Songs are the fuel that keep the home fires burning within the Americana community. Everyone at AmericanaFest UK 2020 talks about honesty, integrity, authenticity and passion – but the fact is that as a mantra, the “three chords and the truth” line can lay flat on a pious page unless brought to life by master melody makers. Luckily, here in Hackney, we’re surrounded by just a few…

What makes a song great? That’s the big question on everybody’s lips as Day Two gets started with the screening of a film made celebrating a community collaboration between AMA-UK members and older residents of the Hackney community. It’s an inspiring start, as we watch six songwriters share their craft with a group of wonderful characters who have been christened the ‘Hackney Elders’ for this project. They laugh, cry and create as the film unfolds and you can’t help being drawn in as music makes these opposites attract. We’re then treated to some live acoustic performances of the songs written during the collaboration and there isn’t a dry eye in the house as stories are shared, insecurities overcome and songs turned tangible.

Day Two is all business at the conferences, as those who do it for love get the panels underway with talks about running an independent record label and how unpublished artists can collect publishing royalties. These talks are vital for the Americana community and its grassroots artists and advocates – as fans and financiers share learnings and talk about how to progress in a post-streaming world. There are also vital conversations being had here about sustainability and what we can do as a community to change our behaviour. Music Declares Emergency (of which Black Deer are proud to be part of) is a group of music industry professionals, artists and organisations who want to speak up, initiate practices to widen awareness from within and create a direct narrative to change things for the better.‘Small Green Shoots’ takes us through some valuable and realistic tips to help artists, festivals and promoters make the UK Americana community a more sustainable and greener one whilst Emily Barker’s candid film with AMA UK’s Stevie Freeman is an inspirational one as she talks through how she directly promotes sustainability as a touring artist and the lengths she goes to in order to make that difference.

There’s been a lot of important information to digest on Day Two so far and as the sun sets over Hackney Downs, we’re ready for some music. Fortunately, all that talk about the craft of songwriting at the start of the day has put a fire in the belly of the artists showcasing tonight and we’re straight over to Night Tales to take in The House Of Songs Summit Revue; a songwriting ‘in the round’ that gets the party started.

Up next comes authentic Arkansas troubadour Dylan Earl, who turns Hackney honky tonk with a great set of country tunes, before the fabulous Judy Blank gets everybody humming her tune with a mesmerising set of great songs and guitar sounds. The Vanguards, Jonah Tolchin, Mapache and Darling West all impress early on and have people reaching for their phones to investigate more, and then it’s over to Paper Dress Vintage for Black Deer 2020-bound Native Harrow and Laurel Canyon superstar Jonathan Wilson. Both play stunning sets that remind a packed room how to be quiet, as the former’s heart and the latter’s craft stop tongues wagging and set hearts beating.
Great songs can stop time, but they also need to be backed up with powerful live performances and we witness a few of those as the night grows dark from the foot-stompin’ Goat Roper Rodeo Band and the high octane rock ‘n’ roll of Daddy Long Legs, who turn in a heavy set of four-to-the-floor stripped back guttural Americana.

That’s the thing with this genre we all love, it can be whatever you want it to be. Folk, country, blues, bluegrass… whatever. If it has three chords and the truth, we’ll be hanging upon every word.

Quote of the day:

“Every little thing gonna’ be alright…”
– The Hackney Elders

Song of the day:

’69 Corvette’
– Jonathan Wilson.

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