Amanda review scrollerSo the Americana Music Association UK awards and showcase rolls around again. It was back to Hackney, and this time the event was spread over three venues. Potential for clashes there but when the line-up was published, everything was fine. My two must-sees didn’t clash, so all systems were go for Amanda Rheaume at Paper Dress Vintage and Wild Ponies finishing the event at Moth Club. All I needed was two superb performances and my night would be complete. Spoiler alert; both bands were exceptional.

I’d visited Paper Dress Vintage in its previous location in Shoreditch and, yes, it’s a quirky combination of vintage clothes shop and gig venue. At least in the Hackney incarnation the bands don’t play in the window with a bus station as a backdrop. Amanda Rheaume has been touring the UK with guitar/pedal steel player Anders Drerup and bass player Anna Ruddick in support of her “Holding Patterns” album and they’re a potent live combination, creating a punchy live sound with help of some great harmonies and stomping foot percussion. The songs sound great on the album but the tight, punchy live sound was even better and a packed venue made for a memorable set, with the band tearing through a short showcase set (including the album opener “Get to the Part”, “Wolf of Time” and the relationship song “Dead Horse”) and leaving the audience wanting more. Amanda’s voice has a slightly rawer, raunchier quality in the live setting and her introductions established a genuine rapport between audience and performers.

Wild Ponies (Doug and Telisha Williams) enlisted the help of a British drummer to augment the line-up for their festival-closing set and closed out in epic style; it was a proper festival headliner set taken mainly from their 2016 album “Radiant” (which certainly is). They eased the audience in gently with “Born with a Broken Heart”, the album’s opening track before letting Mike Pence have both barrels with “Love Is Not a Sin”. They bravely slowed down the set with a beautiful new ballad “Hearts and Bones” before taking the Moth roof off with a storming version of “Unplug the Machine”, one of my favourite songs of 2016.

Both of these artists had cracking albums out last year. You should give them a listen and watch out for their next appearance near you. You can see some pictures of Amanda Rheaume at Paper Dress Vintage here and some Wild Ponies pictures from Moth here. Now, when’s the next gig?

The End of the WorldOK, I’ll admit it; the Riot Squad are big fans of Vera Lynch. We’ve seen them live a couple of times now and it’s quite an experience.  So what happens when you strip away the stagecraft and theatrics? Well the second Vera Lynch EP, “The End of the World”, answers that question.  The musicianship is superb throughout the five tracks as they bounce between musical styles from the mutant funk of the opening song “Child of Jago” with its wah-wah and clean, clipped guitar sounds to the sleazy camp metal of the closer, “Dog in the Club”.

The End of the World” starts as a slow environmental ballad before a squalling guitar signals the apocalyptic final third of the song, neatly underlining the song’s lyrical message.  Stormy Weather” combines pumping melodic bass with clipped guitar chords on the off beat and over-driven guitar to back lyrical themes of extremes of nature; you even get a reggae breakdown towards the end. “Horror Doctor” is a psychobilly/Cramps-style piece which is already a live favourite.  The band sounds perfectly at ease with the various genres featured across the five tracks of this EP and the instantaneous switches from one to another.

It’s easy to see why the Vera Lynch fanbase is growing; the live performances are riveting, but there are some good songs to back up the shows with thoughtful lyrics (“Child of Jago” made me hit the search button a few times) and interesting arrangements delivered with a theatricality that’s reminiscent of the late Alex Harvey (look him up kids) at his best.  It’s a clever mixture of the thought-provoking and the unhinged and it’s great fun.

You can see them live at the EP launch on May 10 in Shoreditch.

“End of the World” is out now and available from Amazon, and ITunes.