(Photo Credit: Polina Mourzina)
“Some songs are just pure emotion.” Ray Benson, legendary frontman of Asleep At The Wheel, is talking about Americana: what it means, what it is and what it can be. We’re in London, at AmericanaFest 2019 (AMAs), and some things don’t change. One hour later, across the city in a converted warehouse in Hackney, Old Crow Medicine Show guitarist Chance McCoy is tearing down the house with a version of Woody Guthrie’s ‘Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key’ that makes us think of the past while sounding like right now.
Four years in and that’s the story of the AMAs right there: the ever-present moment. That’s where great music lives and you’ll find it alive and well in 2019. Black Deer is here to check out new talent and tell the world about our festival, while talking to fans and influencers in the Americana world about what’s happening. The talk early on is about the Grammy Awards and their decision to add an Americana category and how important that has been. There’s discussions about the Americana chart in the UK, too, before we all realise that the day Spotify add an Americana genre is the day the community will take its next step.
But that’s enough business: the talk is over, the soundchecks are finished and the music is about to begin. The showcases are the highlight of the AMAs and the opening night of 2019 proves no different – highlights come in the shape of a rocking set from 2018 Black Deer alumnus Treetop Flyers, Noble Jacks’ high energy workouts and Oh Susannah’s perfectly-judged mix or stories and songs. Madison Violet’s old country laments almost steal the show, too, but it’s Smithsonian Folkways artist Kaia Kater who everyone comes away talking about.
What a set. Very often, showcases are gigs that belong to the audience and their networking opportunities, but Kaia is too good for that: the young Canadian, a favourite of Rhiannon Giddens, plays a startlingly original show that drowns out any industry chatter and wows all present with a performance filled with grace and gravitas. The songs and singing aren’t bad, either, and those in the bar at The Hackney Empire fall into the hush that arrives when a community collectively realises that greatness is upon them.
What the AMAs are all about? Absolutely.
We’ll see you tomorrow.
Quote of the day:
“Buddy Holly’s band would come in all the time…”
– Ray Benson, Asleep At The Wheel
Song of the day: