With an iconic venue and vibrant mix of music, the SummerTyne Americana Festival has become one of the region’s best-loved festivals. Peter Mann looks ahead to this weekend’s eclectic offering

RUNNING for over a decade now, Sage Gateshead’s SummerTyne Americana Festival continues to go from strength-to-strength and this year’s is no different as a plethora of acts blows across the Tyne.

Across different stages, including the venues main halls of Sage One and Two, a high calibre of acts will perform over the three day event from noon until late with powerful duet The Shires, supported by Sarah Darling, headlining Sage One on opening night.

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Sage Two has a poignant affair occurring as Merle Haggard’s Strangers make an appearance a year following the passing of Haggard, his sons Ben and Noel perform with the band, and high-calibre support in Ashley Campbell, daughter of country superstar, Glen Campbell.

Saturday’s fun begins with the Jumpin’ Hot Stage and Concourse receiving workouts whilst Sage One and Two flex their muscles with legendary performances from Jim Lauderdale, the godfather of the Nashville scene, and Sam Outlaw Band, an up-an-coming star from the West Coast take point, whilst he legendary William Bell, accompanied by Stax Academy Revue, also aims to delight.

Bell, who’s performed for over six decades, is known as the ‘soul man,’ winning a Grammy for Best Americana Album, he’s done eleven (albums) throughout a distinguished career, one which has seen him perform for Barack Obama in the White House four years ago, crooned by Homer Simpson in that classic episode The Simpsons Sing The Blues with the track ‘Born Under A Bad Sign,’ whilst being covered by greats Jimi Hendrix, Etta James, Carole King and The Byrds.

Ahead of the Festival, making an exclusive UK appearance, the ‘soul man’ said of the album, ‘This Is Where I Live,’ that: “I’ve used the same process I’ve always use - focusing on good lyrical content and melodic structure.

“A couple of my favourite songs are ‘The Three of Me’ and ‘I Will Take Care of You’ with the latter one being especially meaningful to me personally.

“I focus on the quality though and not the quantity when releasing music and love what I do.

“Listen to the song ‘This Is Where I Live’ (the title track of his latest offering), it explains that I live for my music and not for money.”

Playing for Obama and the Grammy success, surprisingly his first, are both highlights whilst touring the globe since the mid-60s there’s always home to go back to, the Memphis Benefit Concert for the Blues Foundation a poignant stopover.

“I’ve been touring since the mid-60s and found that people in England are very receptive to soul music and to my music, the audiences are very warm and I’m looking forward to it.

“The Blues Foundation is near and dear to my heart. They are based in Memphis, where I grew up, and the Blues are part of my DNA – that’s why Booker T and I wrote 'Born Under a Bad Sign' for Albert King.”

There’s local interest also as, with double Grammy Award nominee Beth Nielsen Chapman, closing on Sunday evening, the Concourse sees local favourite Hayley McKay perform.

Darlington’s McKay spends a good portion of her time on the road and has recently returned from a trip south where she not only recorded her next album during the heatwave in Brighton, but paid a special visit to the home of BBC Radio 2’s legendary icon, Whispering Bob Harris.

One of several events the singer has over the festival season, she’s also putting in appearances at Hardwick Live (August 19), Tan Hill Festival (September 9) and Twisterella (October 7) along with a headline gig at The Cluny (September 15) contributing to what is already an exciting year.

She said: “Playing SummerTyne is great, it’s a fantastic and beautiful venue to be at and adds to what I’ve already achieved.

“Whether here, or other festivals I’m playing, I’m excited for people to see my band as well (she’ll be joined by Jak Moore, Chris Shaw, Tim Jasper and Ed Gill).

“Tan Hill is the first I’ll be putting on so that’s a special occasion for me but the more we get out there the better and we can keep playing those catchy, happy, upbeat sounds.

“The last few years though have been incredible and I’ve met some really great people but the performance I gave at the Gala Theatre (earlier this year) that is my favourite, it was just magical.

“I’ve come a long way though since my first album and the new one, recorded in Brighton during the heatwave and will be out early next year, is slightly different and will be right for me at that time.”

Tamsin Austin, Sage’s Director of Performance Programme added: “SummerTyne is our largest festival and we absolutely love it!

“It’s a celebration of different genres of Americana music; country, soul, blues, gospel, folk/roots, indie/alternative, so whatever your taste you’ll find something you like.

“We attract headline artists from across the Atlantic and showcase local artists, there’s free and ticketed performances, films and exhibitions running day and night plus a street market of delicious food, music, jewellery and crafts.

“It’s now a firm fixture in the festival calendar with people travelling from all over to attend and is a great opportunity for us to showcase new artists, welcome new audiences and gather together old friends and new.

“If you aren’t already coming, then make this the year you come along and join us.”

  • The SummerTyne Festival takes place this weekend, covering all three days of Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Sage Gateshead. Any last minute information and ticket details can be obtained via www.summertyne.com or 0191 443 4661.