t’s day two here at the UK Americana Music Week in Hackney central where the weather couldn’t be more British. But tonight as the cold, dark rain falls around us we are welcomed back to Bohemia Place and into the warm sanctuary of iconic venues and gifted musicians. With snappy turnovers and a selection list of artists longer than both my arms put together, we headed out to see what gems lay in our stride today.
Berklee alumni Ole Kirkeng opens in Paper Dress Vintage with his band and 70s style in tow. It’s summertime bliss in January as he dives into the first number and its beautiful accompanying harmonies from his band. Wrapped in an Oakwood acoustic warmth Kirkeng gets the groove going. With a starting act this good my only concern lies in the rest of the evening living up to this level of musicianship and joy. With catchy indie lyricism and a hand on heart held beat, these guys are not to be missed. On a visual note, for anyone who hasn’t visited this decorated venue before I’d fully recommend it. Decorated with thrift shop splendours you can catch a show as well as a few new dashing additions to your wardrobe.
Misty River in her effervescent sanctuary of feel-good country roots takes Oslo by the most serene storm there ever was. It’s the festival’s double bass debut alongside Rivers herself on acoustic guitar, another acoustic guitarist and an electric guitarist also keeping the rhythm with a foot drum. Beautifully done with class.
Another North Carolina native, Caleb Caudle in all his alliterated glory introduces himself to a filled-to-the-brim room at Hackney Church. An old voice with a vibrant soul his live show brings about feelings of nostalgia within music, and life harmony. His audience sat completely silent, drinking in every narrative-laced line. It’s the kind of music that without asking, makes you stop in your tracks and really listen. It almost takes you by surprise in between songs when Caudle fills in those small spaces with witty quirks, garnishing laughter from his crowd before summoning their silence again with another inspiring take. Produced by Johnny Cash’s son this artist is a one-man soul hurricane into which we willingly fall.
Ruth Lyon, dressed in a show-stopping red blazer takes to the Hackney Social. Songbird vocals flipping into falsetto reminiscent of mid-2000s indie folk it’s a set that keeps picking up the pace gently but with stride. Her latest EP which was out at the end of last year drips with a pop-like class which is now brought to life effortlessly. The guitarist plays a telecaster with an eBow creating elongated notes in a sonic melancholy melody way. The experience is very cinematic; maraca’s and jazz-tipped hats galore.
I last saw Simeon Hammond Dallas at Omeara supporting Elles Bailey about a year ago though this time she had a full band in tow. Brilliantly interactive she navigates her audience through unfiltered tales from her past which she now puts into thought-provoking numbers. Running on the theme of this being the first festival where there is an ever-growing circuit of instrument additions we see here a beautiful use of mullet sticks on the cymbals whilst Hammond Dallas silks through solo numbers within the set. The highlight for sure is her song inspired by ‘white men who think the blues begins and ends with Eric Clapton’. It’s blues syncopation like no other and the first of the festival. Added keys shake out every inch of blues slouch sass. The perfect midnight set. From bumping into her a few times around London I can confidently say she will be playing in a location near you so do, do, do go and check her out.
One of the names I had heard countless times was Ferris & Sylvester. As we enter Oslo we’re caught in an intimate moment between the pair, running an endearingly unique number with the crowds beckoning silence surrounding them. They build up the pulse with seasoned longtime drummer Ross Gordon. Ferris & Sylvester have a uniquely commendable heart-grabbing grace which propels us from subtle intimacy into full blown rock out shakers and back. They get the crowd clapping before wrenching out some slick guitar solos. I tell you right now, they weren’t joking when they said come and see Ferris & Sylvester. Famed producers as well as performers they were an absolute highlight. ‘Sickness’ from their latest album available on all platforms.
Louien is the brainchild of band leader, singer and songwriter Miranda Solberg (we also have previously seen Ole Kirkeng on guitar). Though an onstage four piece there’s an intimate feel with essences of the Lumineers in a heavier setting. The impressive drumming sees maracas in one hand and the snare in another holding down the fort with an uncontainable feel of of ambient rock n roll. Whilst the music itself is the highlight, I can’t quite take my eyes off the Rickenbacker guitar in the corner. Following that we’re able to dash over to see Gareth Dunlop engorge us into his world of magnificently rustic vocals and soothing guitar tones.
Whitehorse at The Moth Club up next. Another duo with even more country roots glory than the last. It’s packed out to the max but the crowd isn’t quite as large as Luke Doucet’s huge Gretsch style six string twanger. The pair harmonise in perfect unity, weaving in-between snappy guitar solos and ethereal folk lyrics. They played a lot from their latest album released earlier this month, ‘I’m not crying, you’re crying’ which has already garnished favourable reviews.
Darling West with their new record coming out soon play through their tracks with an eager drawl. With a banjo in tow the they designate themselves as proprietors of the nights beautifully transpiring our Wednesday evening into a foot on path journey into cosmic folk. Yet another Norwegian band on the billing it’s clear Americana is stretching its open arms right around to all kinds of parts of the world, bringing these artists together. St Catherines Child also plays out a beautifully ethereal set at the Hackney Social.
Having heard Stephen Wilson Jr.’s music last year it was a no brainer to catch this virtuoso of a songwriter as the final act of the night. Just one man with his late 70s gut-string acoustic felt like a fully blown band as he slung himself into every corner of the stage, owning it in its entirety. Engaging us in an ardent fuelled performance it’s a masterclass in guitar practice as well as lyricism, drawing out every coil of emotion. Coming out with a new record soon he states this is his first proper show in London but his audience regardless respond to him as one of their own. Hailing from rural Southern Indiana he draws upon those fist n grind experiences in a rare and captivating show. His most streamed song ‘Year to Be Young 1994’ is played before Wilson Jr. finishes with ‘Holler from the Holler’. Pedals and affects play with his sonics, bringing the set out in its fullest.
To say the end of the night ended on a high would be an understatement. A fantastic roster of artists, bands and visionaries alike. They may have be gracing the world of Americana but there is just so much to it then that. Americana represents a plethora of genres underneath the same high sky waving flag of damn good music. Each artist worthy of a listen, every year at the UK Americana Music Week well worth a visit.
Review: Monty Sewell
Photography: Tim De Graauw