It's time to be united in states of musical bliss; ALAN NICHOL has the lowdown on this weekend's SummerTyne Americana Festival at Sage Gateshead.
FOR this weekend's 10th SummerTyne Americana festival, the Sage Gateshead has invited two of the genre's leading ladies to help celebrate the anniversary.
However, the supporting cast has quality throughout and demonstrates the breadth and appeal of roots music.
Certainly, the country-leaning headliners - Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, Rosanne Cash & John Leventhal and the UK's own harmony duo The Shires - will undoubtedly tap into the huge following for all things country but there are diamonds to be found elsewhere on the three-day roster for those who enjoy folk, blues, soul and gospel music and much in between.
The free DFDS-sponsored Jumpin' Hot Club outdoor stage, which gets under way at lunchtime on Friday, is always an attractive feature with an audience which seems to expand with each year. The free stage will host up to 20 acts over the three days.
Friday's Hall 1 main attraction is the 13-times Grammy winner Emmylou Harris with her long-time friend/collaborator, Rodney Crowell.
She was born in Birmingham, Alabama, into a military family - her father was in the US Marine Corps - but, as is the way with such families, she moved home any number of times as she was growing up.
Her first album, Gliding Bird (1969), was a folk-inclined offering and it was to be another six years before she made her major-label debut (for Reprise) with Pieces of the Sky.
Harris has around 40 albums to her name - almost twice as many singles - and has remained highly influential and in demand for virtually her whole career.
She has recorded with some of the biggest names in roots music (and beyond) with Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Mark Knop-fler and Elvis Costello in that celebrated club.
However, one name, albeit from her very early career, has remained a defining one in her long career - the former Byrds country rock innovator Gram Parsons.
While Parsons died in 1973, the pair made a couple of landmark recordings - Grievous Angel and GP - which still resonate to this day. The connection with Parsons was made via his old Byrds/Flying Burrito Brothers bandmate Chris Hillman, who toyed with asking Harris to join the Burritos before recommending her to Parsons.
A little later Emmylou assembled her hot band, which included James Burton, Glen Hardin and Ron Tutt (and Rodney Crowell).
Other top-class instrumentalists like Ricky Skaggs, Albert Lee and Jerry Douglas worked with her, too. Latterly, she has teamed up with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller in the Sweet Harmony Traveling Revue.
Crowell has been less prolific than Harris, with 13 studio albums since 1978's debut, Ain't Living Long Like This. Crowell drew much inspiration from his mentor, fellow Texan and true craftsman singersongwriter Guy Clark.
Crowell had a purple patch in the late 80s with the release of Diamonds & Dirt, an album which spawned five Top 10 singles. Together, Harris & Crowell had great success with the Grammy-winning album Old Yellow Moon (2013), which they followed up with The Travelling Kind earlier this year.
It looks like the pair will be greeted by a full house for their latest visit to Tyneside.
Crowell's former wife Rosanne Cash - with whom he had three daughters - has the headline slot on Saturday night in the company of her guitarist/songwriter (and producer) husband, John Leventhal, whom she married in 1995.
Rosanne is the eldest daughter of Johnny Cash (and his first wife, Vivian Liberto) and she honoured his memory in the most tangible way by recording her album The List (2009), which was based on a list of songs given to her by her father.
Her debut album appeared in the late 70s but it was probably the follow-up, Seven Year Ache (1981), which proved to be the breakthrough for her.
The album contained three successful singles and extended her reach from country into the mainstream chart. Similarly, Rhythm & Romance did very well in 1985, with four Top 10 singles, one of which was the Grammy-winning I Don't Know Why You Don't Want Me.
Cash has long been involved with roots music beyond the normal "country" descriptor, with a particular leaning towards folk and blues.
Last year's album, The River & The Thread, her first new record in four years, is a collection of songs written with Leventhal and received high praise from the music press.
Leventhal has quite a pedigree himself, having produced (and played on) albums by Shawn Colvin, Joan Osborne and Marc Cohn and others.
As a musician he has worked with a mighty list which features credits with Paul Simon, Jackson Browne, Willie Nelson, Bruce Hornsby, Charlie Haden, David Crosby, The Band's Levon Helm, Tedeschi Trucks Band and, by no means least, Johnny Cash.
Sunday night offers the UK country duo, The Shires. The duo - Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes - are from the Home Counties and maintain a distinctly UK-themed take in their lyrics.
They were signed to Decca Records here and then with Universal Music Group Nashville in the US, becoming the first UK country act to be signed to a US major label.
Their debut album, Brave, made the Top 10 over here, and the Green Note EP, plus two or three highly successful singles, have built an unstoppable momentum.
Joining them on the night is the Nashville-based Jace Everett. Everett is probably best known to European audiences for his HBO True Blood theme song Bad Things, but he has five albums under his belt already. The last of those was the classy Terra Rosa from last year.
Hall 2 shows over the weekend get a seriously good start when the redoubtable and prolific Muscle Shoals pairing of Dan Penn (guitar/vocals) & Spooner Oldham (keys/vocals).
Based in the FAME studios in Alabama, the twosome have made an indelible mark on Southern soul specifically and popular music generally.
Wallace Daniel Pennington and Dewey Lindon Oldham have remained in the Yellowhammer State of the Deep South all of their lives.
Between them, the two friends have contributed their writing, production and musical skills on all manner of well-known songs.
Penn produced The Letter for the Box Tops and he and Oldham combined to write the subsequent hit, Cry Like A Baby, for them. Penn (with Chips Moman) wrote The Dark End of the Street (James Carr and then a long list of others) and Do Right Woman, Do Right Man (Aretha Franklin).
The Penn/Oldham writing partnership worked on, with You left The Water Running (Barbara Lynn, Otis Redding), I'm Your Puppet (James & Bobby Purify), Sweet Inspiration (Sweet Inspirations, A Woman Left Lonely (Janis Joplin) and I Met Her In Church are others among a long list.
As seasoned musicians they have been recruited by all manner of artists for recording duties. A self-contained, truly down-home music machine if ever there was one! Dan & Spooner have just released a new CD/DVD package entitled The Complete Duo Recordings, which is a beautifully understated gem featuring great performances of some timeless material.
For blues fans, Cedric Burnside the drummer son of the great Mississippi hillcountry bluesman RL Burnside, is in Hall 2 on Sunday night.
The four-times Blues Music Awards winner brings another famous son with him in the shape of guitarist Trenton Ayers, who is the son of Junior Kimbrough. Needless to say, the genes have duly been transferred to the youngsters and the venue will resound to the raw, vibrant sounds of North Mississippi.
The bill is made even more attractive by the addition of Ohio siblings The McCrary Sisters. The gospel/R&B act has, singly or collectively, worked with artists as varied as Bob Dylan, Solomon Burke, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin.
Elsewhere, there is more gospel courtesy of another Alabaman. The sanctified sound of Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens will reverberate around Hall 2 in the late-night club slot on Saturday night (10.30pm). Earlier on Saturday night, the Super Furry Animals main man, Gruff Rhys, brings his American Interior multimedia project (profiled here a couple of months back) to the Northern Rock Foundation Hall.
The NRFH, also offers its wonderful acoustics on Friday night by way of a welcome to upstate New Yorkers The Felice Brothers. The hard-gigging roots-rockers have been making records since 2005, and have issued 10 albums to date. With brothers Ian and James at the front, the fivepiece crew - often adding a sixth members for some shows - tour relentlessly and should be a great addition to the festival. Additionally, there are films, river trips, and free concerts on the Sage concourse.
The Jumpin' Hot outdoor stage has a diverse bill, as usual. Several of the acts could comfortably grace the indoor stages. The James Hunter Six would not be out of place in either of the main halls. The Colchester-born former Van Morrison sideman (and singer/guitarist) has assembled a cracking band which started life as Howlin' Wilf & the Vee-Jays. The band deliver a vintage soul/R&B brew which is as authentic as it is intoxicating. Check Hunter's albums People Gonna Talk (2006 and Grammy-nominated) and The Hard Way (2008), not to mention the more recent Minute By Minute for proof.
US blues duo Moreland & Arbuckle will almost certainly bring the house down. Comprising Aaron Moreland (guitars), blues-harpist/vocalist Dustin Arbuckle and drummer, Kendal Newby, they may be a new name but they bring and old message which has not lost any of its potency over the lifespan of the blues. Boogie-time guaranteed!
Outdoor DFDS-sponsored Stage. Friday, 17th (from noon).
Big Red and the Grinners (Local Bluegrass) King Size Voodoo Traveller (Goodtime roots-rock) Miss Mary & The Mr Rights (Retro 50s) Gilded Thieves (Urban folk & blues) Michael Littlefield ( solo blues) El Cid (Local Americana/country rock) Caroline Mary (Songstress) (Acts shown in reverse order of appearance) Saturday, 18th (from noon). The James Hunter Six (Vintage soul blues) Ward Thomas (Pure UK country) Marty O'Reilly & The Old Soul Orchestra (Alt folk/blues) John Lewis Trio (Hot Rock 'n' Roll) Suzette Lawrence and the Neon Angels (Nashville mainstream country) Hillfolk Noir (Punky Hillbilly blues) Lewis & Leigh (Country folk & Americana) (Acts shown in reverse order of appearance).
Sunday,19th (from noon). 12noon - Mush (Local 1pm - Lost Bros 2pm - Dom & the Iko's (IK's New Orleans gumbo) 3pm - Bap Kennedy (Irish singer/ songwriter) 4pm - The Hallelujah Trails 5pm - Della Mae 6pm - Moreland and Arebuckle (US harmonica/guitar blues) MCee - Steve Drayton (BBC) - Sat & Sun
Dan Penn & |Spooner Oldham will be at the Sage
US blues act |Moreland & Arbuckle
Nash-|ville-based Jace Everett
James |Hunter Six Band
Singer-|songwriter Rosanne Cash
Rodney |Crowell and Emmylou Harris
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|Publication:||Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)|
|Date:||Jul 17, 2015|
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