Americana Riding High In The U.K.
It may not be in quite the same league as the way young Brits like The Rolling Stones and Cream re-introduced Americans to their own blues heritage back in the Sixties and Seventies, but is the UK now exporting Americana back to the U.S? That was the not entirely serious but plausible suggestion made by much-loved BBC radio presenter Bob Harris during this year’s hugely successful UK Americana Awards in London.
After all, pointed out Bob in front of an audience that included Jed Hilly, Nashville-based CEO of the Americana Music Association, we Brits managed to get an official Americana chart recognized before the U.S. adopted one, while it’s no secret that lots of Americana artists have long found it far easier to tour consistently in Europe rather than their homeland. At last year’s Americana Awards and festival in Nashville, you could hardly move for Brits out there showcasing (like Lewis & Leigh and the brilliant Yola Carter), writing (Bella Hardy) or recording (Worry Dolls), to name a few random examples.
Meanwhile, even the iconic Jim Lauderdale, a recipient of the AMA’s Wagonmaster Award, a special lifetime achievement honour reserved for the most valuable contributors to the course and history of the format, came to London to record his new London Southern album with members of Nick Lowe’s band – and was very much around for these awards. Transatlanticana is one name for the phenomenon and it’s even the title of the new album from Bill Kirchen, formerly with the mighty Commander Cody And His Lost Planet Airmen, surely one of the founders of the genre, and Austin De Lone (of pub-rock progenitors Eggs Over Easy), recorded in both London and Austin, Texas.
The importance and vigour of the Americana UK scene is such that even Van Morrison put on his party face (yeah, I know) and actually showed up to pick up his Best Selling Americana Album award for Keep Me Singing, while the likes of five-times Grammy winner Mary Chapin Carpenter and Sam Outlaw played live, with Sam even exclusively performing his ‘80s/90s Country Hits Revue’ show at the After Party, blithely ignoring the fact that the likes of Brooks And Dunn or Clint Black had never meant a light in the UK!
The second UK Americana Awards rounded off two days of activities at this year’s Americana Music Association UK conference and, significantly, there was as much live music as there were award presentations in front of an audience of guests, AMA-UK delegates, members of the music industry and the public. Performances included Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Richard Thompson as well as UK artists Yola Carter, William the Conqueror, Peter Bruntnell, Danni Nicholls, Lewis & Leigh and Ethan Johns, plus International Artist Of The Year nominee Mary Chapin Carpenter and International Album Of The Year Award winner Sam Outlaw. They even all got together on stage to end proceedings with a rousing, if ragged, version of ‘Will The Circle Be Unbroken’.
Presenters included Jim Lauderdale and Angaleena Presley as well as Spinal Tap actor Harry Shearer who presented Thompson with the AMA-UK’s Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his unparalleled contribution to, and continuing influence on, the UK’s roots music scene. “This isn’t a sub-culture, it’s a parallel culture we’re celebrating,” he said, agreeing with presenter Bob Harris’ assertion that “the future is song.”
Andy Fairweather Low introduced a video acceptance from Trailblazer Award winner Albert Lee, while trio Wildwood Kin received the prestigious Bob Harris Emerging Artist Award from the man himself, with other presenters including Imelda May, Kiki Dee, Timothy B Schmit, and Guy Fletcher.
Winners of the seven membership-voted Awards were as follows:
UK Album of The Year – presented by Imelda May
Ghost by Lewis & Leigh (produced by Matt Ingram)
International Album of the Year – presented by Jim Lauderdale
Angeleno by Sam Outlaw (produced by Ry Cooder and Joachim Cooder)
UK Artist of the Year – presented by Al Booth
International Artist of the Year – presented by Timothy B. Schmit
UK Song of the Year – presented by Kiki Dee
‘The 4:19″ by Lewis & Leigh (written by Al Lewis and Alva Leigh)
International Song of the Year – presented by Angaleena Presley
‘Hands of Time’ by Margo Price (written by Margo Price)
UK Instrumentalist of the Year – presented by Guy Fletcher
Chris “CJ” Hillman