The 12th Glasgow Americana Festival kicks off today as Bristol based Yola Carter brings her hi-energy mix of soul and country to Cottiers Theatre. Carter, winner of UK artist of the year and Song of the Year at the AMA UK awards is just the curtain raiser for a splendid roster of acts pouring into Glasgow over the next five days. Emily Barker, well known to many for her theme song for the BBC drama Wallander and for her spot in the opening ceremony at the London Olympics, will be showcasing her Memphis influenced soulful blues album Sweet Kind of Blue while Kimmie Rhodes, a true red dirt Texan legend is also coming along.
Nathan Bell, winner of the performer of the year award in 2017 by the influential website Americana UK returns to the city which he took by storm at Celtic Connections some 18 months ago and another singular performer, Anthony D’Amato is at the HIP place to be on the south side, The Glad Cafe. Also coming to the Glad Cafe are the UK “supergroup” Bennett Wilson Poole for their first Scottish appearance. This trio of seasoned and bloody brilliant musicians have dominated the UK roots Americana scene ever since their album came out earlier this year and this gig is definitely worthy of “bucket list” attention.
There’s plenty of home grown talent on show as Martha L Healy and Starry Skies both have album launch shows (with Healy’s show apparently sold out, sorry folks) while The Hellfire Club’s show at The Hug & Pint promises to be a hot and sweaty intimate shindig. And for an interesting mix of local and American acts there’s the ever popular Hazy Recollections revue which includes Woody Pines and Adriana Spina on the bill which this year is being hosted by Glasgow’s answer to Whispering Bob Harris, our very own Mike Ritchie. In addition to the main acts there are some great supports adding to the experience and the whole line up can be found here.
Check the links above for Blabber’n’Smoke’s thoughts on some of the acts and see some video evidence of the avalanche of talent coming this week. Get thee down there.
It’s hard to believe that it was back in 2005 when Blabber’n’Smoke first heard Adriana Spina when her debut EP, A Thousand Lives was released. Since then the Scots singer/songwriter has been on the road gradually working her way up the ladder to the point where she has landed prestigious support slots for the likes of Joan Armatrading, Eddi Reader, Dar Williams and Sheryl Crow. On the recording front, she released her debut album in 2011 and now, after a successful crowd funding campaign, she unveils its follow-up, the highly accomplished Let Out The Dark with its lead single, Sparkle named as a single of the week by Radio Scotland’s Janice Forsyth.
Spina sits comfortably within the sphere of artists such as Mary Chapin Carpenter, her songs are modern folk tales set within arrangements that can be subtle or rock out with some finesse as on the radio friendly Disappear which appears towards the end of Let Out the Dark. With its surging guitars and Spina’s dynamic voice which manages the twists and turns of the song excellently it’s perfect for spinning on the road on a sunlit day. Hear It From You is another rocker that just fails to capture the heights of Disappear but it belts along with some vigour while there’s an REM glimmer to the guitars on Spina’s ode to refugees on See Another Day. There’s a similar brooding guitar delivery on the love gone cold tale of The Same Drum, a song that matches the best of many of her US contemporaries.
There are more introspective moments and the album opens with perhaps the best one, the slow toll beat of Home with Spina pondering on a relationship that’s perhaps damaged beyond repair. Her voice here is a delight, multitracked to provide her own harmonies while the band (Stuart MacLeod and Ross McFarlane) with Spina on acoustic guitar spin a delicate web that recalls some of Richard Thompson’s darker work reminding one of the album Shoot Out The Lights. Two Steps has a cold Northern feel to the music which is amplified by some of the images in the lyrics with Spina again reflecting on love lost and while one might initially think that Don’t Recognise Me, a delightfully simple rendition with only Spina and her guitar on show, is yet another ode to lost love the lyrics seem to allude to childhood and adolescent years with a family member.
Sparkle is a miniature gem, a Christmas song of sorts but one that finds Spina forlorn as the strains of Band Aid on the radio signal another year over and she ponders on whether she should surrender to the myths and jollity of the season. Throughout the album there’s a thread of abandonment and the closing song Where You Are is a bare boned bedsit wallow with Spina turning the blame for a failed romance on herself as she echoes early Joni Mitchell in some of her phrasing. A lovely end to a very fine album.
To celebrate the release of the album Adriana Spina has a launch party at Glasgow’s The Flying Duck on March 24th before embarking on a brief tour around the UK. All dates here.