A friend who hosts a radio show in Melbourne, Australia often plays songs by Session Americana, a loose collective of Boston (USA) musicians, and if Colin is giving them air time then they must be worth checking out! I was therefore delighted to see that they were touring the UK and Ireland and caught them at London’s Green Note. This is an intimate room with a tiny stage in one corner and a bar at the opposite end of the room. However, walking in tonight, the stage was occupied by a foursome sitting at a table enjoying some pre-show refreshment and the set up for the band had been moved to the centre of the floor…
I quickly spotted a free table, whose two seats practically abutted the chairs set up for the musicians but what the heck, I like live music up close and personal, so ‘parked’ myself there.
Session Americana typically sit around one diaphragm microphone perched atop a small round table; they each take turns at lead vocals, they swap the assortment of instruments they play and they change places with each other. Yes, there is spontaneity about them yet there is fluidity and grace in the manner of their collaboration. Over the years various musicians have ‘sat at the Session Americana table’ and tonight we were in the fine company of Ry Cavanaugh, Billy Beard, Dinty Child, Kimon Kirk, Laura Cortese and Jefferson Hamer who variously employed acoustic guitar, drums, pump organ, bass, fiddle, mandocello… maybe more?
Over the course of two sets they gave us original material and some carefully chosen cover songs; they sang, they played, they laughed, they enjoyed performing together in this delightful space stretching the definition of ‘Americana’ to include an old Appalachian fiddle tune - Greasy Coat, a Shaker song - Lay Me Low, country music through a Charlie Louvin song as well as trying out a Van Morrison song Brand New Day which they had only been practising the night before as they partied on the houseboat they’ve rented for part of this UK tour.
The first set closed out with Raking Through The Ashes from their new album LOVE AND DIRT which the prestigious Boston Globe newspaper described as ‘a contemplative soul searcher boasting a contemporary edge, cut with rustic twang’. A longish interval followed and then Hamer played one song solo (his voice reminds me of the best of the country rockers from 1970’s California) before being joined by Cortese after which the others took their seats.
Throughout, the blend of material and the way they played captured the essence of a typical pub session that the Irish in particular are renown for. Concluding the second set with a sing along, we all joined in happily as they started playing the Band’s The Shape I’m In. However that wasn’t the end – a request to Hamer for them to perform Gram Parsons’ Return of the Grievous Angel was met and then…they asked Patrick Murdoch (Chrissie Hynde’s touring guitarist) who was standing by the bar if he’d like to join them – he would - and they brought the night to a close with one of (to me anyway) Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s lesser known songs Another Night With The Boys.
What a fun evening! They’d go down a storm at our summer (folk) festivals and I hope that more bookings flow their way. They’re now in Ireland where they have played in the past and are no doubt creating and enjoying the craic! Wish I was there! Jela Webb