FEATURE: SummerTyne Americana Festival | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Imelda May

Nothing says summer like three days of drinking and good music down on the banks of the Tyne. Yes, the SummerTyne Americana festival is back once again – from Friday 22nd until Sunday 24th July – with its usual blend of big hitters, new hopes and all manner of pop-ups, free gigs and surprises.

Friday kicks off with what might be the most tempting proposition of all: barely has Howe Gelb left town on Giant Sand’s farewell tour than he’s back again in Hall Two, performing solo and doubtless playing some of those ‘future standards’ he’s been threatening us with. Expect tangents, asides, diversions and some fine, fine playing. Support comes from Gemma Ray, who’s always worth checking out. Hall One sees a double-bill of Striking Matches and Ward Thomas. The former are responsible for most of the songs in the hit TV show Nashville and already have a T Bone Burnett produced country rock album under their belts. Sister act Ward Thomas are the latest to make the jump to Hall One from the Jumpin’ Hot Outdoor Stage, where they won a lot of fans last year. Support for this one comes from Bob Harris-approved British singer-songwriter Callahan. Heading up Friday’s bill in Hall Two are southern boogie legends The Kentucky Headhunters, decades into a multi-million album selling career and with the hair of men half their age. There’s also the Mike & Ruthy Band supported by Gilly Landry in the Late Lounge.

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Howe Gelb

Saturday’s big-hitter has to be Irish rockabilly icon Imelda May, a comparatively regular visitor to the venue whose straight-up 50s style (with the occasional touch of bodhran) along with her warm, if a tad potty-mouthed, stage presence ensures that Hall One should be kicking, especially with the excellent Jess & The Bandits in support. Hall Two has a packed bill too, starting with classic country duo Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison at 1pm. Acclaimed Nashville singer-songwriter Gretchen Peters takes over at 7pm with support from Dean Owens, while stompin’ bluesman Lucky Peterson finishes things up at 10.30pm, with his blend of blues, R&B, gospel and soul. The Late Lounge plays host to a bluegrass interpretation of The Who’s hoary old rock opera Tommy! courtesy of Missouri’s Hillbenders.

Mary Chapin Carpenter is a legend in country circles and just the thing if you like your country sweet, melancholy and crafted. She’s a fine act to close Hall One on Sunday. In Hall Two there’s Rev Peyton’s Big Damn Band. This act’s huge following has always been something of a mystery to me, but people sure do seem to like them in Newcastle so it’s bound to be a roadblock. Earlier in the afternoon, bluegrass hero and Union Station member Ron Block will be appearing alongside fellow Allison Krauss collaborator Sierra Hull, while the Late Lounge has the huge voice of Yola Carter, known both as former front woman of Phantom Limb and from guest slots with everyone from Massive Attack to Chase & Status.

Of course, half the fun of SummerTyne Americana happens outside the big halls. There’s the usual boat trips – Saturday has former Old Crow Medicine Show member Gill Landry supported by local rockabilly chanteuse Miss Mary & The Mr Rights while Sunday has Dean Owens & Chester & The Fog Duo sailing off down the Tyne.

As usual the Sage’s concourse will have acts across the weekend, all free: the SummerTyne Country Soul Choir (Saturday, 4.30pm) sound intriguing, and it’s always worth catching local hero Gem Andrews (Sunday, 12.45pm) but there’s a dozen others to choose from too.

It wouldn’t be SummerTyne Americana without the Jumpin’ Hot Outdoor Stage, for some the best bit of all – an excuse to sit in the sun (hopefully) and watch a host of bands for free. Friday is always local bands day, and it’s 60s garage pop outfit Sons Of Bido Lito (5pm) and folk/country singer songwriter Chloe Chadwick (6.15pm) that are the must-sees here. A really strong Saturday bill includes Jumpin’ Hot regular Mary Jean Lewis & Her Lowmen (3.45pm) and British country mainstay Peter Bruntnell (2.30pm), who really does deserve to be a whole lot better known. Jumpin’ Hot founder Shippy opens Sunday with his laidback Shipcote & Friends outfit (12pm), with stomping blues from Little Victor (3.45pm) and some lush Americana from Yola Carter (6.15pm) finishing things up. Back after a year off, I’ll be DJing under my Stagger Lee moniker, providing tunes between the bands and drinking like a hero during them.

SummerTyne Americana Festival takes place at Sage Gateshead from Friday 22nd until Sunday 24th July.

 

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