AmericanaFest UK 2018 – various venues in Hackney

A quick summary of the concept of the AmericanaFest UK showcases for those not familiar: multiple acts (UK, US, and anywhere else) and multiple venues (Oslo, Paper Dress Vintage, Moth Club, Empire Bar) come together in Hackney, London to celebrate the UK Americana scene. It’s the public highlight of an industry couple of days that culminate in the Americana UK Awards.

Along with 2017’s Country Music Week and the ongoing country music festival Country To Country (also in Glasgow and Dublin), the AmericanaFest showcases are forming part of a significant set of festivals bringing some of the best roots acts to the UK. In Hackney the evening was opened by the ragged folk of Joanna Serrat, which was followed by a short walk to catch Bristol’s Elles Bailey delivering an accomplished set in the Empire Bar. Her blues-rock touches the edge of Americana, but the lasting memory of her set was her wonderful voice. Accompanied by the best songs from her debut record and an accomplished live band it was a great way to kick the evening off.

The smattering of people in the Empire Bar turned into a more thickly populated set of people in the Moth Club, a strangely decorated working man’s club. Austrian Prinz Grizzly broke a string halfway through his pounding set, before Kentucky wunderkind Tyler Childers blasted his way through an acoustic set full of stories about snipes (a fake bird) and his childhood. Frantically strumming his way through tracks from his current gem, Purgatory, like the murderous ‘Banded Clovis’ and ‘Born Again’.

Over at the Oslo, At The Helm Records presented the creators of two of 2017’s top country / Americana albums. Beth Bombara put on a powerful show of her garage-Americana, playing tracks from her record, Map & No Direction with a real purpose. While Los Angeles girl Jaime Wyatt followed with her “pick-up band” showing off her perfect-for-country voice to great effect on tracks like ‘Giving Back The Best Of Me’ and ‘Wishing Well’. As well as looking resplendent in her shiny blue trouser suit.

Elsewhere Robbie Cavanagh, The Americans, Curse Of Lono, and the enigmatic The Texas Gentlemen were bringing their various versions of country and Americana to the evening. Hands down best act of the day though was Kashena Sampson stunning the audience into silence at the compact and bijou Paper Dress Vintage. The terrific playfulness of country stomper ‘Greasy Spoon’ and the vocal quality shown on ‘It’s A Long Way Back’ and ‘Wild Heart’ were nothing to prepare the chatty crowd for the literal showstopper that was ‘She Shines’. Displaying an admirable tenderness and a vocal performance that had to be heard to believed, the volume of the room dropped to silence. Just the best of many fantastic performances at the 2018 version of AmericanaFest UK.

All photos courtesy of Redrospective.

Max Mazonowicz

Updated: Feb 03, 2018

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