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Digital Subscriptions > Country Music > Apr/May 2019 > AMERICANAFEST UK 2019 THE LIVE SHOWCASES

AMERICANAFEST UK 2019 THE LIVE SHOWCASES

Country Music braved the icy climes of North London to check out the Americana acts you’ll be seeing more of in the coming months and years, appearing in five venues over two nights of non-stop showcases …
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As the snow fluttered down in Hackney, its streets became awash with slush, the air turned eye-wateringly cold, and public transport was touch and go. But inside five very different venues some really hot music was being served up to those in the know. It was a case of “have wristband; will travel!” as hordes of fellow Americana fans roamed the byways in search of the Next Big Thing, necking whisky and cradling mulled cider to warm them during their pursuit of roots music nirvana.

Whether in the large Oslo venue, intimate Moth Club, upstairs in the tiny Paper Dress Vintage store, the cosy Empire Bar nestled on the side of Hackney Empire itself, or in the chilly Night Tales, grizzled and fresh-faced artists set out their stall for Americana fans.

I’m happy to report that I found my own treats in artists and groups across both nights – having done my homework first and plotted a way to maximise the number of acts I could possibly fit in, making copious notes, taking photos, running from venue to venue, and still getting the last train home. I also consulted with fab UK country duo and full-time Americana fans, the Worry Dolls, who already knew a handful of the artists.

ALMOST EVERY ACT I saw had either the songs, musical licks or stagecraft to woo a crowd during their half-hour sets, but seven in particular had all of the above – and more. How did I not know about the magnificent Birds Of Chicago [1]? Here as a three-piece, they centred around charismatic lead vocalist Allison Russell, who also plays a mean banjo and clarinet (occasionally juggling both), plus her cardigan-wearing (told you it was chilly) husband JT Nero on guitar and vocals, with extraordinary support from Steve Dawson on all manner of slide and steel strings. Russell’s compelling delivery, soaring voice and striking appearance made her the star of the set, but in truth it’s all about the group dynamic, and wonderful songs like Barley – probably the standout – plus Try (A Little Harder), and the uplifting, Baton Rouge. Seek them out immediately!

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