Folk, jazz etc: A summer of Americana beckons as top acts head for Scotland

CRANK up that yee haa! factor: the Americans are coming. The burgeoning interest in US roots music sees a spate of top-rate acts touring Scotland over the next few months.

Among those ushering in a summer of Americana are those Kansas City barnstormers, The Wilders, and the genially engaging "riverboat soul" of Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three, from St Louis. Both bands have delighted Scottish audiences in the past and, by all accounts, went down a storm at the recent Shetland Folk Festival – an event at which the business of dust-raising already has its markers set pretty high.

The Wilders, currently celebrating their 15th anniversary with an eponymously titled new album on Free Dirt Records, still have two Scottish gigs to go on their current tour, at Rothes Halls, Glenrothes and Harbour Arts, Irvine, tomorrow and Friday nights respectively. Pokey Lafarge and company, whose fortunes have taken off big-time in the States since they won much critical acclaim at last August's Newport Festival and recorded a single for Jack White's Third Man label, return for a major tour next month, kicking off at Birnam Arts Centre on 24 June.

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You might call LaFarge and company period musicians, right down to Pokey's impeccable threads, as they embrace western swing, blues and Prohibition era jazz with panache, as demonstrated by their new album, Middle of Everywhere (Free Dirt). Meanwhile the end of July sees the award-winning Hot Seats bring their zany mix of old-time, jug band and vaudeville back to Scotland, touring for a month, including the Edinburgh Fringe.

These are bands who have worked hard to establish their credentials, says Loudon Temple of Brookfield-Knights, the industrious Kilbarchan-based roots music agency which orchestrates many of these Americana tours. "They've served their apprenticeships and it's clear from their live performances that while their music's great, they really know how to entertain as well. A lot of other acts just go on stage and go through the same old stuff."

For their part these American cousins thrive on touring here, although they find that our well-mannered audiences take a little getting used to.

Temple cites another fine roots music outfit, Woody Pines, from North Carolina: "Most of the time in the States, they were used to playing to noisy, beer-swilling, bar-room-type crowds, but when you transpose them to Scotland and an appreciative audience that actually listens to the music, they find that quite spooky at first."

Also coming over later in the year to bathe in that appreciative silence, Temple promises a September visit from Texan singer-songwriter BettySoo with Canadian dobro wizard Doug Cox, while the haunting old-time sounds of Cahalen Morrison and Eli West arrive in Scotland in November.

Sticking with the summer, however, 22-24 July sees Perth Concert Hall and Perth Theatre as the focus for the Southern Fried Festival of American roots music, with a high-powered bill topped by Grammy-winning singer songwriter Lyle Lovett and his acoustic band, along with the Blind Boys of Alabama, Stax! (the Memphis soul trio of Steve Cropper, Donald "Duck" Dunn and Eddie Floyd) Iris Dement, Justin Townes Earle, Abigail Washburn and others, as well as home-grown bluegrass fusioneers Southern Tenant Folk Union.

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And in other American folk news, one of its icons, the seemingly ageless Judy Collins plays two Scottish gigs next month – Glasgow's ran Mr on 2 June and The Tolbooth, Stirling, on 3 June. To some of us of a certain age, it was Collins's beautifully limpid voice which introduced us to Amazing Grace – not to mention the singing of humpback whales, which accompanied her memorable version of Farewell to Tarwathie. So far as the Stirling gig at least is concerned, she's back by popular request, having sold out her last gig there three years ago.

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