Americana Music is alive and well in the UK.
On a fresh day in early summer, a light wind, big, low cumulus scudding across a powder blue sky, The Nelson Brothers head west out of London on the M4. It’s a two-hour trip to Stroud. We’ve been invited to play at the Stroud Americana Music Festival at the grand Stroud Subscription Rooms.
One of the acts on the bill described Americana Music as the coming together of two strands – one from the British Isles and the other from Africa – in the US, to form new genres.
The Subscription Rooms is a regency building in Stroud town centre. I was told that the Beatles played here twice, in March and September 1962, on a gruelling UK tour. On the first occasion they shared the bill with Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers. Apparently the advance publicity for the event suggested, “No Teddy Boys and Ladies please do not wear stiletto heels” this, no doubt, because of the fine, sprung wooden dance floor. Apparently on this tour the band could barely be heard because of the screaming of the fans. PA systems in those days weren’t up to much. Charlie Watkins (owner of WEM) was the first person in the UK to build bigger PA systems, but that wasn’t until later in the ‘60s.
Two stages had been assembled, one at each end of the ballroom. This allowed for a seamless transition between bands.
The Nelson Brothers were asked to open the show at noon. This time we opted to bring the fine bass player Drew Milloy, and play as an acoustic trio – acoustic guitar, dobro, and upright bass, three vocals. The dobro had it’s origins in 1928. It was an early attempt to increase the volume of the guitar, prior to the invention of the electric pick-up, by the addition of a resonator plate. The Dopyera Brothers designed the original dobro.
After sound-check the doors were opened and the Nelson Brothers burst in to their first song. The opening slot is a difficult one – someone has to do it! People have just come in from the bright sunny day outside; there is not too much revelry at this point, and they haven’t been warmed up (that’s our job, I guess). However there was a good turn out for the time of day, and the songs seem to be well received.
After our set we hung around for a while to see some of the other fine acts Blind River Scare, Cross The River, the excellent Bob Porter Project and Dana and Sue Robinson, before having to make the two hour return journey.
Many thanks to the excellent Sarana VerLin for organising a fantastic Americana Music event. We look forward to next year.
Here’s our set list for the day. All songs by The Nelson Brothers except Green Me Blue by Drew Milloy.
This Is The River
The Love You Refuse
Green Me Blue
Riding on the Back of a Whale
You Got A Hold On Me
Keep Movin’ On