It'd be nice to be able to make the trip to Auckland in October, back to back there'd be the chance to see Robert Ellis and The Delines. I isolate those two from a stunning line-up of artists, Vector Arena's Southern Fork Americana Fest because they're two shows I want to see over two nights and because The Delines' album, Colfax and Robert Ellis' album, The Lights From The Chemical Plant are two of my favourite records of this year. Yes, it's a long list, it always is, but these two are likely to be in that Top 10 at the end of the year. And both arrived with something really great for this cynical old jaded hack: an element of surprise.
I'd been thinking about how it was time for Willy Vlautin to do something different - though I loved his work with Richmond Fontaine. I'm a fan of his work through his novels too. And then I hear this album by The Delines, I love the (female) voice and I have no idea of the connection but it's immediately obvious that the writing is so strong; the songs are wonderful. And so yes, it's only then that I find through the rudimentary Googling that The Delines is Vlautin's new vehicle. Writing for a female voice now - Amy Boone (formerly of The Damnations) Vlautin's heartfelt, earnest, precise character-sketches.
Then there's the great country/funk feel, bar-room ballads and subtle scorchers. I remember thinking - almost as soon as I'd heard the album - that it'd be pretty wonderful to see these guys play.
The Robert Ellis album arrived out of the blue, in that whilst he was not a total unknown to me it just arrived one day and straight-up knocked me out. That voice, the mercurial guitar lines. I had been asked onto Radio Active's Americana show as a guest one Sunday afternoon, asked to play some of my favourites from the wider genre from across the last decade. That's an impossible ask - so I concentrated on new favourites, the record I returned to was this one by Ellis. His cover of Paul Simon's Still Crazy After All These Years - all but rewriting a standard. The incredible title song from the album. I had a chance to play seven or eight songs on the radio that hour - in-between talking about trends and tropes associated with the music. I played three songs from this Ellis album.
So, yeah, I'd hope to get up to Auckland to see these two shows - wouldn't that be something. But for anyone else living closer, living in the city, there's also Ryan Bingham and Justin Townes Earle, there's Marlon Williams - and more acts to be announced across a two-week Americana fest. Here's the line-up so far. What do you think? Anything you'd consider must-see there? Any favourites?
Postscript: Tonight Bikini Roulette will take the stage at 8pm in Wellington at the San Fran and after they play I'll be spinning a few records. We did the same thing last month, well, what I mean is they played and then I played. It was great. Worked well. We thought we'd do it again. They're an energetic act and Matthew Pender is superb in the frontman role. So if you're around come on down and have a beer, see the show, come and say hi...
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