“I love the Americana genre because of the breadth of it. It’s continuously moving and changing – and it’s incredibly accepting and inclusive.” Stevie Smith, CEO of the AMA-UK, is talking about the artists and music that move her. “I can’t show favouritism in our community,” she laughs. “It’s hard to single out names… but this year’s AmericanaFest UK online event was so strong, I thought I could highlight six artists who I personally enjoyed.”
The AMA-UK is a professional trade association representing and advocating for the voice of American roots music in the UK. Its membership comprises musicians and professionals from all sectors of the music industry: agents, promoters, venues, festivals, labels, distributors, retailers, management, touring, journalists, broadcasters and publicists. Each year, the AMA-UK gathers in Hackney and brings together visitors from across the UK, EU, USA, Canada and Australia for the most joyous celebration of all things Americana. “Even with the event moving online for 2021, I was still moved to tears by some of the sets,” reveals Stevie. “I can’t imagine how it would have felt if these artists had been at a venue.”
With homegrown artists taking the spotlight within the Americana genre in the UK in 2021, we asked Stevie for a few of her favourite performers (in no particular order!) who she’s enjoyed so far this year…

1. James Riley

I’ve known James for a long time. He’s a great artist – but something about his set this year at AmericanaFest UK was joyous. It was high energy, exciting and he always dares to be different. Having hosted a series of gigs from a rooftop in London during lockdown, to entertain his neighbours, James has gathered a really awesome group of musicians around him and it has really elevated him and his songs to a new level. Watch this space, because I reckon his next album will be big…


2. The Wandering Hearts

The Wandering Hearts showed us footage from the recording of their new album, talked about how the songs came about and gave us some exclusive performances of their new songs at AmericanaFest UK. I’m one of the lucky few who have heard their new music, it was originally going to be released last year but was delayed, due to the pandemic. My gosh it’s so good… their songwriting and arrangements are exquisite! This band has matured, settled into their sound and the harmonies are amazing – release for the album is now July 2021 and you will not be disappointed…


3. Dan Bettridge

I only found Dan Bettridge’s music last year when we were both involved in the Global Music Match project. He is one of those artists who dances around the edge of the genre and I love that Americana can open its arms to this. His music paints landscapes and gives me a sense of escaping into a dream world; this might be because he is from the seaside in Wales and Dan is often pictured by stunning landscapes! We have had many Zoom calls from his van on one of his nomadic trips…


4. Danny George Wilson

Danny is UK Americana in a nutshell. At the first AMA-UK Awards he and Danny & The Champions Of The World swept the boards and I think he may have the most awards from us than any other artist! He is the real deal and his songs never fail to please me. Danny & The Champs’ have a live CD coming out in April, recorded in Spain, and it will have all the unique magic of a live gig only Danny & The Champions of The World manage to bring us! I know I’m not alone in wanting to be back at one of those nights really badly…


5. Emily Barker

Emily was nominated for two AMA-UK Awards this year with her absolutely stunning album ‘A Dark Murmuration of Words’. Not to sound like a stalker super fan, but I have got pretty much every one of Emily’s records and this one feels like the most complete, grounded, deep and meaningful of them all. It makes me feel comfortable and relaxed – because it has a real sense of confidence about it and a sense of Emily performing with her friends. Emily is an artist that manages to really put her audiences at ease, be it live or recorded, and that’s a wonderful thing to achieve.


6. Robert Vincent

The winner of both 2021’s AMA-UK Album of The Year and Artist of The Year! A huge achievement for Robert, who released his latest record in February 2020. It had been in the planning for all of 2019… and then a few weeks later lockdown hit. It’s so tough to be at the highest point of your career when something totally out of our control puts a halt to the progress. But Rob didn’t sit still, he quickly started a weekly live show to his fans, with a special Facebook club to go along with the shows, and kept the momentum going, not just for his own morale, but for the fans too. Robert joined the brilliant label Thirty Tigers for this album, ‘In This Town Your Owned’, and it was clear in the special showcase they did for AmericanaFest UK 2021 that Robert was at home: they produced a really fun show with music and laughter all mixed up – just how we like it in the world of Americana. Happiness is key in this genre, even if most of the songs – just like Robert’s – are about misery, murder and loss!

Watch highlights from AmericanaFest UK 2021 here
Find out more about The AMA-UK here