Summertyne Americana Festival is unlike any other festival out there today. Last year was my first year and I was greeted by friendly staff and a stellar line up of talent, some of whom had flown under my radar but they blew me away after the three days. Set in and around Sage Gateshead the festival uses both of the Halls - Sage One and Sage Two as well as a stage in the cafe area and on the concourse outside. Furthermore, and a highlight of the Festival for me last year was the river cruise where some of the top artists entertain a boat full of people as it travels up and down the Tyne. Last year one of those artists was Ashley Campbell who went down a treat! This year boasts another fantastic line up and not all the artists have been announced yet! Read on to find out our top picks!
The Festival begins on the main stages on Friday and there are two options for you to choose between! At 7.30pm in Sage 1 the legendary Graham Nash headlines. Nash who has been inducted twice into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has quite the selection of songs to choose from as he's joined on stage by guitarist Shane Fontayne and keyboardist Todd Caldwell to perform a selection of songs from his days in the Hollies, songs from his solo project and from when he was part of Crosby, Stills and Nash. He is joined by Shawn Colvin, she too is quite the legend having won her first Grammy for her debut album back in 1989, she went on to win two more Grammy's ten years later and now has 12 albums to her name. She is known as one of America's greatest performers and her witty lyrics that dominate her performances will surely go down a treat in Gateshead.
Meanwhile in Sage 2 at 8pm Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys will be getting the party started with their energetic blend of Honky Tonk, Rockabilly and Western Swing. They have released 14 albums to date with their last being an acoustic record made up of their favourite original songs. Over the past 20 years they have played over 3000 shows including The Grand Ole Opry and have supported the likes of George Jones, Johnny Cash and Morissey. They are supported by Charley Crockett, the Texas born blues singer spent much of his life train hopping across America, busking in New York and New Orleans and has lived all over the World from the streets of Paris to Spain and North Africa. This life experiences has given Crockett much to convey in his songs and performances.
Starting the day off in Sage 2 at 1pm is Texas based Honky Tonk Angel Kelly Willis who is about to embark on her first UK solo tour. Her new album Back Being Blue released in May this year mixes twangy country with a few adventurous rockier numbers and a couple of carefully chosen covers. She is joined by Emily Barker the current Americana Awards UK Artist of the year. Her recent record was recorded in Memphis with the best session musicians and Grammy award winning producer Matt Ross-Spang. However it's Emily's work in TV and Film that she may be best known for, she was the writer and performer behind the award winning Wallander theme tune as well as the composer of the soundtrack of the feature film Hector.
The first river cruise this year will set sail at 1pm and feature William The Conqueror and Rosanne Reid on a three hour round trip up the tyne. Roseanne's melodic, honest and organic writing style has won over audiences across the World and one famous fan it has gained her is Steve Earle who regularly invites her to his writing retreats. Her debut album which is to be released later this year feature a duet with Earle. William The Conqueror recently played the Main Stage of Black Deer Festival and despite a very important football match being played the trio from Cornwall held the crowd.
My top pick for the Saturday though takes place at 7pm in Sage 1 and that's because the great Steve Earle and The Dukes take to the stage. 3 time grammy winner and 14 time grammy nominee has released 16 albums and had his songs recorded by such music legends as Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Emmylou Harris. He's tried his hand at many different genres from Country to Folk, Rock to Blues and he is quite the political activist too so expect a few words said on the current state of affairs. The Mastersons, supporting, are also part of Steve's band The Dukes and it was steve who encouraged the duo to record and release their first album. Meanwhile at 7pm at Sage 2 Natalie Merchant and her long time friend and guitarist Erik Della Penna will play a selection of songs from her 35 year career.
My top pick for Sunday features Sam Palladio, Striking Matches and Sarah Darling in Sage 1 at 7pm. Sam Palladio is most famed for being in the Hit US TV Drama Nashville but Sam not only plays a songwriter on screen, he is a songwriter in real life and he has had the opportunity to play his music at places like the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium, Red rocks and the royal Albert Hall. His debut album is set to hit shelves at the end of the year. Striking Matches have had nine songs appear in the TV show and have released one full length studio album and a few EPs. They can write across a range of genres but are most rooted in Country and Blues. Their guitar skills are unrivalled and continue to blow the minds of audiences throughout the World. At Sage 2 starting slightly later at 8pm Iris DeMent headlines. Her second album My Life was nominated for a grammy in the best contemporary folk album category and her songs Our Town and Let the Mystery Be were both featured in TV and Film.
Nestled in between these stages are a number of free stages with some top quality acts including the lovely Melanie Greggain who's debut single as a solo act reached the number 1 spot on the iTunes Country charts last year. For those of you not going on the river cruise there will be another chance to see William The Conqueror and on Friday night on the concourse stage - it's going to be crowded as The Wandering Hearts take to the stage!