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

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Image: Davina & The Vagabonds by Garrett Born Photography

Obviously it’s entirely subjective, but I think the line-up for this year’s SummerTyne Americana Festival, which takes place in and around Sage Gateshead from Friday 20th–Sunday 22nd July, is the best in years. Often my highlights are mostly to be found on the Jumpin’ Hot Stage (more of which shortly) but there are some truly excellent acts indoors too.

In Hall 2 on the Saturday night are the remarkable Davina & The Vagabonds, making their third visit to Sage Gateshead with their sharply turned out blend of New Orleans jazz and bluesy soul. In Davina they have one of the most engaging and charismatic singers out there, with a voice that can reduce a grown man (okay, this grown man!) to actual tears. The other personal highlight – and I’m surely not alone in this – is the mighty Steve Earle, playing Hall 1 on Saturday night with his band The Dukes, plus support from The Mastersons and Curse of Lono. If Earle needs any introduction, you’re just not paying enough attention.

Other big hitters across the two main halls include Graham Nash, a songwriting legend who achieved huge success in the sixties with The Hollies and Crosby, Stills & Nash and hasn’t let up since. He’s supported in Hall 1 on Friday night by Shawn Colvin. Former 10,000 Maniacs frontwoman Natalie Merchant is in Hall 2 on Saturday, and Iris Dement on Sunday. There’s also Robert Vincent, Yola Carter, Sam Palladio, Striking Matches, Sarah Darling, Kelly Willis and Emily Barker, and that’s just the main halls.

There’s a change in approach with the outdoor and concourse stages this year: to make sure the bands on the concourse (programmed thanks to the Americana Music Association UK) are more widely seen, on Saturday and Sunday the bands on the two stages will be staggered throughout the day, the plan being to broadcast the concourse performances to those sitting in front of the Jumpin’ Hot stage. (Friday has a full line-up of local acts on the outdoor stage). And as usual there’s some really great stuff to see – highlights for me include the ever-wonderful Gem Andrews and her band on Friday, The Blue Highways and Arkensas Dave on the Saturday and two truly wonderful bands on Sunday – the CD Wallum Trio from Leeds and The Strange Blue Dream from Glasgow, whose debut album last year was an absolute gem (drawing comparisons to The Deslondes in their blend of styles).

As ever, much of the appeal of the SummerTyne festival is how fully it takes over the area with food stalls, workshops, river boat cruises (this year featuring William The Conqueror and Roseanne Reid) and of course the loyal hordes packed in front of the Jumpin’ Hot stage for three solid days come rain or shine.

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