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Americana
International 2011

Nottinghamshire Showground, Newark
8th to 10th July 2011

This was our fourth visit to the annual Americana Festival - this one being the 31st Anniversary Show. This is the largest open air festival to be held annually in Europe, it is vast. I understand that attendance levels were again the best yet in the festival's history, no doubt occasioned by the justifiable reputation that the Americana has built up over the years. The organisation was on the grand scale but ran smoothly, even despite the odd bit of bad weather.

It is worthwhile to attempt to again briefly encapsulate the scene: There is literally a large selection of things to do from late morning through to the early hours of the following day for the whole family with no excuses to become bored. One can be as active or as relaxed as the individual wishes. As always, the basis of this festival is the music and, once more, this is was an eclectic mixture of country, rock 'n' roll, beat music with various shades and degrees in the melting pot for the whole weekend. At peak times on each of the three nights, four or five separate band stages were in action. The main stage was once again the set up used at the recent Glastonbury festival and therefore both the sound system and lighting were the ultimate coupled with first rate visual sight lines. Many people attending bought their own R.V.s', caravans or camped out in tents but numerous also stayed in nearby hotels and guest houses. The majority of attendees bought their own collapsible chairs to sit and watch the shows in the fresh air. Circled around each performance area was a vast selection of stalls selling food, soft drinks, western gear, clothing, records, vehicle spare parts and much memorabilia. In other locations, there were displays of a genuine American diner, classic cars, motor bikes (including some ridden by Evel Knievel) , trucks and even luxury mobile homes together with a couple of amusements areas. In addition to the musical shows, there were daily jive and line dancing lessons to be attended by the energetic. Other facilities included a twenty four hour medical centre and help/fire point and help points. The previously noted friendly relaxed atmosphere pervaded throughout the whole weekend. We tip our collective hat to the promoters, Chris, Bev & The Jackson Seven, for presenting such a splendid and seemingly seamless event.

Clearly with so much going on, one could not be everywhere and so the following review is a selection of personal highlights focused mainly around the acts appearing on the main stage.

 

Friday, 8th July 2011 (the festival takes off)

First act that we caught was British outfit Caravan of Wayne, a band that blends together a mixture of country and rockabilly in an enjoyable manner. They were an effective opening act and certainly set the mood of fun 'n' rock for the ensuing three days - especially with a fine rockabilly treatment of Alvin Stardust's 'My Coo Ca Choo'. Next up were The Mee Cats who in actuality basically comprised members of The Sling Shots and The Sure Shots featuring Mandy, an attractive upright bass playing lady. In essence, they were the second straight rockabilly in succession on the main stage and I was really settling in and enjoying myself. The set consisted of a selection of good covers such as 'Find My Baby', 'Stack A Records', 'Honey Bun' and 'Wildcat' along with some originals like 'I'm Through'. At times, they did loose their cohesiveness but with some more rehearsal, that should be easily rectified. That is certainly not a criticism that can be applied to the next act, Rusti Steel & The Star Tones. Rusti has of course been on the scene for many years, (I can recall him leading the backing band behind a London appearance by the late Mickey Hawks) and his professionalism and expertise just shone through on a clever combination of rockabilly and western swing stylings. Rusti either played a regular guitar or a steel guitar, depending what the number being performed called for and thus we had scintillating treatments of 'Bly Days, Black Nights', 'Whoa Boy' and 'I Found You'. There was an excellent Hank Williams Snr. segment which included 'Moanin' The Blues', 'Mind Your Own Business' and the not often performed 'Baby, 'We're Really In Love'. A concluding highlight was 'Ballroom Baby', performed western swing style.

This band was followed by Aly Cook, a vivacious young lady from New Zealand, and then Aynt Skynyrd, who as the name suggests is a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute act comprising nine members. It was at the conclusion of their set that the Heavens opened up and there followed an hour of heavy rain accompanied by thunder and lightning plus hailstones. This of course literally put a dampener on the proceedings and meant that the Stacie Collins Band, now based in Nashville, played a rock based set, albeit with honky tonk overtones, to a sparse audience. From the few concluding numbers of her performance that I was able to see, Stacie certainly knows how to use the stage and possesses a powerful voice. To make up for this disappointment, she has been resigned to appear at the 2012 Americana. It was a similar unfortunate situation on the separate Alpha stage where Art Adams played to around 25 soaked but dedicated rock 'n' roll fans. The bad weather also resulted in Si Cranstoun performing an additional set the following morning.

Back on the main stage, thankfully the heavy downpours of rain had now ceased and the Legends Of The Sixties had set up. This is an outfit that comprises Martin Lyon and Ted 'Telecaster' Tomlin from Love Affair, Eric Haydock who was a founding member of the Hollies, Graham Pollock who was guitarist with the Mindbenders and Mick Avory who was the drummer with The Kinks. Mention of the last named bought back memories of the package shows that used to tour the UK and, in particular, when The Kinks played the Southend Odeon and Dave Davies physically knocked Avory off his drum stool part way through the performance. Not surprisingly, the set on this evening comprised selections from the songbooks of each of the aforementioned sixties acts. Whether it was intentional or not I do not know - but (The Kinks) 'Til The End Of The Day on this night came complete with chords from Link Wray's 'Rumble'. All in all, this was a competent set by seasoned musicians and which, by the time of its conclusion, had a considerable audience gathered around the stage enthusiastically showing their appreciation. The audience numbers significantly increased for the next act - The Fabulous Teddys - and by its conclusion had reached that what could have reasonably been expected for Friday night at the Americana. This band is the logical successor to Showaddywaddy - and indeed includes Malcolm Allured from Showaddywaddy as its effective leader. They are a ten piece male outfit of singers, dancers and musicians who were supplemented on certain numbers by three Teddy Girls. Very, very visual with oodles and oodles of set piece routines and the lead vocals being shared between a number of singers - but there were two who took the lion share of the duties. The programme advised that: the cover versions chosen by Showaddywaddy were all pop versions of late fifties and early sixties US rock 'n' roll. The Fabulous Teddys take this to a new level and will take you back to the heyday of the 1977 Showaddywaddy International Tour with their rock 'n' roll show. In essence, this was a Showaddywaddy show performed with sackfulls of enthusiasm. Thus we had the likes of 'Under The Moon Of Love', 'Hey Rock 'n Roll' , 'Three Steps To Heaven', 'Pretty Little Angel Eyes' and 'Runaround Sue', etc. Okay, this was not that authentic but this never seemed to bother Showaddywaddy and it certainly did not impact on the output of The Fabulous Teddys. Crikey, they even had rock 'n' roll line dancing to 'Hully Gully'. They closed out the evening's performances to rapturous applause.

 

Saturday, 9th July 2011 ( the sun shone and the music was hot)

The next day, the sun shone, it was warm and the land drainage at the showground was so effective that there was little sign of the previous evening's downpour. The music for the day was hot and got hotter as it proceeded - truly scrumptious. The opening act was The Peppermint Apes, a young band from Essex whose brand of rock music came complete with a punkish tinge. Thus we were competently served tunes such as 'Teenage Kicks', '500 Miles', 'Poor Little Rich Girl', 'Hot Love' and one I think was titled 'Fine, Your Sex Is So Fine'. They have the potential to develop into a major act. Next up was Tracey K Houston whose backing band was lead by American guitar ace Chris Cassello. In fact, Chris opened up the set with an extended version of 'Maybelline' and 'Round Up' performed as a polka. They showed off his musical pedigree superbly. Tracey K Houston resides in Nashville and has released five albums to date. Apart from her Loretta Lynn tribute show, she is a dynamic and charismatic performer with pronounced rockabilly overtones. She knows how to use the stage and produced some vibrant rockabilly with 'Someone To Love' and then slowed it down with consummate ease to the honky tonk shuffle of 'Barely Hanging On' before upping the excitement with the country fused rockabilly of 'Hard Times Again' - the last mentioned was an especially great performance as were her renditions of the country shuffle 'Mascara Tears' and the Wanda Jackson rockin' ditty 'Funnel Of Love'. With her treatment of the Teddy Redell song 'Knocking On The Backside Of Your Heart', this set really ignited. Apart from Casello, the bass player was also an American but the drummer was from Wales. A great trio of musicians behind a first rate singer.

But wait as the musical excellence was set to continue with Mary Jean Lewis superbly backed by The Starlight Boys. Mary Jean is a daughter of Linda Gail Lewis and therefore a niece of Jerry Lee Lewis. Boy, did the family genes show through, not only from the confidence exhibited, a great voice and the facial glances when she looked at band members - without doubt she has to be a member of the Lewis family, this was wonderful and heart lifting stuff. After a technical hitch on the opening number 'Memphis' in which her vocals were drowned out by the backing band and which was speedily rectified, the set settled down sixty minutes of musical excellence of the highest order. Choosing to perform some numbers seated and playing the piano whilst on others, standing at the microphone stand, she demonstrated great stage presence and blew me away with 'Rock Your Baby', 'Valley Of Tears', 'After Marriage Blues and 'I Ain't Gonna Cry For You No More'. Oh that singing voice sent shivers up my spine, it was that good. Mary Jean spends a considerable portion of her time in Scotland and the mixture of a Scottish dialect and Tennessee drawl was particularly appealing. She closed out her set with 'Whipper Snapper' and I sat there appreciating that the future of our music is safe in such hands. A must see again act.

From one who is basically recently started out on her musical highway, it was then onto an act who has traveled on it for many miles, the wonderful Narvel Felts. Backed up by Lazy Dog + Two, this was a set that contained a more extensive country element than that performed on rock 'n' roll weekenders but, of course, in the seventies he was a major country music star. He opened up with three songs that he had big USA hits with, namely 'Funny How Time Slips Away', Drift Away' and 'Fraulein' before slipping in some rockin' with 'Pink And Black Days', his tribute to the fifties. Around this point, and part through a song, there was a loss of electrical power on the stage. This took a little while to correct but such is Narvel's professionalism, he resumed exactly where he was at the time of the electricity cut off. Narvel has not been well and does look a little frail but that singing voice is still wonderfully in tact as is his knowledge of how to use the stage. The set continued with a mixture of his country hits and a selection of rockin' songs thus we had 'Kissa Me Baby' followed by 'Reconsider Me', then 'My Babe' followed by 'Danny Boy'. All of which were delivered with that amazing vocal dexterity that is Narvel The Marvel. He gained rapturous applause with his treatment of 'Danny Boy' so much so that he had to reprise it in part. As he concluded with 'All In The Name Of Love', 'My Prayer' and 'Funny How Time Slips Away', the audience was on its feet wanting more.

Next up was an act new to myself, namely the Hayley Oliver Band. A set of talented musicians lead by an extremely talented guitarist and fronted by Hayley, a lady with a great country voice that is equally at home on up-tempo songs, country weepers and ballads. She made solo appearances on national television when very young and decided upon a career in music and, after having studied at the Royal National College for The Blind followed by a spell at the University of Glamorgan ending up with an Honours Degree in Business Studies, she set out on this chosen path. Her selection of numbers was first rate, ranging from the well known such as 'Jolene, through 'I'm A Little Bluer Than That' and the lively 'I Like To Two Step Too' and demonstrated her vocal range. I particularly enjoyed 'Heartless' (a Patsy Cline style song) , 'Two More Bottles Of Wine' and 'I'm A Redneck Woman.

Then it was the turn of west coast, and also Nashville resident, country rocker James Intveld to make his third Americana appearance. Backed up by a trio of fellow Americans on guitar, bass and drums, this was from the start a full blown take no prisoners excellent set of country rock performed in that unique Intveld style. The vocals were again spot on and the backing musicians were oh so tight. Intveld's stage presence is awesome and he knows how to use the space available. Before this starts to sound like a message from the James Intveld Fan Club, I had better comment on some of the numbers included in the 75 minute set. These ranged from the 'Let's Get Started' through 'Stop The World And Let Me Off' to the superlative 'Motel Time' and 'Crying Over You'. Intveld has a unique way of starting virtually each song off by heavy strumming on his acoustic guitar and the rest of the band then quickly appreciating the number to be performed join in. It comes across as if the set is chosen from a selection of songs but in an order selected by Intveld as the set progresses. Indeed, this is a sign of professionalism by all involved. Some of the songs such as 'If Tears Could Talk', 'It's Such A Pretty World Today' and 'Perfect World' are basic staples in any Intveld act but there were not so well known inclusions such as the very tasty 'I Came A Long Way From Memphis'. James was down to perform a second set the next day on the Alpha Stage and, as a taster, he closed out this performance with a

Alvin Stardust received a hero's welcome from the crowd and then proceeded to enhance his reputation with them. However, I appreciate that I may well be a voice in the wilderness on this but the set was way too much thrash and bash. Again, he failed to include any selections from the time he was known as Shane Fenton but this appeared to matter little to the audience. Alvin opened up complete with a heavy - real heavy - sound from his own band on such as 'Jealous Mind'. He talked and sang about his musical roots and sang his versions of such classics as 'C'mon Everybody', a virtually unrecognizable 'Teddy Bear', 'Great Balls Of Fire' 'Long Tall Sally' 'Blue Suede Shoes', 'Shakin' All Over' and others . The audience was lapping this up and this inspired Alvin to work even harder. (I also heard the comment that Stardust crucified these songs). We also had his own hits like 'Pretend', 'Red Dress', 'You You You' and 'My Coo-Ca-Choo' mixed in. He sang his version of the hit 'Mercy by Duffy and a medley of songs that started out with 'Be-Bop-A-Lula' and concluded with 'I Saw Her Standing There'. The performance closed out with Stardust serving up a heavy rock version of 'Johnny B Good'. He certainly knew how to work the audience and the majority responded favorably in no uncertain manner. Others were severely disappointed - I for one can recall his musical glory days from the sixties.

The vast majority of the acts on this Saturday had been excellent and this was reinforced by the close out for the night, namely San Antonio country rockers Two Tons Of Steel who were returning after creating such a significant impact at the 2010 Americana. Again, from the outset, this was another no frills, hard county rockin' music. The guys went straight out reinforce their reputation earned at last year's festival and by the end of their show, they had nearly everybody on their feet enthusiastically joining in and showing their appreciation. There was action in abundance on the stage, supported by great musical ability and professionalism - albeit showing maniacal tinges. Like many of the other sets, this show was a mixture of originals, such as 'Bottom Of The Bottle' and 'Shakin' In Indianapolis' and covers like Roy Head's 'One More Time', 'Red Hot' and 'Not Fade Away' all performed in their unique bar styling. All through the act, the lead singer had got the whole audience cheering along and chanting 'Two Tons Of Steel' and this reached a zenith on one of their highlight songs 'I Wanna Be Sedated'. Score this as another success and easy to understand why, in effect, they were the Saturday night headline act. They performed without a stop for 90 minutes and the crowd still wanted more.

 

Sunday, 10th July 2011 (the festival closes out on another high).

Arriving at the showground, we went straight to the Alpha stage and watched an enjoyable workmanlike performance by club band Some Like It Hot , a rockin' outfit that I had previously seen backing Linda Gail Lewis. A great start to the day that only got better with the second festival appearance by James Intveld. The Alpha stage is sometimes referred to as the rock 'n' roll stage and it was thought that James may produce a more rock 'n' biased set. The backing musicians were the same, as the day before, albeit that the bass player played an upright bass for this occasion. After starting off with his interpretation of the Buddy Holly song 'Modern Don Juan', it was into that brand of superb country rock that he has made his own. Some of the songs were repeats from the previous day but there were new inclusions such as 'Blue Blue Day', 'Love's Gonna Live Here Again' and a superb 'One Sweet Letter'. In actuality, the performance was well up to the level of the previous day in terms of quality, excitement and all round enjoyment.

We then returned to the main stage in time to catch Dennis Locorriere who, along with Ray Sanders, was joint lead vocalist for the seventies and eighties hit group Dr. Hook. I was really looking forward to this as I had last seen Dennis as the special guest on the annual tour by Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings back in 2008 and he was excellent. For this performance, it was just Dennis up the on the stage with a selection of acoustic guitars. It takes a lot of professionalism to fill up a 90 minute spot on that huge stage and to his credit, Dennis pulled it off. He certainly never became boring and was, in the main, entertaining. A substantial portion of the show was, in reality, a testimonial to the song writing skills of the late Shel Silverstein and this was readily acknowledged by Locorriere. Thus we were treated to the delights of such gems as 'Penicillin Penny', 'Freakin' At The Freakers Ball', 'Queen Of The Silver Dollar' and of course 'Sylvia's Mother' - all justifiably classic songs. The songs were interspersed with narratives from Dennis explaining the significance or the worthiness of the song about to be performed. Thus we understood the relevance of tunes such as 'I Don't Want To Be Alone Tonight', 'Ask Her' or 'The Right To Walk Away'. All in all, enjoyable but I guess that I am with the comment overheard at the end which was: that was good but with a band up there behind him, that could have been awesome..

Next up was Billy Yates complete with his own American band, and what an excellent outfit they again proved themselves to be. Much appears to be made of the fact that Billy's music is pure country but that band had one of the best rockin' rhythms of the whole Americana festival. He demonstrated from the start that he knew how to work the stage and possesses a first rate nasal singing voice. Opening up with 'She's Looking Better Every Minute', his lead guitarist demonstrated what great picking was all about. Examples of rockin good country music were served up with his version of Johnny Horton's 'One Woman Man', 'Down At The Station' and 'Too Country And Proud Of It'. He could also switch with infinite ease to pure country such 'Flowers'. For myself, I was once again in the musical ozone when Billy performed the totally politically incorrect but on so glorious 'Daddy Had A Cardiac And Mama's Got A Cadillac' that had the classic punch line that mama goes out driving on the anniversary of daddy's passing, where she goes no one knows but there are always fresh tyre tracks on daddy's grave. Marvelous stuff, indeed it had once again been a marvelous performance

Main stage close out acts on Sunday were American southern rock outfit Modern Earl, the Trevor Burton Band (he was a founding member of The Move) and Americana favourites Quill. During the course of the weekend, there were many acts that I did not manage to get around to seeing including Johnny Powers, Truly Lover Trio, Paul Ansell's No. 9 and The Roomates. I understand that these all gave memorable shows.

That was it, all in all, another fantastic weekender. Announced headliners for the event next year, which is to be from 5th through to 9th July 2012, include Confederate Railroad and the aforementioned Stacie Collins - with plenty more acts to be announced. Check for further information and booking details by telephoning (0)870 863 2100 or by contacting web site www.Americana-International.co.uk

 

ŠTony Wilkinson,

July 2011.

















































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