Summertyne Americana Festival. The Sage, Gateshead. 20.07.2014

Sunday afternoon, free outside 7 hour concert.

Midday, first up are local outfit Fickle Lilly. Described as ‘swinging jazz, hot country and sizzling blues’. Not a bad choice of words, although I struggled to find much evidence of ‘country’. Lots of rock ‘n’ roll though. Bit of Kirsty McColl, a snatch of ska via ‘Monkey Man’ and plenty of banter. A good start.

Young blues man, Dan Owen, is next. Kicking off with ‘Walking Blues’ he follows it with a couple of original songs, complete with energetic percussion via his two feet. His husky voice did indeed throw a few people, but after a while his faux American growl started to grate on me a bit. ‘Little Red Rooster’and ‘Girl from the North Country’ got an airing, but his final offering ‘Ballad of Hollis Brown’ maybe went on just a bit too much?  Most there gave him a great roar of applause though, so I was in a minority.

Buffalo Skinners. First three songs featured three different lead vocalists, and their final number featured a fourth. OK, The Eagles have four vocalists too, as do CSNY, but these lads are not quite in their league! At times , they were decidedly iffy. ‘Infectious concoction of 60s rock’n’ roll, country and folk’??  No, not quite, Mr Programme Man. Her Ladyship started to read her latest Dean Koontz book and then went for a walk. Bass was far too loud too. Sorry lads, not for me.

Martin Stephenson. Local lad made (fairly) good, still got a cult following long after his work in The Daintees. Now he IS infectious!!  Merciless Chubby Brownish taunting of anyone careless enough to walk past him, and although Her Ladyship reckoned the banter was great, she thought he should have delivered the songs without it.  Decent songs though, with a blast of Doc Watson to finish and a tribute to Alan Hull.

Danny and the Champions of the World. Saw them at Cropredy once, reckoned they were okay, but nothing startling. Can’t really agree with ‘Authentic, heart-on-sleeve soulful Americana’ though!!  I reckon they are closer to Neasden than Nashville. (They do have a pedal steel though). A song about Elvis and Colonel Parker seemed to to go on forever, as did their next song. And that was it.

I draw slow. Programme notes returned to more sensible description ( mentioning Appalachian, Irish traditional and bluegrass). Bass player’s instrument self-destructed during first number but they weren’t fazed. Couple of numbers sounded a bit samey, but they went down well.

Finally, Davina and the Vagabonds. Word ‘jazz’ mentioned in the programme, not a good start for me!  I’m too young for this type of stuff, and I certainly prefer Cheap Trick doing ‘Ain’t that a shame’ to this version. We got some excruciating vocal/trumpet interplay which had us heading for the exit. From inside we got the sound  of ‘I’d rather go blind’ being dismembered so headed off to the Crown Posada for refreshments.

Overall, the music wasn’t all to our taste. Previous events have featured Tom Russell and The Handsome Family, but there wasn’t anyone in their league today.  BUT, it is a free show, so top marks to the organisers on that front. I am sure we’ll be back next year and, to the lady behind us who hollered approval of every act, remember that it wouldn’t do for us all to have the same opinion.



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