Glasgow Americana Festival opens today

ga-and-creative-scotland-logo-2018-webThe 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.


Woody Pines. Woody Pines. Muddy Roots Music Recordings

The spine of this CD has printed on it Country Blues – Rag Time – Viper Jazz and Woody Pines latest album pretty much does what it says on the cover. Pines honed his act initially as a street performer often in the company of Gil Landry and he has a sneaking affection for veteran folkies such as Baby Gramps and Peter Stampfel, guys who injected a healthy dose of sixties freakdom into folk music. He’s got a healthy run of albums under his belt including Counting Alligators which Blabber’n’Smoke reviewed here while his EP You Gotta Roll (reviewed here) is a regular favourite in the hacienda. Comparisons abound with that other arbiter of old time American music, Pokey LaFarge but Pines is altogether more laid back although it’s true that they drink from the same trough.

This latest self titled album is Pines’ best effort so far, a no frills collection of songs that are redolent of pre war hillbilly music and fifties hillbilly boogie tempered with some lyrics that slyly evoke more modern times. This is evident from the start with Anything For Love, a toe tappin’ dose of western swing with Woody declaring that he’d pinch Mike Tyson’s cheek if it got his gal’s attention before he goes on to seek advice from his Miles Davis and John Coltrane records. It’s a zippy start to the album and it recalls the dapper days of Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks with some hot fiddle playing from Billy Contreras. Contreras pops up again on fiddle on the Reinhart/Grappelli jive of Walking Stick but the bulk of the album is Pines along with Skip Frontz Jr on upright bass and Brad Tucker on guitar, a bare boned approach perhaps but the three of them do conjure up a fine stew.

There’s some scintillating syncopation on show here, the double bass snapping on Black Rat Swing and New Nashville Boogie while Tucker’s guitar humbucks and growls especially on the blues ridden Delta Bound. With covers of The Mississippi Sheiks’ Make It To The Woods, a skillet licking blues groove and Memphis Minnie’s Black Rat Swing Pines pays tribute to his forebears while his rendition of the old chestnut Junco Partner is an easy rolling gait with some fine country picking from Tucker. Finally Pines offers some tender moments, his sweetly delivered Little Stella Blue a breath away from Satisfied and Tickled Too but a beautiful moment. He closes the album with his salute to one of his heroes on Worth The Game, a Dylan like piece that bridges the gap between old time, sixties revival and present time. The song goes on.


Celtic Connections: The Leon Hunt n-Tet, The Two Man Gentleman band

It’s coming up for Celtic Connections time again and as usual there’s a hefty wallop of Americana music on show. Blabber’n’Smoke aficionados will already be familiar with some of the acts appearing. John Murry whose album, The Graceless Age, was our No. 1 release of last year appears along with the Cowboy Junkies at Kelvingrove art gallery while another of our top ten faves Petunia & The Vipers hit the Old Fruitmarket accompanied by Woody Pines. A Blabber’n’Smoke night to savour we think. Others we’ve previously mentioned here include the Heritage Blues Orchestra at the Royal Concert Hall, The Lost Brothers(supporting Glen Hansard), again at the Old Fruitmarket and finally a show that promises to be a doozie, Otis Gibbs at the Glasgow Art Club. Gibbs’ Hard As Hammered Hell was another album in our top ten releases of 2012.
This list only scratches the surface of course and it’s serendipitous that all of the above were mentioned here last year. We thought we’d take some time to mention a few others whose albums have fallen into our lap recently and who are also appearing.

The curiously named Leon Hunt n-Tet will be the must go gig for any music loving mathematicians as the n-tet suffix denotes a number that is liable to change (in layman terms they can be a duo, trio, quartet etc) and it’s likely that only boffins will get this. If so the boffins will be rubbing shoulders with bluegrass fans as Mr. Hunt is reckoned to be the UK’s premier 5-string banjo player and can be heard on numerous collaborations with a stellar array of transatlantic musicians. Here he’s promoting his tribute to the late Earl Scruggs. Farewell Blues (Remembering Earl Scruggs) sees him teamed up with three other UK exponents of the high lonesome sound (Jason Titley, Guitar, Ben Somers, Double Bass and Joe Hymas, Mandolin) and it’s pretty much what you’d expect from such experienced hands. The playing is impeccable, vibrant and joyous as they wheel through 12 cuts which range from the whirlwind Foggy Mountain Special to the ragamuffin roll that is Deep River Blues. It’s a joy from start to finish and in a blindfold test you’d swear these guys were raised on a porch on momma’s moonshine liquor. They play St. Andrews In the Square on 26th January supporting Sarah Jarosz


The Two Man Gentleman Band are a different kettle of fish although they also base their sound on a vintage American sound, in this case the very cool, hip and voutereeniest man ever, Slim Gaillard. Gaillard was a blast in the past, hobnobbing with Hollywood royalty and recording some of the daftest and deftest music ever. Most popular in a twin setting (as Slim and Slam then Slim and Bam, perhaps the chaps should rename themselves for Celtic Connections as Slim and Tam) he appeared in movies and was as popular as Louis Jordan. Playing guitar accompanied by double bass Gaillard scatted and jived about food, drinking and at times just nonsense in his invented language, vout. The Two Man Gentleman Band don’t share his language but they do sing about food (Pork Chops, Tikka Masala, Cheese and Crackers) and drinking (Chocolate Milk, Wine, Oh Wine!, Please Don’t Water It Down). What they do manage is the sense of fun, the joy of goofing off on a riff and the almost absurd (think Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes and Bugs Bunny) worldview that on record is engaging but should go down a storm live. They’re at the Glasgow Piping Centre on 26th January.


Old Dollar Bill. Lucky From Kentucky.

It was Neil Young who sang “ Homegrown is the way it should be. Homegrown is a good thing. Plant that bell and let it ring.” Old Neil might have been singing about something else altogether (answers on a postcard!) but it’s gratifying to find that there’s a good deal of homegrown bands and songsters in the best wee nation in the world who can take on Americana type music and deliver their own take on it with a degree of authenticity but more importantly portraying their feeling and affection for the genre.
Bands such as The Wyntown Marshals, Dropkick, The Ballchulish Hellhounds and the late lamented Southpaw are all fine examples of Scots bands who can deliver the real thing and the list can be expanded almost ad infinitum if one looks at the likes of Teenage Fanclub and The Vaselines who exported the proverbial coals to Newcastle.
Old Dollar Bill are a grand addition to the local canon of Scots combos who can summon up a genuine feel for American music. In their case it’s old time good time stringband hoe-downs and rollicking country songs. Their debut album was as fine a piece of Scots Americana as we’ve heard in a long time and now on their second release Lucky From Kentucky they consolidate their sound, relying less on their undoubted instrumental prowess with the inclusion of several fine songs that broaden their appeal.
Comprised of Stephen Clark (guitar, mandolin, banjo and Dobro) and Ed Henry (Cajon, drums and percussion) (supplemented by Edinburgh musicians Martyn McQuade on double bass, Neil Pearlman, piano, Tom McAweaney, fiddle, Owen McAlpine, harmonica and Gill Swan, harmony vocals on various cuts) Old Dollar Bill cut a fine cloth with ten songs all self written that range from the swamp blues of My Love She Did Wear A Disguise to the triumphant closing good time swing of Lucky From Kentucky. My Love she Did Wear A Disguise is a great opener with Clark snarling a tale of betrayal that cleaves to a folk tradition but with the menacing Dobro and clattering percussion relocates it to a swamp ridden murky voodoo land. One More Shot To Kill The Pain is a straightforward country stomp with fine harp and piano playing with the lyrics appearing to portray a typical Edinburgh bar although there’s no hard drinking “Rebus” type detective propping up the bar along with the unemployed graduate and the war veteran. The Man With The Hurtin’ Smile slinks along gracefully with some nice Dobro and mandolin fills while McQuade’s bass burbles along nicely. Henry takes over the vocals on the heartworn tale of a John fleeced by a pretty girl and excusing her as he says “I see the pain in her eyes/where she’s cut off social ties/she doesn’t look too well/she’s living in her own little hell.” This is a great little song with expressive harmonica, intricate percussion and excellent guitar, Dobro and mandolin; it’s reminiscent of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band circa Hollywood Dream which is no bad thing. The Place is another roustabout country ditty while Hey Y’all plants the fiddle firmly in the foreground for what is a fiercely danceable hoe-down. Clark returns to the fore vocally on the fine This Feeling with his mandolin propelling the band as Henry’s percussion adds to the drive. The Last Good Time is a departure of sorts for the band as they rein in the toe tapping vibes and deliver an emotive ballad that has rippling piano and female harmony vocals. It comes across almost like a Bruce Cockburn type song, plaintive and affecting it sounds great here. Home Lovin’ Man which follows seems to be another attempt to add an extra dimension to the band. A pared back stumble with emotive harmonica it has a fine lazy feel but the intrusive finger clicks that feature throughout are somewhat distracting. They close the album with the title song (aided and abetted by Woody Pines and members of The Wilders). Lucky From Kentucky is a barnstorming closer that must go down a storm live with its opportunities for the singers and instrumentalists to add to the energy that is already present on the recorded version. Old Dollar Bill play regularly in the drinking dens of Edinburgh and on the strength of this should be seen well before any ghost tours.


Woody Pines/The Hot Seats. Glasgow. 29th April.

Two great bands playing in two different venues on Sunday night required a modicum of planning however it was a toss of a coin that led me to visit the Woody Pines gig at Lauries Acoustic Music Bar first. This Trongate live music stalwart has changed its name recently and now proudly proclaims itself as Avant Garde. All well and good but this proved problematic for the band who apparently circled the area several times looking for Lauries Bar. Nevertheless by the time they appeared on stage they were unfazed by this slight hiccup and proceeded to turn the venue into a veritable southern roadhouse. The four piece North Virginia band led by the tousle haired Woody (who left his usual headgear to a barman in Ireland) immediately had the crowd going with a vibrant rendition of the traditional Long Gone Lost John before easing into Hank Williams’ Can’t Keep You Off My Mind. With guitarist Lyon Graulty switching between clarinet and some fine slide guitar playing the band slid from New Orleans type vamps to old time country blues with 99 Years a particular delight as Felix Hatfield excelled on the washboard sounding like a full drum kit. Crazy Eyed Woman loped along splendidly and an extended version of Counting Alligators with a spoken rap from Woody recounting a trip along Highway 61 encapsulated their appeal with a tight rhythm and a lot of swing.
Sadly the desire to see The Hot Seats led us to leave Woody and his band at half time in order to hoof it on up to The Universal and due to crossing the Glasgow dateline we caught most of their set. Another band who drink from the old time music well The Hot Seats are a (mostly) bearded raggle taggle crew who swap instruments with gay abandon and to great effect. Anyone who’s heard their latest live album would know what to expect but in truth the humour and sheer vibrancy of their set has to be seen live. The first song we caught, Trouble in Mind was a steamroller of banjo, fiddle and guitar flailing away, a great start. In full flight the five-piece band serve up an unplugged wall of sound that can make the hair on the back of the neck stand up. No Plans from their next album was an outstanding example of this, forget the cinematic Soggy Bottom Boys, this is the real deal. Playing tunes by the likes of Gid Tanner’s Skilletlickers and Earl Scruggs there was plenty of bluegrass action and even a turn by Shannon Dunne, an American “flatfooter” who whetted the audience’s appetite for a dance. The sly entendre of Peaches allowed the band to wallow somewhat in a vaudevillian humour fully realised on Soft John Blues, a fabulously louche country slouch that pays tribute to that old viagra.
Earlier on Woody Pines had commented on the somewhat cramped confines of his gig lamenting the lack of dancing space. At The Universal there was no such problem and by the closing and rousing Another Day, Another Dollar you couldn’t see the band for the dancers.
If this had been a battle of the bands then I’d declare it a draw and the only loser was the reviewer who haplessly missed out on the second set from Woody Pines. It’s safe to say however that both bands are smoking hot and if you get the chance to see one or both then do so.

The Hot Seats. Live

Well we’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that The Hot Seats, one of the finest string bands around at present are coming to Glasgow soon. The bad news is that they’re playing the same night as the fabulous Woody Pines, a bit of a predicament indeed! Well, there’s one more piece of good news. It appears that promoters Brookfield Knights have generously agreed that on presentation of a ticket stub for one of the gigs patrons can choose to catch a set each from both bands by utilising the break to head from the Universal to Lauries or vice versa. You takes your pick.
We’ve reviewed Woody’s latest offering here and had an opportunity to review The Hot Seats latest live album for Maverick magazine where they had previously been described as “fantabulous” and “bonkers but brilliant,” The album is a fantastic document of their live set. Straight from the off they tear into the traditional Trouble In Mind and it’s apparent that they were on fire this night. Whether they are playing honky tonk songs (Another Day, Another Dollar) or jug band (Sugar Pudding) the playing is spot on but the best moments are on the old string band arrangements of songs like Same Old Man and Killing Time where they mesh together while a well oiled machine. The closing cover of Hell Broke Loose in Georgia pulls out all of the stops in a tour de force that would defy any audience to remain in their seats.
Looks like Sunday 29th April will be a fine night for music in Glasgow so get your running shoes out and start training.


Another Day Another Dollar

The Hot Seats are playing some other gigs.
04/27/12 Edinburgh, Scotland at House Concert at Douglas Robertson’s House
04/28/12 Brookfield Village Hall
04/29/12 Glasgow at The Universal
05/03/12 Shetland Islands, Scotland at The 32nd Shetland Folk Festival

Woody Pines. You Gotta Roll.

We first came across Woody Pines back in 2009 when we reviewed his album Counting Alligators which was a fine slice of old timey songs. Woody also popped up on an Old Dollar Bill release at one point. Now we’ve got this excellent EP released to coincide with their current UK tour. Five songs long with a brief intro that sounds as if one were tuning into an old radio show it bodes well for the shows portraying as it does a tight and fast picking band with a sure hand on the old Americana tiller. Although the songs are all covers Woody and his band own them here. From the opening traditional Long Gone Lost John we’re in country swing territory with Woody playing some fine snappy guitar runs that fuzz and bite while clarinet reinforces the jazzy feel embedded in the best of that genre. As they hurtle to the end of the song they swing like a bell on what is a great opening song, punchy and defiant. The smooth acoustic drive of Doc Boggs’ Ain’t Gonna Be Treated This way is embellished with some spooky resonator guitar that echoes the wide lonesome plains while Leadbelly’s Ham & Eggs rocks with a neat fifties style and again features some nifty guitar work. Hank Williams’ Can’t Keep You Off My Mind is given a laid back (or as laid back as they get) honky tonk feel with Zack Pozebanchuck’s upright bass a special delight here. The all too short disc ends with another traditional song Treat You Right with much finger picking, harmonica and muted organ that reminds you of just how groovy and infectious old time country music can be when it’s in the right hands.
With Woody in fine fettle on vocals and demonstrating some fine guitar and harp skills the rest of the band (Lyon Graulty, guitar, vocals, Zack Pozebanchuck, upright bass and Mike Gray, drums) more than keep up with him and much of the delight in listening to this is in the individual contributions of each adding to a very nice whole. If they sound half as good live then get thee to a show.

Long Gone Lost John

Woody Pines is currently touring the UK.

Tues Apr 17: The Acorn Theatre, Penzance
Wed Apr 18: Chichester Inn, Chichester
Thurs Apr 19: The Chattery, Swansea
Fri Apr 20: The Beach, Clevedon
Sat Apr 21: Bridge House Theatre, Warwick
Sun Apr 22: The Canteen, Bristol (afternoon)
Tues Apr 24: Red Room, Cookstown, Co Tyrone
Weds Apr 25: The Atlantic Bar, Main Street , Portrush, Co Antrim
Thurs Apr 26: Clonmel, Co Tipperary
Fri Apr 27: The Glens Centre, Manorhamilton, Co Lietrim
Sat Apr 28: Seamus Ennis Centre, Naul, Co Dublin
Sun Apr 29: Laurie’s Acoustic Music Bar, Glasgow
Tues May 1: Old Library, Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire
Wed May 2: Harbour Arts Centre, Irvine
Thurs May 3: Aros Centre, Isle of Skye
Fri May 4: An Tobar, Tobermory, Isle of Mull
Sat May 5: Brew at the Bog, Bogbain Farm, Inshes, Inverness Tickets
from – 0844 3954000
Sun May 6: Woodend Barn, Banchory
Tues May 8: Leith Folk Club, Victoria Park House Hotel, Edinburgh
Wed May 9: The Catstrand, New Galloway
Thurs May 10: Woodlands Hotel, Broughty Ferry
Fri May 11: Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy
Sat May 12: Heart of Hawick auditorium, Scottish Borders
Sun May 13: Saltburn Community Theatre, Saltburn-by-the-Sea

Old Dollar Bill. Lucky From Kentucky.

When I wrote about the latest Wilders’ gig in Glasgow I noted that they had appeared here so often recently they were becoming akin to locals. Interesting then that they have indulged in a spot of musical miscegenation, teaming up with Edinburgh duo Old Dollar Bill for this release. Furthermore it’s a bit of a menage a trois as another popular visitor, namely Woody Pines is also involved.
Before we get too confused what we have here is a one track CD single, the title song from the forthcoming Old Dollar Bill album, their second. Before you ask “why should I buy a single with one song that’s going to be on the album anyway?” I’d point out that, in this day and age of digital downloads it’s an actual physical artefact and comes with some very attractive packaging and for the price of a pint is well worth getting.
As for the song itself Old Dollar Bill and the tourists (as they’re described in the notes) spend almost six minutes on a splendidly loose limbed picaresque tale of a “whisky drinking, finger pickin’ bluegrass man.” The bass playing of Nate Gawron and Dobro from Phil Wade certainly fill out Old Dollar Bill’s sound. Woody Pines introduces the song and Stephen Clark and Ike Sheldon swap vocals. Like Hank Williams without the heartbreak it’s good time music and it sounds as if they had a whale of a time recording it. The enthusiasm certainly spills out of the speakers. It’s a tremendous performance and akin to having a jam session in your room.
Available at gigs and here it’s a great opportunity for fans of all three bands involved to get a piece of the action. You can hear it on the Old Dollar Bill MySpace page.

Round up Reviews

A brace of Americana roots type music albums arrived here over the past few weeks so I thought I’d gather them together in one piece.
First up is Woody Pines’ “Counting Alligators.” Fronted by the eponymous Pines this is a great little album of old time songs that range from the jump jive of “Rich Gal, Poor Gal” with its parping sax and syncopation to a great cover of “Satisfied and Tickled Too” which is one of the best versions of the song I’ve heard. At times foot tapping and up-tempo the best moments however are the slower songs such as “Walking Down the Road” with mournful fiddle and a wonderful air of melancholy.

While Woody Pines have their feet firmly in the urban side of American folk Furnace Mountain, from Virginia have a more rural feel with echoes of the Celtic traditions passed over the ocean on their album “Fields of Fescue.”  With blazin’ fiddles and terrific strumming the band fit perfectly behind the vocals of Aimee Curl who has a little bit of Karen Dalton’s lazy rural twang about her. Allied to this is David Van Deventer’s fiddle which swings, cajoles and whoops throughout. This is infectious dancing music and begs to be heard live.

From the jackrabbit jive of Woody Pines and the cool clear rural dancesteps of Furnace Mountain we finally we have Gordie Tentrees with his offering “Mercy or Sin.”  Coming from the singer songwriter tradition with his roots in country blues and sounding like a young John Prine, Tentrees and his band play seductively with guitars licking and curling around his lyrics. At times they play dirty as on “Devil Talks” with ferocious guitar and stinging dobro but again the best is in the quieter moments where Tentrees and the band swing with a lazy nonchalance with a hint of menace in the tale.

Woody Pines

Furnace Mountain

Gordie Tentrees