AMERICANO or AMERICANA?


JACK BLACKMAN + STEVE PLEDGER

Tickets here > 7pm Saturday, March 19th, Claypath Delicatessen, Durham City
Tickets here > 6pm Sunday, March 20th, The Engine Room, North Shields

A guy I know once said to me ‘I love my Americano’. We were speaking of music at the time, not coffee, but it made me smile and got me thinking about the crazy world of music genres and what in fact ‘Americana’ is. Seeing as our next two gigs feature musicians (Jack Blackman and Steve Pledger) who have both been lauded by Americana UK I thought I would dig a bit further.

After disappearing down the inevitable internet rabbit hole I settled on [US singer/songwriter] Shawn Colvin’s interpretation; ‘I know [Americana] is a home for a lot of artists that didn’t have a home. We always called ourselves ‘between the cracks’ artists. And I think, to an extent – not to put too much mystery into it – but it’s sort of undefinable. We’ve got crossovers everywhere. Roots music, pop, blues, folk, country, bluegrass – everything’s mixed up, I think, and there’s no one definition per se.’ Fair enough Shawn, I’ll go with that – it’s a blend of all the good stuff and I guess what comes out is down to the individual to decide whether it’s to their taste or not. Just like coffee! One thing is for certain, every day Claypath Deli serve up a mean Americano and now and then, like on Saturday 19th March they’ll be treating us to a healthy dose of Americana on the side.

Jack Blackman has been making waves in the UK blues scene for quite some time now, and he is fast developing into one of the country’s finest exports of acoustic roots. Jack fuses a folk sensibility to summon the ghosts of blues long gone and if there is one guy qualified to give an opinion on contemporary roots music it’s the BBC’s Bob Harris who describes the guitar playing of Jack Blackman as ‘exceptional’. Another respected voice worth paying attention to is acclaimed folk musician Martin Simpson – nominated 23 times for a BBC Radio 2 Folk Award, including nine times consecutively as Artist of The Year, Martin said of Jack ‘At last! A brilliant young guitarist coming through’. Jack has not only toured the length and breadth of the UK he has also been to the home of the blues – the Mississippi Delta where he jammed with the late-great Tony Joe White. Perhaps the TJW influence rubbed off on him – Blues Matters magazine said Jack is ‘Already a stand-out artist.’

Steve Pledger’s musical influences are many, varied and not always obvious. They include – in no particular order – Graham Parker, Cat Stevens, Rush, Sam Cooke, Van Morrison, Don McLean, Elvis (both of them) and Bruce Springsteen. In 2016 Steve released his third album, ‘Somewhere Between’ which many reviewers and listeners described as his finest work to date. FATEA Magazine called it ‘Steve’s tour-de-force. An album that casts Steve as a protest singer, up there with the likes of Billy Bragg, Phil Ochs and Ewan MacColl.’ and fRoots Magazine called it ‘An object lesson in the craft of contemporary songwriting.’ It was FATEA’s Album Of The Year and Folkwords Album Of The Year by a Male Artist. In 2019 Steve released a live album, ‘Alone In The Dark’, which Roots & Fusion included in their 25 Essential Albums of the Year. Steve released three home-recorded tracks in 2020 – ‘Prayer Of The Self-Employed’, ‘Reseda’ and ‘The Baptist’s Father’. The latter is a piano-backed, spoken-word version of a previously unreleased song which he had been playing live for around 18 months. In January 2021, this recording was awarded the FATEA Track of the Year.

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