LIVE REVIEW: SUMMERTYNE AMERICANA FESTIVAL @ The Sage Gateshead (21.7.17 – 23.7.17) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The SummerTyne Americana Festival has long been one of the highlights of the North East’s musical calendar and in its 13th year, Paul Broadhead gives his run down of the 10 best acts. 

FRIDAY

The skies may appear threatening but the early birds catch the worm with the wonderful Rhona Dalling treating us to her country folk.  Switching between violin and banjo, lilting ballads like I Don’t Mind and Two Lighthouses, with her accordion playing father on lead vocals, get the day off to a promising start.  Whilst songs about addiction recovery and Alzheimer’s – the heartbreaking cover of Nashville songwriter Rayna Gellerts’ Nothing – may seem to be a lot to swallow on a Friday lunch-time, Dalling’s delicate folk singing warms the hearts and by the times she finishes with Walk Me Round, from her debut EP, she’s proven her worth as a local artist to keep an eye on. 

Sheffield’s Buffalo Skinners have graced this stage before and throw an opening curveball with the mournful Goodbye My First Love for their set thereafter is full of soulful rock and roll.  Switching lead vocals, they come across like a rockabilly Beach Boys; We Get Along reworking I Get Around in another genre and generation.  Stomping Hammond organ led tunes like Working For The Man and his “dollars,” and Delta Blues, which involves “signing on the dole,” may leave the audience a little confused about the band’s hometown but that’s always been the point of the Friday at SummerTyne; home grown bands raised and rocking to the best of Americana music.

Paul Handyside of the appropriately named Paul Handyside Trio – there’s three of them, y’all – appears like Elvis in the ’68 Comeback Special, or perhaps more aptly, is kitted out as SummerTyne’s very own Man in Black.  The Wallsend songsmith has a strong arsenal ranging from weepy ballads like the optimism of New Frontier to the country rock blues of Tears Of A Gambling Man.  His poignant singalong When The Good Times Roll Again is about a soldier entrenched in no man’s land but it could be about anything these days and the crowd lap it up.

Taking to the Concourse Stage is something quite unlike anything witnessed at the SummerTyne Festival before, as word of mouth has spread like wildfire with regards to the Stax Academy Revue.  The Stax Music Academy exists to nurture and present the next generation of great soul musicians and there’s barely room to stand as they take to the stage with a rendition of Wilson Pickett’s Sweet Soul Music.  Encouraging the audience to join in with a rendition of the Funky Chicken, the talent on display is unquestionable, from soaring soulful vocals to deft musicianship.  The hits keep on coming with Sam & Dave’s Soul Man and Rufus Thomas’ Walking The Dog before slowing things down with Otis Redding’s I’ve Been Loving You Too Long and Try A Little Tenderness.  The energy and exuberance of the soulful troupe proves to be one of the stand-out moments in a SummerTyne history over the last decade.

SATURDAY

If the now legendary – at least around these parts on this particular weekend – Steve Drayton hadn’t introduced them and the band didn’t engage in banter between songs, you’d be forgiven for thinking that The Fargo Railroad Co. had flown in from the American mid-west to be with us on this rainy day in Gateshead.  Instead, their southern blues rock and alt-country style has been honed in the British North West and the steel city of Sheffield.  They certainly look the part and, more to the point, sound it to with two-step numbers like Punch Drunk and the amusing country funk, or ‘Cunk’ as the band call it, Don’t Pick A Fight With A Grizzly.  A pleasant, early morning, surprise.   

Amythyst Kiah is the first act to take to the outdoor Jumpin’ Hot Stage with a solo performance and her distinctive blues voice makes everybody sit up and take notice.  The Tennessee native’s Southern Gothic sound is spell-binding and she brings the sunshine with her with a rendition of the gospel track Trouble So Hard, made famous by Moby in the late 90’s and the bluesy Another Man Done Wrong which goes down a storm, especially with the ladies.  Her own Wildebeest caps a fine set from one of the most original acts of the weekend.

Seattle’s Massy Ferguson are reminiscent of Tennessee’s Lucero and that’s praise indeed for the bluesy alt-rock 4-piece.  Airing tracks from last years’ Run It Right Into The Wall, they also evoke the lyrics of one of SummerTyne’s alumni in Richmond Fontaine, with songs about motels, bar fights and waitresses.  Singer-bassist Ethan Anderson’s voice is raw and bruised and perfectly transports us from the immaculate surroundings of the Sage to the late-night seedy bars that both light up and litter small-town Americana life.  Pretty good for a band named after a tractor.

SUNDAY

He may resemble a Ryan Adams wannabe but Robert Vincent has very much his own style and voice, the Liverpudlian not letting the rain distract as he plays to a sea of umbrellas.  So In Love – with an exquisite guitar solo and the murder ballad November with its Spaghetti Western influence are highlights along with the crowd-pleasing sing-a-long of I’ll Make The Most Of My Sins.  An accomplished and confident performance from a British singer-songwriter who is ahead of the game in a saturated genre… not to mention festival.

She may hail from Stoke but the North East has accepted Chloe Chadwick as one of their own and the now Newcastle-residing country-influenced songwriter doesn’t disappoint with a fine performance of songs from her forthcoming debut, Dustbowl Jukebox.  Gazing out upon an adoring crowd and a fast-flowing River Tyne, she aptly opens with Big River (no, not that one) and doesn’t let up in a set that delivers as much as it promises.  Expect big things. 

With the atrocious weather threatening to turn the SummerTyne into the flooded Tyne, Jonathan Terrell must wonder why he left the balmy sunshine of Austin, Texas but the hardy souls who have braved the now torrential downpour are thankful that he did.  His gritty tales of fast motorbikes and faster women warm the cockles of the hearts of the cold and wet with country laments like Lemon Cigarettes & Pink Champagne and the Evil Kinevil inspired Color Me Lucky.  It’s a testament to his quality that so many remain in the rain as the festival draws to a close. 

As another year of cowboy hats and rainmacs comes to a close, the thirteenth SummerTyne Festival can be considered to be another success, even in spite of the somewhat inclemental weather and after new so-called “security measures” regarding alcohol threatened to cast a storm over the whole festival before it had even begun.  Long may it continue…   

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