Glasgow Americana Festival 2014: Sturgill Simpson, Jimmy LaFave, Anthony D’Amato and more
Watching Sturgill Simpson at the wonderful finale of the 8th annual Glasgow Americana festival, I am reminded how fortunate I am to live in Glasgow, Scotland. I missed the AMAs this year, so I didn’t get to see Simpson pick up his ‘Emerging Artist of the Year’ award at the historic Ryman auditorium. But, having just watched Sturgill play, with his full band, for almost two hours in the basement of a converted Glasgow church — reminded that this is his fourth visit to Glasgow this year — I can’t imagine that there is anywhere better in the world to hear Americana music.
Glasgow has rapidly become Scotland’s “Music City”, and the annual Glasgow Americana Festival, which takes place in October each year, is one of the must-see highlights. The credit for this goes to Festival Director Kevin Morris, Glasgow’s equivalent of Jed Hilly, who manages each year to bring the cream of Americana music to the City. And, this year was no exception.
Jimmy LaFave opened the five-day festival, performing with his band, the Night Tribe. For his first visit to Glasgow in around 15 years, the Austin musician was given a typically Glaswegian welcome, with rapturous applause and banter. The crowd sang along, word perfect at times, whilst you could hear a pin drop during some of the quieter acoustic songs. LaFave’s band were breathtaking, with Croatian Radoslav Lorkavic (‘Rad’) on piano and John Inmon on lead guitar. Their combined talents on “Deep South 61 Delta Highway Blues” — a beautiful fusion of classical piano, jazz, blues and rock — was one of the many highlights of the evening.
LaFave’s love of Dylan was evident througout, with three Dylan covers in the set, in varying styles and tempos. Amazingly, he managed to keep playing after breaking two guitar strings during a song. He even changed the strings during the performance, with the band providing beautifully improvised cover — demonstrating just how tight, agile, and professional these musicians are.
The Festival continued with performances by Matt Anderson, Mary Gauthier, Carrie Elkin, and Lynne Hanson, taking place in venues across the City, ranging from small cafe bars to a grand 18th Century restored church. There, centuries-old carved angels watching over Mary Gauthier whilst she performed haunting material from Trouble and Love.
Anthony D’Amato played twice during the Festival, well-known to the Glasgow audience following previous visits. Playing solo, his acoustic set had a different feel than his studio albums — more raw and passionate, and none the worse for that. With just a guitar and harmonica, performances of “Hank Williams Tune” and “There Was a Time” were standout highlights. I left the gig, as did many others, clutching a prized copy of The Shipwreck from the Shore, not due for release in the UK until November.
Sturgill Simpson closed the Festival on Sunday evening, joking that he might just move to Glasgow as he spends more time here than in his Nashville base. Although a regular performer here, this was his first visit with his full band, and it was breathtaking. Clearly enjoying himself with his fellow musicians, he played an extended set until he was forced to stop because of the venue’s curfew. He was accompanied by Estonian guitarist extraordinaire, Laur Joamets, who was a perfect companion — the pair working in perfect harmony and trading guitar choruses throughout the set. Material ranged from quiet ballads (“for the ladies”) to raging, fast-paced honky-tonk country, as in “Long White Line” and “Life of Sin”.
The only downside of having so much wonderful Americana music squeezed into five days and nights in my home city was having to juggle work around it. There was not a single miss-able gig in the whole program. I left Simpson’s gig, not only grateful for living in Glasgow and to the organiser of this wonderful festival, but reminding myself that I need to book this as a holiday next year. It’s exhausting!