AmericanaFest Showcases – Night Tales, Hackney Empire Bar

The House of Songs Summit Revue at Night Tales saw a rotating cast of musicians open the second day of AmericanaFest showcases with a strong new songbook. Dean Owens and Kaia Kater started the 90-minute show that proved new songwriting partnerships do not have to be risky. In her first UK performance, Jane Ellen Bryant paired with Kaia for a song about snake charming – the songwriting house in Arkansas inspires a lot of serpent references in their songs. Meanwhile Oscar Mukherjee, the youngest songwriter in the house, rarely left the stage, switching between guitars, vocal and harmonica across various songs.

Dylan Earl looked the part, and his set explored some diverse topics. He noting his friend was ‘yellow like Bart Simpson’ while introducing as song about jaundice, but the highlight was the anthemic ‘Choices & Decisions’. A funny but heartfelt song about small town gay bars, he instigated a sing-along with the memorable lyric “it turns out the future is country and queer”.

Judy Blank, who was a guest during both earlier sets, shone through her full showcase. The Dutch singer performed tracks like ‘1995’ and ‘Tangled up in You’, the latter of which was inspired by fellow Americana act Chatham County Line. Hailing from Utrecht, she noted the high number of trains in The Netherlands, and briefly paused her intimate unplugged finale while waiting for the rattling overhead to pass. During ‘Mary Jane’, Judy sang “I’m gonna make it big some day”; on this performance, it’s hard to argue.

Ilse DeLange is already big, with the fellow Dutch woman an arena performer and judge on ‘The Voice of Holland’. The Hackney Empire Bar’s significantly smaller stage was a perfect setting for her set which drew heavily on last year’s ‘Gravel & Dust’ album, including the title track and ‘New Amsterdam’. She took Americana to Eurovision in 2014 with her band The Common Linnets. Introducing ‘Calm After The Storm’ which came second, she described the global phenomenon as a ‘crazy competition’. Being this close, you could see Ilse light up as the crowd sang every word back at her. Another The Common Linnets song ‘Love Goes On’ was the encore, allowing Ilse the chance to pay tribute to the small moments she spent with her father growing up. It’s been a while since Ilse has performed in London, but hopefully this show will encourage her back for bigger stages soon.