Kelly Willis has returned with her seventh album, Back Being Blue. It’s been 11 years since her last solo release, 2007’s Translated from Love, but the Austin-based singer/songwriter has hardly been MIA in the intervening years, having recorded and toured as part of a duo with Bruce Robison.
Back in her late teens, fronting a celebrated but short-lived rockabilly band, Radio Ranch, famed singer/songwriter Nancy Griffith took a shine to her voice and recommended Willis to producer Tony Brown, one of the titans of Nashville country, who signed her to a deal with MCA. Her three major – label albums yielded plenty of critical acclaim, while her debut ‘What I Deserve’ was released on Rykodisc in 1999. Easy (2002) and Translated from Love (2007) generated equal love from fans, the press, and fellow musicians. Meanwhile, motherhood competed for her attention, and as challenging as work/family balance became, it led to a pleasing mid-career wrinkle when she backed into a side career with Robison, who conveniently happened to be not just her spouse but her creative and popular equal in the Americana world.
That Willis still feels like that scrappy young comer, six albums and four kids later, is good news for anyone about to take a shine to the only slightly broken-hearted-feeling spunk of the new album. Blue definitely continues to be her color, but more than anything, she’s back feeling new.
Mansfield troubadour Georgie is fast becoming a rising star in country music. With influences from an A-Grade crop of singer-songwriters including Carole King, Fleetwood Mac, Janis Joplin and First Aid Kit, she is captivating audiences with her quirky songwriting, sultry vocals and rock ‘n roll attitude.
Not always destined for a life in music, Georgie had a promising career in professional football looming ahead of her, but the sudden discovery of a guitar and her uncle’s record collection whisked her off the pitch and into her bedroom to hone her musical craft. She quickly mastered the art of blagging her way into pubs underage in order to play open mic nights, and it wasn’t long before her rich soulful voice and honest, reflective songwriting had earned her local notoriety – after one pub crowd demanded a fourth set from her in a single evening, she failed the next day’s history GCSE exam due to the exhaustion. It wasn’t too long before her relentless graft paid off when her music caught the attention of local hero Jake Bugg, who took her with him on an intimate UK support tour.
Since then she has fulfilled support duties for stars ranging from Blossoms to Jack Savoretti, and was flown out to Virginia, USA to record her debut single ‘Company Of Thieves’ with the legendary Matthew E White and his Spacebomb house band. Blending her British Grit with such an accomplished American Soul band resulted in a truly spellbinding single that earned Georgie spots on a whole host of watch lists for 2017.
‘Company of Thieves’ attracted the attention of several songwriters who requested to work with her. Eg White, Amy Wadge, Iain Archer, Jonny Wright and Fred Cox have been frequent collaborators in 2017 resulting in over twenty new songs that are earmarked for release. Following the release of ‘Hard Times’ and ‘This Ain’t Heaven’ in the autumn of 2017 and a successful UK tour, Georgie is definitely one to watch in 2018.
Now in its fifth year, River Town brings the music of America’s heartland to the south west in a summer celebration of roots and Americana music. With a vibrant programme of blues, bluegrass, country and gospel, 2019’s series is packed full of performances from global icons and rising stars.
In 2019 the River Town series takes place at venues across Bristol including St George’s
Bristol, The O2 Academy, SWX, The Winston Theatre at Bristol University SU and The Crofters Rights,
and also makes its first foray into Bath with two performances at The Forum. With artists including k.d. lang, Lucinda Williams, The Shires, The Mavericks, Keb’ Mo’ and Jerron ‘Blind Boy’ Paxton, it’s the most ambitious programme yet.
River Town began in 2015 under the banner of Bristol Americana Weekend and under a co-producing partnership between Colston Hall and St George’s Bristol presented Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, Larkin Poe, Police Dog Hogan, Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham and many more outstanding artists of American roots music.
The festival returned after wide-spread acclaim in 2016 to feature Elvis Costello & The Imposters, Mary Chapin Carpenter and the now internationally famous The White Buffalo.
In 2017 we launched the festival for a third year under the new name of River Town and showcased some of the finest blues, gospel, country and bluegrass, from across the pond and closer to home in Colston Hall, St George’s Bristol and for the first time in O2 Academy. Three UK greats – Paul Carrack, Nick Lowe and Andy Fairweather Low – joined forces in a rare trio performance that celebrated their shared love of American R&B, soul and country. The compelling singer songwriter Martha Wainwright performed along with R&B powerhouse, gospel legend and civil rights icon Mavis Staples. Plus performances by duo The Shires with crossover stars Ward Thomas brought country-pop to Bristol.
In 2018 the festival expanded across the city as part of our Colston Hall Presents programme, showcasing events taking place in venues across Bristol during the Hall’s Transformation project. In it’s fourth iteration River Town’s line-up featured music icons Graham Nash and Rosanne Cash alongside The Barr Brothers, Steve Earle & The Dukes, The White Buffalo.