Now in its 10th year and a firm favorite in the calendar of North East music fans, the SummerTyne Americana Festival returned to the Sage Gateshead last weekend.
An initial observation this year is the magnitude of the festival, with not only a formidable array of talent but also a fantastic turnout. Music lovers perched on top of the hill in front of the DFDS Seaways Jumpinâ€™ Hot Stage and lined the floor of the concourse in their droves to indulge in the superb programme of live music offered throughout the course of the weekend.
The first day of the festival got underway on the outdoor stage with the likes of local blues artists Michael Littlefield and King Size Voodoo Traveller. They provided the perfect soundtrack to a leisurely Friday afternoon before country royalty, Emmylou Harris, and the legendary Muscle Shoals singer/songwriters, Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, headed the bill in the main halls of the venue.
U.S. country outfit, Red Sky July, proved to be a popular choice on the concourse Saturday afternoon, demonstrating some incredible vocal harmonies. Following them was Hillfolk Noir from Boise, Idaho adding some diversity to the bill with a set of traditional music and what they class as ‘Junkerdash’ complete with washboard, banjo, and all.
Rising star of the British country scene, Callaghan, made her debut at the festival. She left a great impression on the Geordie crowd with her brand of delightful cello-infused country/pop before local talent, Chloe Chadwick who recently performed at Country to Country festival, played to a packed out crowd on the concourse stage.
Ward Thomas were the talk of the festival with both indoor and outdoor shows proving to be very popular on Saturday afternoon. Performing tracks like â€œReach For The Strideâ€ and â€œTown Called Uglyâ€ from their debut album From Where We Stand, they got the audience moving. The band also delivered a sublime rendition of Hozierâ€™s â€œTake Me To Church.â€
The James Hunter Six closed out the proceedings on the outdoor stage on Saturday with some great funky soul and rhythm and blues. With a cigarette perched on top of his guitar neck throughout, Hunter showed off his mischievous side by greeting the audience with â€œHello Sunderlandâ€ much to their amusement. Tracks like â€œChicken Switch,â€ â€œNo Smoke Without Fire,â€ and a cover of The Five Royaleâ€™s â€œBaby Donâ€™t Do Itâ€ turned the area in front of the stage into a full on 50â€™s revival with everyone jive dancing.
Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal wowed the audience in Hall One. Not only is she a superb singer/songwriter, she is truly a great storyteller with song after song accompanied by a tale. Such great chemistry between the pair, they are thoroughly entertaining.
U.S. veteran soul and gospel artist Naomi Shelton took Newcastle to church with a late night set featuring tracks like â€œSinnerâ€ and â€œHeaven Is Mineâ€ from her latest Daptone records album Cold World. She is joined onstage by the legendary bass player, Fred Thomas, of James Brown fame. They performed â€œPass The Peas,â€ which he recorded with the great man himself. Shelton also performed a superb cover of â€œAt Lastâ€ by Etta James.
Nashvilleâ€™s McCrary Sisters schooled the crowd in Gospel as part of a special family show titled â€œOh Happy Daysâ€ with some of the most amazing vocal harmonies you will ever here. The quartet had the crowd singing along to the likes of â€œAmazing Grace,â€ â€œLet Your Little Light Shine,â€ and â€œVictory.â€
Making their UK debut at the festival was the all female five-piece, Della Mae, who were one of the stand-out bands of the festival. Performing good time country music from their debut self-titled album, they got the biggest cheer of the weekend from the DFDS Seaways Jumpin’ Hot Stage.
U.S. trio Moreland and Arbuckle from Wichita, Kansas closed out the day on the outdoor stage with some hard rocking blues. Dustin Arbuckle delivers some furious blues harp, whilst Aaron Moreland is a phenomenal slide player on his cigar box guitar. They take us through the likes of â€œQuiveraâ€ and their take on Bo Diddleyâ€™s â€œMona.â€ They closed out their main set with an epic rendition of the â€œLegend of John Henryâ€ with an incredible instrumental breakdown and left the crowd wanting more.
Meanwhile inside, British duo Zervas and Pepper were on hand on the concourse delivering some wonderful acoustic folk-rock, featuring some superb vocal harmonies, whilst The Shires proved why the deserved to be so high on the bill of such a prestigious festival; a bright future beckons indeed.
One of several blues artists on the bill this year was the Cedric Burnside Project. Burnside is the grandson of the great R.L. Burnside and as such, he did his grandfather proud. The multi-talented Burnside took a seat behind the drums whilst Trenton Ayers gave the crowd some great slide guitar, including the likes of RLâ€™s â€œMiss Maybelle,â€ having already opened the set with some fantastic acoustic Hill Country Blues.
Special guests Jess and The Bandits closed out the festival on the concourse stage with some great country rock, including a great cover of â€œHey Hoâ€ by The Lumineers, which had the crowd singing along and the superb â€œYou Canâ€™t Stop Me.â€ Jess has a phenomenal voice.
The SummerTyne Americana Festival is going from strength to strength and is the jewel in the crown of the North East music calendar. How can they surpass what they have achieved this year? We look forward to finding out next year.