Echo before the guitar solo segments return. The biggest sound switch comes at the end where All Good Things tunes into piano mode and a seriously poignant ballad escorts the listener to the door reminiscent of the moments when Brandi Carlile slows things down. 

As impressive as the final track is, EVERGREEN is defined by its subtly crafted rock elements where jangly and conventional styles entwine. All this is bound by warm vocals adding to the satisfying feeling of tuning into the latest instalment of Beth Bombara’s flourishing recording career.

ALBUM REVIEW: The HawtThorns - Morning Sun : Forty Below Records

Open an album with an absolute belter of a track and you’ve got your name on the board. Follow it up with several other strategically placed crackers and you’ll get yourself on repeat mode. Make a smart move in covering a John Moreland song and folks with an acute ear for a finely crafted lyrical masterpiece will pay attention. Alternatively just make a record that finds its audience with arrow-like precision and the great minds of artist and discerning listener will align as designed. Through the body of their debut release MORNING SUN, California-based duo The HawtThorns have all the aforementioned attributes nailed on and are now set on the next path to widen the appeal of music fully deserving of extending far from a home base way out west. 

The HawtThorns is the slightly modified moniker for the artistic output of husband and wife duo KP and Johnny Hawthorn (the extra t remains a mystery). They bring a vast experience of rock, pop and country music into the style of their newly founded operation and you won’t be surprised to learn that such a melting pot of sounds is likely to see a gravitational pull to that, ’catch all waifs and strays’ entity’ - Americana. While mere words are required in this medium, once the album moves into listening territory, its own laudable attributes take over to ensure any risks on those taking a punt on a new name evaporate quickly. 

The bright and breezy opener ‘Shaking’ is everything you want from a catchy tune set loose to snare its prey. Being seduced by this song is not a bad expense of your listening time and who can resist an infusion of well-crafted pop. Where you place this track is down to individual interpretation (check out the promotional video below), but a slice of 00s pop country was detected with a striking resemblance to Sara Evans’ ‘A Real Fine Place to Start’ jumping out in parts. 

It may seem a little ingenuous to comment second on the sole cover among ten originals, but a version of John Moreland’s ‘Nobody Gives a Damn About Songs Anymore’ struck a major chord. Apart from being a guilt edged piece of lyrical composition, it did send a signal that we are likely to hear more of this Oklahoma singer-songwriter’s classic material in the works of others, especially as his living legacy gathers pace. The HawtThorns don’t make a stab at owning the song, but just a mere acknowledgment and celebration of a precious art form is fine. 

Other songs to resonate strongly in the opening shots of this record’s life include a classy acoustic duet closer in ‘Lucky Charm’, creating the perfect bookended combination with the stand out opener. Midway through the album, ‘Give Me a Sign’ shines like a beacon and multiple plays see second track ‘Rebel Road’ advance with appreciation despite being slightly overshadowed by the opener; a recurring theme of this review. 

The chances of The HawtThorns being more than a distant mark on the horizon (with a great record, mind you) are greatly enhanced by a tie up with the label Forty Below Records, which has connections in the UK and have recently led to Jamie Wyatt and Sam Morrow touring our shores. Should this occur with The HawtThorns, the queues can start now.

Everything you require from an affable and freely accessible Americana album is wrapped in MORNING SUN. Maybe a freudian symbol in the title that the dawn is just breaking for this phase of a career that should prove fruitful for KP (formerly Kristen Profitt and owner of most of the vocals) and Johnny Hawthorn (the prime guitar architect). The HawtThorns have arrived and plenty will sit up and take notice.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

GIG REVIEW: Lucinda Williams - Birmingham Town Hall. Friday 2nd August 2019

Like a false start in a 100 metre sprint final, sometimes greatness requires a re-boot to click into gear. Maybe presentational timing wasn’t fully in place when the band entered the Town Hall stage, but we are in the presence of the queen of imperfection, an artist who turns frailties and fragility into a virtue. A false start indeed, but one quickly gathering pace to blossom in its pomp and prime. Here, the sprint analogy ends as events move into the territory of a two and a half hour marathon. This is Lucinda Williams as candid, full-on and content as any fan could wish. An artist entering a zone of proud reminiscence and an audience taken on a journey that few suspected could ever be so deep, intense, revealing and downright enthralling. Any whispering doubts substantiated by precedence were cast aside. This is Lucinda Williams - the legend. This is CAR WHEELS ON A GRAVEL ROAD - an album cementing a genre. This is a gig of the ages.

The algorithms were in full throttle on social media to sell this Birmingham Town Hall show out. OK nearly, if you literally interpret ‘limited availability’, but who’s counting. After missing out the city when promoting the last two albums (in my opinion her most compelling bodies of work since CAR WHEELS), what better way to amend than celebrate an album that never ages in the mist of time and refreshes the mind with each listen, no matter the distance apart. 

A two-dimensional approach worked wonders in making this evening tick. One that became so apparent as the show evolved. In the strictest or loosest of terms, CAR WHEELS is a folk album (a Grammy winning one to boot) composed by a folk artist to the most stripped down degree in its sensitivity. Yet the release from piling so much into a life affirming creative project was to rock out with total inhibition. Just like the subsequent albums post-1998, there was no holding back for the second part of this gig as Lucinda’s backing band, the Buick 6 (a three piece with twice the velocity), had the brakes released to have every rock purist purring at the excellence on display. 

The seven-track segment that followed the crowning moment of CAR WHEELS accounted for the final forty-five minutes of this extended-no interval gig, a period where any opportunity to sink back into folk mode was resisted. In no particular order, ‘Foolishness’, ’Righteously’, ‘Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings’, ‘Unsuffer Me’, ‘Steal Your Love’, 'Essence' and ‘Hard Times Killing Floor Blues’ was the alternative hand dealt. The first of these saw Lucinda unite 900 people in the most important message, while the last one (an old Skip James song) was sent out to that regular Midlands gig goer - Mr Robert Plant. Will Kimbrough famously said at a show in the area once ‘I hear Bobby Plant’s in the audience tonight’, Lucinda just hoped he’d stayed around long enough to hear her tribute to one of the greats of the blues. 

Of course, there is a difference between Lucinda Williams the folk singer and Lucinda Williams the rock star. While both feature strong in her DNA, it is allowed to err to one side as a fan and here it is the sheer magnitude to write, perform and sweat out the most delicate and articulate of sensitive observational songs. During the thirteen track running order presentation of CAR WHEELS, the vocals undulated across the peaks and troughs of an artist battle weary from attaining the summit of a life mission. Occasionally they misfire, but when digging deep they shatter into a million pieces to ache, hurt and bury deep into the mineshaft of her poignant songs. Frequently during the hour and three quarters spent celebrating a 52-minute record (yet not a second of talk time was wasted or drifted into the ether) you were lulled into a zone of live music fixation, no finer from my perspective than the absolutely adorable ‘Lake Charles’. Listening to the intro, switching the eyes between a singer immersed in a song and a screen displaying some impulsive images coupled with hearing the voice in pristine gravelly form added both chills and the early signs of a moist tear. 

Closely following this total stand out moment (unlikely to be surpassed all year), was an outstanding version of ‘Greenville’, which needed no introduction if you interpreted it as the follow-up to the preceding ‘Metal Firecracker’, one that did have its origins laid out. Joining the holy trinity of CAR WHEELS slowed down, you have to travel a long way to find a better closer than ‘Jackson’. A secular gospel song if such a beast exists and one where you could listen alongside viewing the original scrawled lyrics displayed on the screen. Of course, to warn off any karaoke, they often didn’t match. Also, the soulful element to ‘Still I Long for Your Kiss’ was strikingly evident. 

After listening to endless stories of how the album came about and its multitude of inspirations, nobody present could ever listen to CAR WHEELS ON A GRAVEL ROAD in a similar light again. If education is as important as straight up listening to your live music experience, then tonight was right up your street. Names, events, locations and liaisons freely flowed from a performer seemingly having the time of her life. A solitary thought was, could this make a good live album or DVD, but then countered by, you had to be there to really grasp the moment. A tough statement for those not able to catch this show on a tour that didn’t call at all ports.

Thankfully, Birmingham Town Hall was one such port and without hesitation it gatecrashed the top of the 2019 gig standings by a lengthy margin. 

You could literally write an essay on the findings of the show. To summarise a couple of feelings: ‘2 Cool 2 Be 4-Forgotten’ came over in a totally different mantra live than on record, ‘Concrete and Barbed Wire’ is one of those gifted songs where interpretation can be so personal - a true trait of a great song - and Lucinda did well to emerge from her Blaze Foley and Townes Van Zandt days as laid out in ‘Drunken Angel’

Reflection material from this gig is varied, comprehensive, rich and provoking. Four words that probably go a decent way to interpreting the career of Lucinda Williams. 

For one night only, Birmingham Town Hall was planted on the fault line of East Texas and West Louisiana. A place where music sinks deep in its soul and alongside the delta of Mississippi, where Americana finds it true home. Lucinda Williams - the full package - didn’t miss its intended destination tonight. Now, let us slip on CAR WHEELS again and discover that different light. 

GIG REVIEW: Baskery - Kitchen Garden, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Thursday 1st August 2019

Baskery is a band that periodically flickers on the radar, usually when passing through town. A little delve into the archives throws up 2008 opening for Seth Lakeman in Wolverhampton, 2012 at Shrewsbury Folk Festival and a 2014 gig at the Kitchen Garden in Birmingham. You can now add 2019 at the last venue as the Bondesson sisters made a somewhat surprise and unexpected return. Yet a welcome one as the Kitchen can bring out the versatile side of a band set up especially when the multi instrumental operation can challenge the dynamics of an intimate space so often the domain of the solo singer-songwriter. Across two sets, each roughly 50 minutes, the trio bound through a thumping arrangement of songs, all structured by a mystical road trip starting in their home city of Stockholm before venturing out to Europe, America and even outer space. 

A healthy gathering of the committed and curious gave the sisters (Stella, Greta and Sunniva) a receptive environment to ply their trade, one that heavily leans into the roots side of Americana. Combining the most stunning of sisterly harmonies with a banjo and percussion driven soundtrack ably supported by stand up bass and multiple guitar changes, Baskery conjure up a sound that races along, raucous in places yet controlled and measured. They are a band that enlists your focus and undivided attention whilst serving an appetising style of music. 

Album releases have been strategically spaced out across their thirteen year existence as a formal band (informality likely stretches back longer). Back in 2014 songs from their most recent effort 2018s COYOTE AND SIRENS were previewed and fast forward five years, ‘Shut the Catflap’ and ‘Cactus Baby’ have fully embedded into the Baskery repertoire. Older favourites like ‘One Horse Down’ and ‘Oscar Jr. Restaurant’ from their full length debut record FALL AMONG THIEVES still sound good with the latter getting its origin from the Greek island of Rhodes explained in the song intro. Another port of call on their mythical journey. 

Similarly to five years ago, they still pay homage to one of their heroes, Neil Young, with a version of ‘Old Man’ and Sunniva still manages to momentarily play guitar while standing aloft on Greta’s kick drum in one of the shows more kinaesthetic moments. While there was so much similarity to previous Baskery shows, namely the energy, vibrancy and sheer intensity, you didn’t get much insight to where they are going as a band. Their American adventure seems to have tailed off with Greta commenting on Devon now being her home. 

Maybe that is how the experience of Baskery is destined to be. Periodic gigs that capture the moment and album releases that hover on the horizon. However, when the force of their unison is in full flow, the live impact is packed with value adding qualities while stimulating the live music experience. A uniqueness surrounds the way Baskery go about making music and a little room will always be made, especially when they hit the road for exciting live dates like this.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

FESTIVAL REVIEW: SummerTyne Americana - Sage, Gateshead. Friday 20th July to Sunday 22nd July 2019

SummerTyne, the Americana jewel of the north east, popular with locals and those of us travelling from further afield. The festival where artists still don’t heed the warning not to say ‘it’s so good to be in Newcastle’, and thus face the wrath of local bi-partisanship. The event that flies the flag for music needing a little push to be heard and where the not so well-known massively outnumber the famous. Come rain or shine, it is a festival that rarely fails to unearth new talent and leave those attending it in some capacity refreshed and satisfied. Like so many festivals, choices need to be made on which acts to catch, with the best policy of leaving any regrets at the door once decided. As a fan you have to place faith in the organisers, who no doubt have a major balancing job to do regards availability and budget, and embrace the schedule as an opportunity to widen your appreciation of good music. 2019 saw SummerTyne cast a little debate in the air with their top billing, yet the strength of any festival lies within its substance and base. On this score, the event succeeded in this its 14th staging on the banks of the Gateshead side of the Tyne, matching up well to when last attending it two years ago.

Before an in-depth look at over twenty artists making the weekend a successful venture north from the Midlands, a quick mention of three pros and a solitary con to the overall feel of visiting the Sage this year. Firstly, the immaculate and seamless scheduling of music on the outdoor Jumpin’ Hot Club and indoor concourse stages was a sheer delight for anyone on a mission to maximise stretches of the festival’s offerings. This is the free part of SummerTyne and full commendation for all involved in this mass logistical exercise. This enabled many artists to be seen back to back on Saturday and Sunday afternoon. 

Rachel Harrington & Massy Ferguson 
Secondly, the sound in the concourse was a vast improvement on what was recalled two years ago. The litmus test was watching Massy Ferguson twice play this location on both visits and coming across so much better in the sound department this time.

Finally, while the Sunday River Cruise was not a new development, attending it for the first time was one of the highlights of the weekend. Once departure from the Quayside was underway, top music filled the air from Massy Ferguson and Rachel Harrington for a near continuous two and a half hours. They each played a pair of well-channelled and adapted sets in a richly invigorating environment. Listening to some seriously good Americana music while cruising from Newcastle to Tynemouth is probably the nearest I’ll ever get to Cayamo, but hey, who needs the Caribbean when you’ve got the River Tyne. 

In contrast, the one downside to the weekend was a fair few fans left music-less on Saturday evening after the Cowboy Junkies finished their show at 8:30. There were a couple of short sets from Hayley McKay on the concourse stage before Hollie Rogers came on at 11:30 to play an hour long slot as Sage 1 was emptying. This though left things a little flat for those making the festival their sole focus of the weekend. Maybe the Cowboy Junkies finishing relatively early created this enforced gap, but a couple of other sets could have filled the void.

For the second successive visit to SummerTyne, the decision was made to catch the three evening headline ticketed shows in the lower capacity Sage 2. This meant The Long Ryders won the retro clash on Friday over the sold out kd Lang show, mainly on the basis of preferring their style of music especially how it has inspired so much guitar fuelled alt-country and Americana music that followed in its wake. The populist tendencies attached to the Strictly Country (a few eyebrows raised at that title) presentation on Saturday was never going to compete with An Evening with the Cowboy Junkies , despite never really being deeply into this band in their heyday. However, you need to respect and embrace class when it’s placed in front of you. Similarly, Kiefer Sutherland’s diversion from acting into live music is not met with much enthusiasm here, and thus fell a distant second to catching Marlon Williams’ return to SummerTyne, this time headlining Sage 2 on Sunday with a full band. 

Cowboy Junkies
So what was the overall verdict of the three headliners who somewhat chose themselves against limited opposition? Sid Griffin and his Long Ryders played their hearts out as it was LA 1985 all over again. A vibrancy reverberated around the hall and all was well with the world for an hour and half. This was the same length of time that the ‘An Evening with the Cowboy Junkies’ extended to on Saturday. The effect of witnessing this set from the lofty reaches of Level 3 could be roughly split into three equal thirds. The first half hour mainly sharing songs from their new album , the familiar ALL THAT RECKONING, created a soothing scene setting ambience, which unfortunately led into a middle section where the prolonged intensity created a listening challenge. The switch to acoustic on the hour mark acted as the perfect personal energiser to make the last half hour a triumphant experience. If a mission of festivals is to broaden music with bands on the periphery of your horizon, Friday and Saturday was job done. 

Marlon Williams is an artist who creates and leaves a distinct impression. Those hooking into this idiosyncratic New Zealander are now starting to get a satiated fix. Since playing a late night solo set at SummerTyne in 2017, he has graced the main stage at Cambridge Folk Festival and now a return to Gateshead with a full band in tow. The one abiding memory of this show was a stunning finale posing the thought what it would be like if Marlon Williams permanently ditched the guitar such was the power, guile and mesmeric movement to his vocal performance. Maybe the wow factor from this as a short sharp stint provides the answer. 

Two of these headline shows had support acts, the odd one out obviously ‘An Evening with…’ English singer-songwriter Hollie Rogers opened for The Long Ryders and prompted discussion among the chattering groups afterwards. Her potential, vocal capabilities and song craft met with unanimous approval , along with perhaps a need to develop a grittier edge to win over those deeply immersed in the Americana spirit, such as her audience in Sage 2 this evening. 

Ida Mae
On the other hand, young English country blues duo Ida Mae have really sharpened their tools since re-locating to America in the last year. The two-piece operation consisting of Chris Turpin on mainly resonator and a century-old guitar and Steph Ward on tambourine and vocals, seemingly have the world at their feet. A rustic rawness to a sweet ’n’ sour sound has seen them make a record with Ethan Johns, link up with the influential American distribution organisation Thirty Tigers and just announcing on the evening that they are about to go on the road opening for Willie Nelson and Alison Krauss. Heady days for this young couple originally from Norfolk, who also happened to give a fascinating and impressively impassioned performance in their 45 minute opening slot for Marlon Williams.

With the ticketed shows attended out of the way (the afternoon and late night ones were given a miss this year to explore the other stages more), focus switches to best of the rest, although many would argue that Bennett Wilson Poole was the best of the lot. Headlining the outdoor Jumpin’ Hot Club stage on Sunday teatime was the perfect slot for this trio to show a mixed audience of fervent and casual observers why so many have shouted from the rafters about them since their formation a couple of years ago. Great tunes from a classic album, a new topical song and a rousing encore finale of ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ suggest that the tank is far from empty. 

Bennett Wilson Poole
Maybe the ‘best of the rest’ at SummerTyne should exclude Bennett Wilson Poole, but there was still plenty to enjoy amongst the free presentation, an integral part of the organisers reaching out into the local community. The Jumpin’ Hot Club stage, set at the foot of what is named locally as ‘Shipcote Hill’, is an active zone for the three afternoons of the festival. Friday tends to be local artists with the occasional touring one popping up over the weekend. The highlight of admittedly only casually observing things upon arrival on Friday was a set by Nottingham based outfit Most Ugly Child at 4 o’clock. They crossed my path a couple of years ago via an album review and followed this up with an appearance at Maverick. Their SummerTyne performance this year didn’t disappoint as they sailed through a decent set of country inspired tunes, influenced by the greats and delivered in the staple male-female lead duet format. 
Saturday saw six more acts frequent the Jumpin’ Hot Club stage highlighted by two acts seen before in previous events across a vast divide from Perth in Scotland to Easton in Suffolk. Midlands based transatlantic duo A Different Thread opened the proceedings at noon and progressed to impress an increasing number of folks with their roots-infused take on the folk side of Americana. Following a short break where we could switch to the concourse to enjoy a seamless array of music, Daniel Meade took to the stage to play some songs with his lead guitar playing buddy Lloyd Reid. Daniel is in the middle of a rather busy year recording-wise with a live album already out and a new studio effort due for release in October. The duo were very much in acoustic mode for their set sharing a good mix of new songs and old favourites, while keeping a toe in the Americana scene during this interim period.
Fargo Railroad Company
A quick dash from the Quayside on Sunday afternoon following the aforementioned river cruise saw an arrival just as Fargo Railroad Company took to the stage. They were another band previously seen at Maverick and their style of southern rock influenced country was a welcome addition to a SummerTyne melting pot calling at every point of the wide Americana spectrum you could imagine, from country pop to dark murder ballads and full-on rock to intrinsic bluegrass. Fargo did their job splendidly, rousing an outdoor crowd enjoying the best weather of the weekend i.e. rain-free. 
Sandwiching Fargo and outdoor headliners Bennet Wilson Poole was Austin-based Georgia-native Barbara Nesbit, currently on tour with a guitarist and pedal steel player. To repeat a recurring theme, she first came to my attention when playing the Maverick Festival a couple of years ago. On that occasion she played solo, so the addition of pedal steel was an upgrade, one which added to the diversity of SummerTyne and delivered a performance very much in the Kelly Willis mould. A fellow Austin artist who has previously graced the banks of the Tyne.
Broken Bones Matilda
Away from the highlights of the Jumpin’ Hot Club stage, much was enjoyed on the neighbouring concourse location. This was the weather proof side of SummerTyne and a performing space that extends from a full afternoon schedule to some early evening performances leading into a couple of late night slots as the headline shows in Sage 1 & 2 finish. Friday teatime saw pedal steel and keyboard led blues instrumentalist Roosevelt Collier kick things off before a couple of home grown acts played late night sets. These included Darren Hodson from Southern Companion playing solo followed by Broken Bones Matilda appearing in their duo format. It was intriguing seeing the latter in this stripped down mode following catching them play Maverick a couple of weeks earlier in a five-piece set up. The sparse nature of this format was ripe for absorbing the sunken grooves that emanate from their sound, and mesmeric interpretations of ‘Dead Flowers’ and ‘In the Pines’ complete with serene movement and collaboration made for compelling viewing.
Saturday on the concourse housed more fine performances. London-based international bluegrass trio Lunch Special were the find of the day after missing their set at the recent Maverick Festival. A beautiful combination of traditional, lesser known and contemporary Appalachian tunes flowed from the stringed wands of these three players, marking them out not only as a festival success but a future torch bearer for this type of music on the UK acoustic roots scene. In contrast to Lunch Special, Jonas and Jane had been seen live before when opening for Sarah Jane Scouten in London earlier this year. Once again a light touch yet perfectly delicately formed folk Americana sound seeps out of their music in a pulse of blissful serenity. A set that didn’t challenge the sometimes tough acoustics of this cavernous performing location when multiple instruments are plugged in.
On the other hand, the full pronged highly charged alt-country Americana rock of Massy Ferguson does stretch proceedings in the sound department, but unlike two years ago their set was spot on with Ethan Anderson driving his four piece band along to a throbbing beat.To cement their Pacific North West unison with Rachel Harrington, a feature both at Maverick and SummerTyne, she joined the band to sing harmony on ‘Maybe the Gods’, to replicate a role that Danni Nicholls played on the same stage but on a different song in 2017. Without anointing a single top moment at SummerTyne 2019, this was a worthy candidate boldly propelled forward by the creation of a whole new genre – literary rock – in ‘Momma’s in the Back Seat’
While Sunday was a little lower key in the concourse for me, it was finally good to catch Smith and Brewer for the first time after countless near misses. On a similar folk theme, Daisy Chute has had a brilliant write up and an introduction that left her little wriggle room. Not to worry, as she gave a very confident, classy and assured performance to add another name to the growing list of young performers adept at a style of music that may not be sucked up by the masses, but thoroughly embraced by finely tuned ears.

Of course, many other artists appeared over the weekend that will get column inches elsewhere, but remember what was preached earlier, ‘leave your regrets at the door’. SummerTyne 2019 had a few similarities and differences to 2017. Some of its unusual features embedded in further this time and the strident approach of exploring the not so well known of the presentation regardless of who you would have wanted to be there paid dividends. With Southern Fried taking a break this year, it is imperative that events like SummerTyne continue to power forward to promote music so precious to an ever growing band. Since 2006, the north east of England has been very lucky to have such an event on their doorstep. Look after it and you will see people continue to make a long trek from other corners of the UK in future years.